This post was written by Mike Carlson, reference attorney at Thomson Reuters

Reference attorneys are among the folks participating in this year’s American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) conference. At the end of the first day on Sunday, we chatted about some trends we noticed working the trade show floor. One clear trend was the keen interest of academic librarians in law practice technology. This was surprising to some of us but it probably shouldn’t have been. On one level, we’ve always understood the need for an early introduction to practice technology. It’s for this reason, reference attorneys produce simple demonstrations of practice tools for summer associates who might wish to get home before midnight. See our WestCheck demo below for an example.

Why isn’t more practice technology taught in law schools? There just isn’t the time, one librarian explained to me. The demands of basic legal research consume the majority of the time dedicated to legal writing and practice-related course work. Basic research is logically a priority but the result is there’s little time left to evaluate drafting and litigation support tools. Still, a few librarians are forging ahead and developing courses that might introduce students to some of these tools. I say, go for it. Reference attorneys often take calls from young associates who ask, “why didn’t I learn this in law school?”

There were also some very creative ideas for applying these tools. One of my favorites had to do with Monitor Suite. More than one librarian thought that Monitor Suite might be used in Career Services. This makes great sense. Monitor Suite is essentially a business development tool. It allows users to identify business opportunities or evaluate competitors by producing litigation profiles of companies and law firms. A litigation profile might help a student get a truly accurate picture of a prospective firm’s litigation history. More than this, however, these librarians suggested Monitor Suite data might help students better understand the legal market within specific jurisdictions. For example, where should a student who is considering serving the litigation needs of the music industry set up shop? Does it make sense to invest in Minnesota? Is the New York market more active than California? A simple Monitor Suite filter for practice area might help a student answer these questions.

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