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Affordable Lawyers: What Did Your County Law Library Do For You Today?

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Question: WHO uses the Oregon county law libraries and for what purpose(s)?

Answer: Thousands of people use the Oregon county law libraries, because no other publicly accessible library has their specialized legal research resources, including databases, books, and professional law librarians.

More WHO answers: Government attorneys and other employees, metro-area residents, solo and small law firm attorneys who assist clients with limited income, pro se (self-represented) litigants, especially those with family, small estate, debt collection, landlord-tenant, and traffic court questions, middle and high school students, college, law school, and paralegal students, tax professionals, out of state and non-U.S. attorneys and self-represented litigants with legal interests in Oregon, and more all use the public (county) law library.

Fact: Some of our most appreciative groups of county law library patrons include new attorneys and part-time attorneys who need high-quality legal research resources for low-costs. Others are mid-career and retired lawyers who know they can save time and their clients’ money by using the law library’s research resources.

Fact: On any given day, county law libraries provide a wide variety of services not available elsewhere, due to the specialized nature of the business.

Here are some of the law library services used on any given day. This list is just for my law library and does not include any of the other Oregon county law libraries that may have additional databases and services, though it is probably representative of many of those other law libraries:

1) Conference Rooms: arbitration and depositions (including conference calls with local attorneys connecting with out of town, out of state attorneys)
2) Conference Rooms: client meetings, war room for litigators, work space for self-represented litigants, meeting space for bar associations
3) Notary services
4) Consult on difficult, complex legal research questions that can take hours or days to research thoroughly
5) Inter-library loan requests for books, articles, and other materials not online or not free online
6) Legal research services to solo and small law firm practitioners (databases, treatises, networking)
7) Westlaw/Lexis/Shepards/PACER research support
8) Other online/Internet services: research databases, social networking, & conferencing software
9) Purchase or locate specialized legal treatises
10) Federal research (print) (USCA, CFR, FR) research
11) Create indexes to local legal practice materials, e.g. CLEs and forms
12) Select current and superseded CLE course materials (within budget constraints)

13) Locate legal newsletters (many not online except to subscribers or bar members)
14) Research advice, research tips, document tracking, etc.
15) Legal materials purchasing advice (online and print) to lawyers, public librarians, jail library managers, and others
16) Legal materials purchase requests (CLEs, monographs, loose-leafs, special topics)
17) Family law questions/packets: divorce, custody, termination of parental rights, etc.
18) Leaving kids home alone question referrals (lots!)
19) Juvenile law questions (from young people and parents): schools, dependency, delinquency, guardianship, emancipation, etc.
20) Criminal law, including pre and post-trial, expungement, felony and misdemeanor questions
21) Small claims questions/forms and research guidance (website guides, blog posts, panel presentations)
22) Estates/wills questions/forms and research guidance
23) How to collect on judgments research guidance
24) Employment, wages-hour, discrimination, dismissal and research guidance
25) Special needs questions/forms and research guidance
26) Debt (small claims plaintiff or defendant) questions/forms and research guidance
27) Small business: referrals, laws, incorporation and research guidance
28) Direct unrepresented litigants to attorney referral services and information on how to work with attorneys (fees, preparation, etc.)
29) Referrals to government agencies & nonprofits (housing, disabilities, grandparents, elder law, consumer law, etc.)
30) Court procedure and rules research guidance
31) Referrals from public libraries on all of the above questions and more, including participation on Answerland virtual reference service
32) Teach federal and state legal research
33) Teach legal reference to public librarians
34) Teach legislative history to attorneys and paralegals, federal and state
35) Digitize and index legal documents, e.g. 1953-1993 ORS

That list leaves out the actual business of running a law library: someone has to make sure that the Law Library has the materials people need, current and superseded, and that the library is staffed and open to the public 45 hours a week. Print and online legal research resources need to be evaluated. Someone has to manage vendor relations, budgeting, AR/AP, facilities management, skills development, outreach to public libraries, write articles for print and online newsletters, create and update websites and blogs, be interviewed by journalists, teach, train, draft policies, solve disputes, chase after lawyers who don’t return books, meet with and report to county managers and Commissioners, bar association board members, and professional association colleagues, consult with legal aid services and social service providers and others in order to assist unrepresented people who have legal problems and learning disabilities, etc., etc., etc.