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Law Librarian Careers

What is the typical career trajectory for law librarians? I dharamsala12/10/15
You need an MLS and JD to work at a law school, but not a fi losathon12/10/15
The law librarian field seems to be growing, probably becaus lawgirl051309/03/16
It's a dying art. With your background you should be able to mtobeinf01/08/17
I was an academic law librarian for 12 years. I'm sorry I l kaneloa12/10/15
kaneloa, when did you switch? Can you talk a bit about why soupcansham12/10/15
No, there are limited opportunities for advancement because losathon12/10/15
This isn't clear. Wouldn't there be an opportunity to hire soupcansham12/10/15
Law schools are eliminating midlevel mgmt positions in law l losathon12/10/15
Thanks for clarifying what you meant. I think schools must soupcansham12/11/15
Sorry, it's final exams week so I've been a bit busy. I lef kaneloa12/15/15
What's the job placement like for the University of Washingt dharamsala01/08/17
I've been an academic law librarian 20+ years. Low-stress e sullivan2day12/10/15
My experience is that starting off salaries are lower ($50k- soupcansham12/10/15
I know of an older law school librarian who was making close cranky12/10/15
Where the frick was that?! soupcansham12/10/15
Don't want to out myself, but this person was/is working at cranky12/10/15
Fair enough. What was their actual title? soupcansham12/10/15
Law library director, associate dean, and professor. JD from cranky12/10/15
That's not crazy for being a director. Directorship include soupcansham12/11/15
Wow that sounds like the best job in the world other than lo bdogg12/10/15
It sure is. Even better are the paid vacations in fun locale cranky12/10/15
losathon above mentioned hiring freezes at some schools. On soupcansham12/11/15
Back when I was in Law School being a law librarian looked s irishlaw12/11/15
I'm really interested in heading down this path, but have a mnlaw12/14/15
Are BigLaw librarians' salaries comparable to first year ass dharamsala12/15/15
No, I think they're closer to $100k. Less responsibility bu soupcansham12/15/15
According to the 2015 AALL Salary Survey, the medians for th kaneloa01/09/17



dharamsala (Dec 10, 2015 - 11:25 am)

What is the typical career trajectory for law librarians? I am interested in working at a law library, a law school, or a firm. I took several legal research courses in law school (i.e. Advanced Legal Research, Immigration Legal Research), which were taught by law librarians, and really enjoyed them. What kind of grades/school/rank do you need? What are the hours/salary/lifestyle like? Do you need an MS in Library Science, or is just a JD sufficient? Do you need to be barred in the state you work in since you're not really practicing law? I would appreciate any perspectives!

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losathon (Dec 10, 2015 - 12:08 pm)

You need an MLS and JD to work at a law school, but not a firm. Firms used to not hire JDs, but that is changing. No one cares where you went to law school and being licensed in a state is just a plus, but not essential. Be warned that the market is shrinking and opportunities for advancement are limited.

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lawgirl0513 (Sep 3, 2016 - 1:43 pm)

The law librarian field seems to be growing, probably because lawyers cannot find jobs - especially the ones with no experience and they fall into librarianship. I have experience working at a state Supreme Court, an international law firm and a brief stint in a public library working in their "law" section. Obviously if you want a bigger salary/perks/prestige you want to go with the law firm or corporate setting. If you want interesting research, work for the government, but you will take a pay cut. The up side to this of course is your hours will be steady (9-5) or so, and your boss will be nicer. Most gov librarians with their MLS or JD start as low as the 40's and as high as 90's ish, of course depending on experience and speciality. Again, as a "law librarian" you will make more. Corporate/law firm librarians start around 55k and its all the way up from there. Of course it's more demanding/longer hours etc. but the reward is greater in my opinion. I know some law librarians with JD's and some without. I don't think their pay differs much as all maybe 5-10k. I won't go to law school for it in others words.

Now from my personal experience. I went to law school for one year before I decided it wasn't for me, but I still love the research side of it - so with my experience working for the court I was able to leverage my contacts for some recommendations and scored an interview with my current firm. It is a top 20 firm in the US. I make 60k starting with no law firm experience, one year of law school and I am a current MLS grad student (I graduate next year).

My boss, who is a manager probably makes around 80-85k and her boss (head of research and info services) makes probably around $120k. She has only her MLS and half the experience of my boss but she has the education. My boss doesn't.

Get your MLS. Avoid law school unless you want to be a lawyer and gain as many contacts/recommendations as you can to prepare for interviews.

The firm is in a major southern city where the cost of living is average to a little higher compared to other areas in the south.

Hope this helps.

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mtobeinf (Jan 8, 2017 - 4:52 pm)

It's a dying art. With your background you should be able to do something similarly admirable but in one of your practice areas.

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kaneloa (Dec 10, 2015 - 12:58 pm)

I was an academic law librarian for 12 years. I'm sorry I left (to become a college professor). It's a great way to be involved in the law without practicing. Once upon a time, if you were willing to go to the less glamorous locations you could almost surely get an entry level position and get your career started. Part of that, of course, was the constant expansion in legal education. Now that it's contracting, it's much more competitive.

Your best bet is to go "the Harvard of law librarianship programs" at the University of Washington. It's a condensed one-year program specifically for law librarianship. Its graduates have a good job placement record. You avoid taking a lot of non-law librarianship that you would have to take in other two-year general librarianship programs.

There are other types of law librarianship, of course. There are those that work for courts, or in public law libraries, or in law firm libraries. I can't speak to any of those as I worked only in law schools.

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soupcansham (Dec 10, 2015 - 1:16 pm)

kaneloa, when did you switch? Can you talk a bit about why you're sorry for leaving?

I would disagree that there aren't opportunities for advancement, but I think that advancement possibilities may be hard to gain access to because there is a shrinking market for entry-level positions in many places.

I'd say being barred is very helpful, though. Where is immaterial, but you want to demonstrate that you chose law librarianship and didn't "flunk" into it.

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losathon (Dec 10, 2015 - 6:03 pm)

No, there are limited opportunities for advancement because law schools almost never hire associate directors. As a result, you have reference librarians who can not get the experience needed to become directors.

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soupcansham (Dec 10, 2015 - 6:49 pm)

This isn't clear. Wouldn't there be an opportunity to hire an associate director from within? Or are you saying associate directors hold onto their jobs like old lawyers do (meaning that it's not a lack of jobs but a lack of openings)?

Not to ask a jerk question, but I don't imagine libraries hire more directors than they do associate directors; why would a library need more experienced associate directors if there's only one director position available at each school?

Of course, it's obvious that there are fewer positions at the top of the heap. Unlike university administrators, there are fewer titles as you move up the chain. Wink.

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losathon (Dec 10, 2015 - 7:52 pm)

Law schools are eliminating midlevel mgmt positions in law libraries. As a result, reference librarians often cannot get the mgmt experience needed to become directors. This was not the case just a few years ago, but now law schools have drastically cut back on hiring and are not replacing those who retire. A few schools have even seen layoffs.

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soupcansham (Dec 11, 2015 - 10:12 am)

Thanks for clarifying what you meant. I think schools must vary a lot, and I agree that people locked out of midlevel positions can't get the experience they need.

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kaneloa (Dec 15, 2015 - 12:42 pm)

Sorry, it's final exams week so I've been a bit busy.
I left because of concern that the law school I worked for would disappear before I was ready to retire. Otherwise I loved my job, my boss, my school, and my location.
I regret leaving because undergraduates are a heck of a lot of work! I'm exhausted!
I think being admit somewhere helps with your credibility with the students. On the other hand, I advised one person who I suspected would not pass the bar exam that it was probably better to be able to say "I didn't take the bar exam because I only want to be a law librarian" than to have to admit to not passing.

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dharamsala (Jan 8, 2017 - 12:33 pm)

What's the job placement like for the University of Washington law librarianship program?

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sullivan2day (Dec 10, 2015 - 1:17 pm)

I've been an academic law librarian 20+ years. Low-stress environment, regular hours, plus typically generous university benefits. As mentioned, you will need an MLS (or whatever they call it these days) to get into the academic track.

Pay is not great, but you probably can start off at typical law library in the 60,000 - 70,000 range. Directors can make good money as they are usually considered professors. Another downside is a limited number of jobs in any given location.

Biggest challenge right now is that all of legal education is contracting, which affects librarians. Many schools have hiring freezes. So, you will have to really stand out to get a job you want.

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soupcansham (Dec 10, 2015 - 1:35 pm)

My experience is that starting off salaries are lower ($50k-ish), but that perks like being an adjunct can make up $5k-$15k annually if you're willing to do those things. Combine that with a few years' experience and you're getting up to that $70k mark. I'm in a low COL area, though. Maybe librarians on the coasts make more.

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cranky (Dec 10, 2015 - 2:50 pm)

I know of an older law school librarian who was making close to $200k a year. Seemed like a really sweet job. The person also taught a class or two and had been at the law school for a long time, maybe 20-30 years.

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soupcansham (Dec 10, 2015 - 3:18 pm)

Where the frick was that?!

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cranky (Dec 10, 2015 - 3:39 pm)

Don't want to out myself, but this person was/is working at a public university where the salaries are also publicly available online.

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soupcansham (Dec 10, 2015 - 6:50 pm)

Fair enough. What was their actual title?

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cranky (Dec 10, 2015 - 7:21 pm)

Law library director, associate dean, and professor. JD from a bottom tier school with a library science master's degree.

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soupcansham (Dec 11, 2015 - 10:08 am)

That's not crazy for being a director. Directorship includes being a tenure-stream faculty member, running the library's administrative workings, and often (as in your example) holding an associate deanship. It's a lot of work compared to what regular faculty do.

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bdogg (Dec 10, 2015 - 3:54 pm)

Wow that sounds like the best job in the world other than lottery winner or heiress. Can't be any stress, lots of vacation.

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cranky (Dec 10, 2015 - 7:24 pm)

It sure is. Even better are the paid vacations in fun locales, under the guise of academic conferences, and extra freebies like computers/books/periodical subscriptions. Stress is dealing with internal politics, annoying students, and going to meetings.

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soupcansham (Dec 11, 2015 - 10:15 am)

losathon above mentioned hiring freezes at some schools. One thing I have seen is that "paid" anything is gone. If we want any kind of educational conference or whatever, it's got to be self-funded.

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irishlaw (Dec 11, 2015 - 12:15 am)

Back when I was in Law School being a law librarian looked so chill. I went to Notre Dame if you can't tell by my handle. These guys probably got paid well above the average for South Bend, they worked 9-5, taught 1l's legal research which was an hour a week for 10 weeks.

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mnlaw (Dec 14, 2015 - 1:31 pm)

I'm really interested in heading down this path, but have a ton of questions.

I saw a couple people state they worked as an academic law librarian. Anyone mind posting a throwaway e-mail and I can ask some specific questions?

Thanks

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dharamsala (Dec 15, 2015 - 6:17 pm)

Are BigLaw librarians' salaries comparable to first year associates? (i.e. $160K)

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soupcansham (Dec 15, 2015 - 7:54 pm)

No, I think they're closer to $100k. Less responsibility but still biglaw hours.

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kaneloa (Jan 9, 2017 - 9:53 am)

According to the 2015 AALL Salary Survey, the medians for the following positions (which are probably the biglaw names; there's a separate category for solo firm librarians which would be smaller than biglaw), the median salary nationwide is:

Director/Chief Librarian: $111,500
Chief Knowledge Officer/Chief Library Officer: $124,000

In NYC the median is $181,000.

Lower positions within the biglaw library have lower salaries.

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