The Legal Division is proud to feature Laura Woods in its March Profiles in Law Librarianship feature:
A Little Bit About Laura:
Laura has been involved in SLA since winning an Early Career Conference Award from SLA Europe and the Leadership and Management Division in 2009, and attending that year’s Annual Conference in Washington DC. She attended her second conference last year in Philadelphia, courtesy of a travel grant from the Legal Division, of which she is an enthusiastic member.
She has worked in law libraries for almost the whole of her short but eventful library career: beginning with a graduate trainee position in 2007-08 at Gray’s Inn, one of the UK’s four historical Inns of Court; and progressing through roles at two UK law firms. Since February 2011 she has worked for Addleshaw Goddard in Leeds, providing business and markets intelligence to select practice groups within the firm.
A Few Questions for Laura:
What brought you to the legal information industry?
I arrived at law librarianship purely through chance! Following an enjoyable but not wholly successful few years working as a freelance photographer (photography was my first degree, and my first love) I was looking for an alternative career path. A careers adviser suggested librarianship to me, based on my transferable skills and interest, and it was like a lightbulb going on: the more I read about librarianship as a career, the more it sounded like a perfect fit for me. I applied to a number of graduate trainee opportunities in various types of libraries, and took the first that was offered: at Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court, member organisations for all barristers in England and Wales. In my year at Gray’s, I found that I really enjoyed the fast-paced and varied nature of legal research – I love that you never know what you might be asked next! Since then, apart from eight months working part-time in a university library while I studied for my MSc in Library and Information Science, I have exclusively worked in law libraries.
Where do you see our industry in 10 years?
Good question – I wish I knew! My hunch is that there will be more of a move towards embedded librarianship – my own firm is working towards this model now, but I think UK law firms are a little behind US firms in this respect. I think there is an opportunity for law librarians to become subject specialists, working closely with particular practice groups to provide knowledge and insights rather than just information.
What are you doing to get Future Ready?
As much as I can! I read numerous professional blogs and newsletters – some on law librarianship, some on librarianship in general, and some on the law and developments in the practice area I support, which is property and real estate. My job is to provide insight and intelligence, so I see it as vital to my role that I keep up to speed with any new developments.
I also try to expand my skills wherever possible, for example through shadowing people in different but related roles within my own firm to see what I could learn from them and how I could support them. For example, a lot of my work involves supporting the business development teams on pitches for new business, so I’ve been trying to get to know that team better by hot-desking with them and making sure I am included on department emails. This will not only make me better at my job now, but will hopefully give me good experience and extra skills to add to my CV for the next time I’m job hunting.
Do you have any advice for people looking to break into the legal information industry?
Learn as much as you can about the legal industry – you’ll need that knowledge alongside your information skills. To fill in any gaps in your knowledge, talk to other law librarians – we’re a friendly bunch! Networking is vital: make use of organisations like SLA legal and other local and national organisations (if you’re in the UK, BIALL is a great one to join). Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a background in law: work on your core information skills, and your transferable “soft” skills, and trust that you’ll be able to pick up the sector-specific stuff as you go along.