A law librarian is a legal professional who may work in a law school, legal library, court, or law firm. In a small, community legal library, a librarian may have many of the same tasks that a traditional librarian would have, such as organizing reference material, acquiring new reference material, and aiding researchers in using reference tools. A legal librarian working in a government library will be responsible for aiding attorneys, judges, and also the general public.
A legal librarian would help prosecution or defense attorneys in finding resources to build their case, as well as research legal precedent pertinent to their case. A judge may need assistance in finding materials which will help him decide on a ruling. Since common law is heavily based on precedent, there is a variety of information on past rulings that will aid a judge in issuing a fair ruling.
Members of the general public may conduct research in a legal library when attempting to find information about drafting a will or filing a claim. A legal librarian would direct them to the correct place to find the information they are seeking. Some legal librarians are employed in private law firms where they are responsible for maintaining the reference material belonging to the firm. They will organize and update reference material as well as aid attorneys in research.
Librarians must have a master’s degree in library science (MLS), and law librarians typically have a law degree in addition to this. A Juris Doctorate (JD) is usually not necessary to become a law librarian, however, many hiring institutions do require a JD, and it is generally held that a law librarian without this degree would not be adequately able to do his job. Instead of receiving a JD, some legal librarians may receive legal training from the institution that hires them. Whether or not a law librarian has a JD may also depend on the position this person holds within the library.
The director of a legal library within an academic institution (a law school) must have a JD, while other less demanding positions may not require one. For librarians employed in a county or state legal library, qualifications normally vary by jurisdiction, and when working for a law firm, it generally depends on the preferences of hiring attorneys. However, it is normally beneficial for a legal library to obtain a JD, or at least to have a legal background with a vast knowledge of legal terminology.