The American Association of Law Libraries has launched an online information center dedicated to promoting its new  Principles and Standards for Legal Research Competency within the legal profession. One of the most important aspects of  “the principles” is that they are a strong antidote to the increasing risk of malpractice which arises from the “everything on the Internet myth.”  There is no question that certain types of ” fact checking” research have gotten simpler with the aid of tools like Google. But the absolute volume of unstructured data, as well as terabytes of Internet dreck (material of questionable provenance and quality)  increases the risk of both wasted time and finding “the wrong thing.”

In the practice of law there is a world of difference between finding “something” on the Internet and finding “the right thing.”  Locating a legal precedent is not the end of the research process, it is the beginning  of a series of  collateral inquires. This may involve determining if a case was overruled, if  a statute invalidated, or  that a regulation is about to expire or come into effect. Information literacy has never been more important to the practice of law.

According to a press release from AALL.”The standards were developed to improve legal research methods,. AALL’s online information center
provides access to the principles and standards; implementation and best
practice ideas; and information on upcoming programs. The Information Center is organized into 3 areas, Outreach, What’s New and Action Center.
Crossing the Bar
Academic, Government and Firm librarians have been advocating for law schools to enhance and expand legal research classes  for decades. In the  mid – 1980s, I was told that law schools would not take legal research classes seriously until the state bar examiners incorporated research concepts into the bar exam..
According to the AALL information center, The National Conference of Bar Examiners completed a job analysis of  the workload of newly minted lawyers ( in practice less that three years.)  For ninety-eight percent of the lawyers surveyed , electronic research is one of the most important and frequent activities they perform.  The NCBE is considering adding new assessments  which will cover skills where are not currently being measured on the bar examination, including legal research.AALL’s Principles, Standards and Competencies provides a thorough framework which details the intellectual and practical complexity on effective legal research.

I applaud this initiative which demonstrates the continuing importance of librarians and knowledge professionals in enhancing lawyer competences and building the  digital literacy skills which are a cornerstone of  the competent practice of law.