While reading the article “Survival Tips for Summer Associates Entering the Real World of Law Firms” written by The Snark, humor columnist for the Fulton County Daily Report, I couldn’t help but think of librarians. The Snark provides new associates tips on their first days in their firms, admonishing them to not joke about their salaries, not plan any free time, not ask stupid questions, and hide their pens. While we can’t help them with the first two and, I have to admit, I would be the first to eye a nice pen, we certainly know about stupid questions.
Actually, I think we know that, for a first year associate who has been thrown in feet first, there are no stupid questions. The orientation we did at my last firm for summer and fall associates always ended with encouraging them to contact the library if they thought they had a stupid question. We told them that the library was their safe haven if they ran into something they didn’t know how to proceed with, we didn’t judge, and most importantly, we had no impact on whether they were hired.
When these same summer and fall associates started with the firm, we reminded them of the safe haven and told them that our goal was to help them achieve success. We also assigned a librarian to each of them to act as research mentor (an idea I picked up while visiting Trish Thomas at Alston & Bird). The librarians would check in periodically to see if there was anything they could help with and remind them that they were available if something came up. They also coached them in online research by sharing usage reports and explaining online research costs.
If all this makes us the stupid-questions answer people described in The Snark’s article, than I would wear the label proudly. In my mind, there are few things more satisfying than watching a new associate grow into an expert legal researcher. The added benefit to all this is the new associate becoming a return customer of library or information resource services through out their careers.