Discussions on Records Management and Work Opportunities in Law Librarianship for New Library School Graduates

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to the INF 2133 Legal Literature and Librarianship class at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto on the topic of knowledge management (KM) in law firms.

The course is taught by law librarians John Papadopoulos and Sooin Kim. There was, I think, some interest in the topic of KM since many of the students were aware of the importance of KM and some had taken Professor Choo’s courses, some of which discuss KM.

Two things arose that I thought I would mention here:

Records management

In basing my talk on the idea of the 7 Faces of Legal Knowledge Management, I was a bit surprised by the number of questions on records management (probably due in part to some of the students working in records management and one of the students being in the archives program).

Records management remains a challenge for any organization, including law firms. I mentioned to the class the Carswell loose-leaf called Records Retention: Law and Practice but forgot to mention the following resources so am doing so here:

– Bryan Finlay, Electronic Documents: Records Management, e-discovery and Trial (Canada Law Book, 2010)

– Cunningham and Montana, The Lawyers Guide to Records Management and Retention (ABA, 2006)

– Jean Barr et al., Records Management in the Legal Environment: A Handbook of Practice and Procedure (Association of Records Managers and Administrators, 2003)

The impact of dealing with both print and electronic records is huge. At the local level, there has been some collaboration with colleagues on the topic of document retention in law firms and I would expect some of these issues to start to resolve themselves through this collaboration. Most of the provincial law societies provide some guidance to their members on this topic. The Law Society of Alberta, for example, has some useful commentary here.

In Ontario (and elsewhere) the advent of “ultimate” limitation periods may allow for clearer guidelines on when to (securely) destroy older documents. For example, in Ontario, the ultimate limitation period of 15 years should make it easier for organizations to destroy on January 1, 2019, some (but not necessarily all) pre-2004 documents relating to causes of action that arose before January 1, 2004 (since January 1, 2019, is the 15th anniversary of the new Ontario legislation having come into force). Exceptions exist for a number of claims, including, but not limited to, those claims that have no limitation periods.

For students with information degrees, I think records management is an area of growing importance for many organizations.

Work opportunities in Law Librarianship

Despite the economy over the past year, I tend to remain optimistic for recent graduates with Master of Information degrees interested in working in the field of law libarianship. My advice to students is the same every year: Join the various library associations (CALL, TALL, AALL, SLA), blog or create websites of interest, and publish. I have often found that the practicuum courses offered at many library schools are excellent “feet in the door” opportunities.

Aside from the information-exchange and networking that happens within the various law library organizations, two of the better sources in Canada for listing of library-related jobs are the Jobsite at the Faculty of Information and the FLA Jobline from the Foothills Library Association.


  1. Corrie Playford

    I just wanted to take this opportunity (as one of the students who had the benefit of attending this class) to thank you for taking the time to speak with us and for presenting such an interesting and informative talk. In addition to learning quite a bit about KM in a legal setting, I also particularly enjoyed your thoughts on the intersections between KM and the more traditional “library” resources. The management of both tacit and explicit knowledge will certainly provide challenges for information workers into the future. I was just wondering – I see a lot of focus on KM from a “top-down” perspective, but having had the experience of entry-level employment I also see a lot of value for employers for further embracing more of a “bottom-up” approach. The front line of any organization often has a very different perspective, and I haven’t seen as much attention paid to this area of KM. Do you know of any resources that look at KM from this perspective?