As most who read this blog will already know, law librarians generally hold a law degree (JD), a library science degree (ex: M.L.S.), or both. Many academic law librarians, especially recent hires, hold both – I fall into this category. What’s more, I’m one of those people who knew what she was headed toward professionally, so I just stayed in school from college to law school to library school until I was done. Professionally, I’ve always been a law librarian. However, having sweated my way through three years of law school, I decided to take the bar exam upon graduation; lo and behold, I passed, so – what the heck? – I was sworn in. And suddenly there I was, on my way to earning my Masters in Library Science, with an active law license that I now had to maintain.
That was three years ago. For three years, on top of my coursework (and now my job), I have been attending the requisite CLE hours to keep my active-in-good-standing status with the bar. But why? Taking the bar was my desire to prove to myself I could pass it and my legal education went to good use; getting sworn in was a rite of passage. But having to keep up with these CLE credits and the rigid requirements of how many hours of each type of credit I can take is a little exhausting. I do not practice law, I love my job as a law librarian, and yet the idea of taking my license from active to inactive status has always felt wrong. Or lazy.
As I round out my first 3-year period of CLE requirements, I find myself again wondering whether it’s time to go inactive. The same arguments for and against battle it out in my mind, and new ones arise. On the one hand, I’m still not practicing and have no intent to practice, and these CLEs are expensive and are paid on my dime. And even though my employer considers this professional development rather than forcing me to waste vacation time for these seminars, as I sit through these sessions I cannot help but daydream of all the things I could be getting done at work instead of sitting in on sessions that do not apply to me. On the other hand, as a legal educator in the same state where I’m licensed, there are times when attending these sessions and staying active in the bar association feels like a great way to connect my work with future lawyers to the real, practical needs of attorneys today.
Is it truly beneficial for me as a law librarian to stay active by attending these CLEs? Three years in, I’m still not sure I have an answer to that. So here I sit, muddling through this debate yet again, wondering what the best option is. For now, I’ll just keep trying to pick the seminars that might prove marginally helpful in my career.