Legal Research Education at Cornell

What Cornell manages to accomplish in library-based legal education is definitely the most arresting and challenging aspect of what I’ve learned here. They outline their activities on their teaching page.

As discussed in this recent study of legal education from the Carnegie Foundation, Lawyering programs are common is US schools. It is where they teach practice-oriented material such as research and writing, which has become a substantial aspect of many legal programs. Cornell offers basic and advanced legal research courses of three credits each, as well as several specialized topics, such as International and Foreign research, and Law Practice Technology which can be one or two credits.

With six dual JD-MLS professionals on staff (called Research Attorneys), the library also has a place offering targeted instruction in substantive classes that require a paper, an undergraduate level course in legal research, and also a specialized course in administrative law research that parallels the substantive course.

In addition, the Research Attorneys offer a variety of workshops and orientations to research targeted particular groups, such as foreign students, LLMs, mooting groups, and students entering summer jobs or clerkships.

That amounts to a of of teaching. The ratio of professional library staff to faculty is a little higher than at most Canadian law libraries, but clearly one main difference is the education and experience in practice that these people bring to the work. It raises the interesting question of whether these are lawyers working in a library, or librarians with law degrees. The answer will depend on the directions of the law library and the goals of the individuals.

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