Small firms, including sole practitioners, form the biggest group of library users, making up 57 per cent of research inquiries the library staff dealt with in 2016, writes Michael Mayer, Library Services Manager

Introduction

The Law Society library has one of the most comprehensive printed collections of law material in England and Wales. It provides three key services to all members of the Law Society to support their information needs wherever they are located, whatever type or size of organisation they work in, and irrespective of career stage.

The biggest group who uses the library are small firms who, along with sole practitioners, made up 57 per cent of the research enquiries the library staff dealt with 2016. This research service is free. The library also provides a same-day document delivery service, and member access to one of the largest library collections of law material in the world.

1. Law Society library research service

The Law Society librarians deal with about 10,000 member enquiries each year, covering a wide range of legal research from point-in-time legislation, finding precedents, case law, parliamentary material, locating articles, even genealogy. 

Enquiries come from members working in all types of legal organisations - from small firm practitioners to Top 100, in-house, and government. The majority of enquiries we receive are either by email or telephone so it does not matter where you are based, you are able to use our research service.

For the vast majority of research there is no charge. Charges only apply if research takes longer than 30 minutes and you will be notified well in advance if that is likely to happen. So, if you need research help please contact the library service on 020 7320 5946 or library@lawsociety.org.uk .

Telephone and emails enquiry lines are open 09.00am - 17.00pm, Monday to Friday.

2. Collection service

The library provides members with access to one of the most comprehensive printed collections of law material in England and Wales. The printed collection comprises of 55,000 volumes housed in a Grade 2 listed interior room at The Law Society in Chancery Lane. It is a reference only collection made up of:

  • Precedents - including EF&P, Atkins and a wide range of textbooks, including Tristram and Coote, which include precedents
  • Law Reports - a wide range of law reports for England and Wales, smaller collections covering other British jurisdictions and a small collection of Commonwealth law reports
  • Legislation - public general acts, local and private acts, plus access to original and amended legislation
  • Journals - a large collection of journal indexes and legal journals
  • Parliamentary - House of Commons papers from 1801 and Hansard debates from 1804
  • Commentary - an extensive collection of up-to-date practitioner textbooks and looseleafs

The library also provides 11 public access computers, including two for visually impaired lawyers, that provide access to Lexis, Westlaw, PSL and Justis. 

3. Accept and embrace modern expectations

LawDocs is the library’s heavily used document delivery service and deals with around 100 member requests for copies of legal information each month. Providing it is within copyright, the majority of our collection, be it precedent material, law reports, commentary, and legislation, can be emailed straight to your inbox. Alternatively, documents can be posted, sent by DX delivery, faxed or collected. The service can be used when documents are required for current judicial proceedings.

Email lawdocs@lawsociety.org.uk and the service is open 9.00am - 5.00pm, Monday-Friday.

As the library is fully compliant with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) there is a copyright fee for using the service which is passed on to the CLA.

We are currently investigating the value to members of creating a library legal research service providing members with practical training on the basics of legal research techniques.

This could cover how to use popular commercial services such as Lexis and Westlaw, top tips to bear in mind when researching case law and legislation, and even more abstract training on areas such as legal genealogy. Training would tie in with the SRA’s competencies framework.

The project is in its infancy but if you have any thoughts on content, type of delivery, or may be interested in attending such a session then please me on michael.maher@lawsociety.org.uk or telephone me on 0207 320 5696 or 07548 678133.