Posted in Internship

Law Reference Internship, Week 12

This week has remained consistently active at the reference desk as well.

Monday in particular I worked with a law student on finding non-law purposes for a paper the student was working on, and also pointed out to the student that some non-law sources, such as newspaper articles, can be found on our legal databases to which they are more accustomed.  For the first time, a professor phoned in needing help navigating the search capabilities of a database; I was particularly pleased with the success of this transaction, because I had not yet worked with a professor and wondered how such an interaction might play out.  I had a couple of students come with “directional” questions, needing help with issues such as computer problems for which I directed them to the computer technician in the library.  Just as Monday came to a close, another phone interview consisted of a public patron desiring interpretation of the Indiana statutory code.  This was tricky for me, because I have to be so careful not to cross the line into legal interpretation, which would constitute the unauthorized practice of law.  Another librarian in the reference office guided me through how best to handle it, and, while the patron may not have gotten exactly what s/he was looking for, I directed the patron to the best code citation to answer the question, giving as much information as I ethically could.

The rest of the week was far less busy; Tuesday evening I worked the lone reference shift and aided an undergraduate in the beginnings of basic legal research; this patron returned with more questions while I was on the desk Wednesday afternoon, and I provided some further assistance.

Lesson learned this week: This week I learned that in a situation that could involve unauthorized practice of law, we generally direct the patron to the best legal resource and citation for answering the question.  Even reading the cited text to the patron (ex: in a phone interview) can pose problems, because the librarian may err in the reading or the patron may mishear what is being read.  While it may not always seem satisfactory to the patron, the best solution is to give the best citation possible, and leave the patron to look it up.



I am the Assistant Director for Public Services at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. My research interests include exploring how emerging and existing technologies can be used to enhance library services and legal education as well as how to address knowledge gaps and meet the educational expectations of today's law students.

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