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Continuing Education Redux
By Carol Barra, LexisNexis Librarian Relations Consultant
As Yogi Berra has been credited with saying, “This is like deja vu all over again.” I am going to talk again about the importance of continuing to learn and attend educational meetings throughout our careers.
I have been a law librarian for over 30 years (I’m not telling how many, because I’m not that old!) and a LexisNexis® Librarian Relations Consultant for almost 7 years. One of the things I have enjoyed about my current position is the opportunity to attend and participate in association-sponsored educational programs. The past seven years have taught me how much I short-changed myself by not taking advantage of all of the wonderful opportunities available through AALL, LLAGNY (Law Libraries Association of Greater New York, my local AALL Chapter), SLA and Practising Law Institute. I am going to talk about three meetings I have attended this year.
First: The Law Library 2007: Skills Strategies & Solutions, PLI.
This program left me totally energized, even after attending an all day meeting and sitting still for longer than I am used to. Highlighted below are some of the sessions I found relevant to working in today’s law firm.
“Law Firm Economics”: The presenter brought home to me how important it is for librarians today to have a clear understanding of their firm’s financial philosophy and goals. He stressed that today’s firms are being operated as businesses and that probably the most important financial goal of your firm’s owners (partners) is profitability. Librarians need to understand how they can contribute to this profitability goal and be viewed as valuable contributors.
“Staff Management”: The presenter provided a mini Myers-Briggs exercise that we all took to identify temperament and communication styles. Knowing and understanding how the members of your staff think and communicate can go a long way in assuring that your staff (team) is working as a cohesive unit and complimenting one another. Until I started my position with LexisNexis I had never participated in this exercise. I am a firm believer that this exercise can produce better and stronger performance by all members of a team. It makes a huge difference when everyone on a team knows their fellow team members profile. Having this knowledge makes you a more effective manager; you know which team member will perform which tasks well. This way you can assure that all of your team members have the opportunity to shine.
“Personal Marketing Skills”: The speaker provided guidance for organizing, preparing and delivering effective presentations. In all of our jobs, we are called on to deliver presentations. These may be fairly informal participations in a team meeting or more formal presentations to our supervisors in a law firm or to a group of attorneys. The presenter stressed the importance of organizing thoughts, preparing (practice, practice, practice) and delivery skills (project, look at your audience and stand during your presentation). Every time I attend a session on presentation skills, I learn something new or come away with an idea how to improve my own presentation skills.
Second: LLAGNY Bridge the Gap: Between Law School and … Legal Practice.
This program is organized by members of LLAGNY and open to law students preparing for clerkships as summer associates at law firms. This year attendance was open to law librarians for the first time.
The topics were practical presentations on the types of research assignments to expect during a summer at a law firm. Topics included in this year’s program, and which I attended were: “Corporate & Securities Research,” “Intellectual Property: Patents,” “Intellectual Property: Trademarks & Copyrights,” “Corporate Governance,” and “International & Foreign Law Research.”
I spoke with several law school students and all of them expressed enthusiastically that this program was outstanding and was going to be invaluable to them in preparing them to work as summer associates in their law firms.
I also spoke with librarians who said the programs provided them with an understanding of the resources for researching and an understanding of the concerns facing their summer associates.
I learned a lot from the presenters. I was impressed with the depth of knowledge that the librarians who presented exhibited. I highly recommend that, if your local AALL Chapter offers a similar program, you encourage your summer associates and your library staff to attend. This was my first time attending and I plan to attend next year because I learned research resources and tips that are going to be helpful to me in my job.
Third: LLAGNY Patent Research Program
Forty librarians and I attended the LLAGNY-sponsored Patent Research educational program. Presenters included two librarians from law firms with major patent practices and two vendors, of which I was one.
I learned an indescribable amount from the two librarians who presented. One librarian provided examples of the types of research requests her firm’s staff has to handle and the sources they use to fulfill these requests. The other librarian provided attendees with tips on resources available and why each of them is important. The other vendor demonstrated sources that are searchable on their databases. I showed sources available on lexis.com® and followed a research scenario through the sources I highlighted. I learned some new tricks of the trade from all of these presenters. I wish that this program had been offered (or if it had been, that I had attended) while I was working in my law firm.
Whenever I attend an educational program like the ones I have discussed here, I realize how much I short-changed myself while I was the director of the library at my law firm. Somehow I always had an excuse that I was too busy or thought it was essential for me to be in my office during the day. I now realize I didn’t allow myself to continue to learn and be re-energized by attending educational meetings throughout the year and this was a mistake. We are all more valuable to our organizations if we continue to learn and if we are energized and engaged in our professional development.
I encourage you to leave your offices when educational opportunities are available for you to learn a new skill, improve upon an existing skill, learn a new product or sources available, or attend programs for your general professional development. Don’t short-change yourselves by remaining at your desks all day every day.
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