With so many legal research tools available on line, most lawyers neglect the lowly law school library as a resource. But in my view, there’s nothing as valuable for research as a good law library. In the jurisdiction where I practice, American University Washington College of Law Pence Law Library tops my list as an outstanding resource for practicing attorneys. Here’s why:
1) Open Admission The Pence Library is open to the public without charge and at all times, except during law school exam periods.
2) Resources Obviously, the Pence Library, like all others, has many legal resources including treatises, journals and how to guides. Most practitioners overlook these general sources of information which are frequently good shortcuts when researching a new area of law.
Truth be told, the law library is not particularly strong on energy regulatory resources which is one of my practice focuses. But it has research terminals where patrons can access Westlaw keycite and Hein Online (for law reviews) at no cost and those resources often make it worth the trip.
3) Location and Hours: The Pence Library is a short fifteen minute hop from my home office and probably about the same distance from downtown. But the library is open until midnight most weeknights as well as on the weekend, which means that I can access it afterhours.
Law schools are always coming up with fancy ways to meet pro bono
obligations, what with law school clinics and mandatory pro bono
requirements for graduating students. If law school libraries just
opened their doors to law practitioners whose clients often can’t
afford top of the line research tools, law schools would go a long way
towards improving the quality of law for those in lower income brackets.
I’d like to put together a collection of law libraries or other
libraries with great benefits, like free LEXIS or photocopying or
anything else that a solo might find useful. Send me your tips in