The Law Librarians of Puget Sound (LLOPS) offer a membership newsletter (LLOPSCited). In the next installment my library internship at Perkins-Coie will be covered, from the viewpoint of the law firm and myself. My article, posted below, is a beefed up version of a blog posting.
Student Internships: A Student Perspective
by Philippe Cloutier, Syracuse University MSLIS student
Students in library school normally have preconceived notions of where they want to work, from rare collections preservation and academia to public schools and libraries. However, law librarianship remains a mystery to many. Prior to the Perkins Coie internship my understanding of law librarianship came from in-class interviews and lectures. In addition, my knowledge of legal research and bibliography was undeveloped. Given my lack of awareness, I had never really considered a career in law librarianship.
My internship in Seattle ended on August 10th and without a doubt, I have grown. Being a student, everything sounds exciting: helping patrons, shelving materials, processing materials, updating online information, considering tools that provide the best access, figuring out the best way to store items, and improving the library however possible. This list is pretty general, but what I found enthralling about law firm libraries were the intellectual questions received on a regular basis and getting to know your patrons and their “styles” well. Shadowing and assisting the librarians at the reference desk every day gave me insight into a realm I only knew through articles and class discussion. Assisting summer associates who refused to work with print material (favoring online information) and senior lawyers uncomfortable with the Internet (favoring print material) and speaking through their secretaries proved to be an invaluable experience.
Operating, criticizing, and learning a wide array of multifunctional electronic resources and databases further enhanced my comprehension of complex digital environments. These experiences enhanced my understanding of legal research, legal bibliography, legislative history, document retrieval and delivery, general research, the reference interview, patience, and much more. Technical service work included the shelving, shifting, and processing of materials; experimenting with SyndeyPLUS; and diving deep into the cataloging issues facing legal materials. Also, it seems to me that special libraries are often on the cutting edge of technology and progress. For instance, training with and using Microsoft Visio isn’t common in most libraries.
I appreciated being in a setting that was large (i.e., a global law firm), but at the same time being with a specific and relatively small library collection and staff. I was taken out to lunch five times within six weeks, enjoyed a librarian/staff happy hour, and a BBQ. During my last week, I was even able to drag the librarians and staff to a local Saké bar. Indubitably, the connections I made at Perkins Coie will last a lifetime. Consequently, my experience with the librarians and staff is one of the most valuable factors drawing me to this field. The law librarians that I met, worked with, and toured with were accommodating, honest, and wise. If it weren’t for the internship I may have never accessed law librarianship; nor be on the path that I find myself on today. Thanks to the Perkins Coie Diversity Internship, one day I hope to be lucky enough to call myself a law librarian.