Legal researchers, what has your bar association done for you lately? What should it be doing? Are you content to join the substantive sections dealing with legal issues you research, or would you prefer to have a special section dedicated to legal research generally? I know that legal research sections have been established in British Columbia, Alberta (North and South), Manitoba and Quebec. Are there any others? In provinces where there is no separate legal research section, why is that? Is there any movement to create legal research sections in those jurisdictions? What about a national legal research section of the Canadian Bar Association? If this niche is not being filled by the bar association, are there other associations out there fulfilling this need (besides Slaw)?
Personally, I believe it is appropriate for the bar association to have a special section for legal researchers. When I left private practice to become a full-time research lawyer, I missed having a section that specifically related to my area of practice. Now that a legal research section has been established in my province, I have new opportunities for meeting like-minded colleagues and honing my legal research skills.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that I was the co-founder and am currently the co-chair of the Manitoba Bar Association’s Legal Research Section. It all started when I complained to Darla Rettie, another legal research lawyer in Winnipeg, about the lack of legal research resources available through the bar association. She was confident that, if we got the ball rolling, other legal researchers would come out of the woodwork and get on board. I’m happy to report that, one year later, the section currently boasts 70 members (which may not seem like a lot to you, but it is in Manitoba – especially for a new section) and has held a number of well-attended events in its inaugural year.
So I would challenge research lawyers in other provinces, where there is not yet a dedicated section of the bar association for legal research, to take the initiative and create such a section. I can tell you that the results will be well worth the initial effort. And if you’re interested in teaming up to hold some multi-jurisdictional events or pursue the idea of a national legal research section, please let me know.