Friday, November 19, 2010
Scholarship alert: "Access to justice starts in the library: the importance of competent research skills and free/low-cost research resources"
This article, by St. Thomas Law Librarian and Legal Research Instructor Deborah K. Hackerson, can be found at 62 Me. L. Rev. 473 (2010). From the introduction:
The ability to perform competent and cost-effective legal research is one of the most important skills that law students should master to be prepared to practice law. Research skills are important when the law student or lawyer performs pro bono or public service work and needs to be especially mindful of saving costs. There can be no access to justice for any client if the attorney cannot adequately prepare to represent the client and if the client does not have access to the information needed to understand his or her case. The desire to ensure access to justice provides a strong impetus for examining the importance of these practical skills.
Access to justice is an important aspirational goal for everyone in the legal profession. Lawyers, however, cannot provide access to justice without adequate practical skills and the tools necessary to complete their work. Lawyers and law students provide many hours of public and pro bono service every year. With the current state of the economy and the record jobless rate, it is likely that the need for low cost and free legal services will continue to grow. In order to carry out the mission of continuing to provide services to those in need, law students must prepare learn the practical skills needed to serve their clients, including those who cannot pay.
The first part of this Article examines the need to support lawyers and law students in the development of competent and cost-effective legal research skills so that they enter the legal profession ready to represent all types of clients. This includes having the skills necessary to perform pro bono and public service work. It is imperative that law schools continue to develop a curriculum to increase these practical skills for lawyers of today. The second part of the Article discusses the importance of the continued development of free and low-cost resources that will support law students, lawyers, and the general public in performing cost-effective legal research. Access to justice includes access to information. It is an important mission for the legal profession to ensure that everyone has access to justice through continued access to information.