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Like books? Like the law? Worried about the crushing debt of a J.D. or the soul-sucking hours of a young associate? Maybe it's time to consider being a law librarian. Even as physical law libraries are becoming less common (no one needs those stacks of reporters when it's all digital), the law librarian still plays an important role in the legal industry.
Is a career as a law librarian in your future? Here's what you should consider.
As any reader knows, librarians are more than just the custodians of books. They're masters of information and knowledge management. And for law librarians, those tasks are becoming more central to their day-to-day.
Just what sort of work would a law librarian be responsible for? Straight-forward research tasks are the most common, as are keeping practitioners abreast of information, news, legal developments, and client information. In addition, many librarians manage electronic data and research aids and train other legal staff on effective research. According to a recent survey, most law librarians are also involved in business development and competitive intelligence.
So, how much will training set you back and how much can you expect to earn? Most law librarian positions require a master's degree in library or information sciences from a school accredited by the American Library Association. (That's most of them.) Unlike a J.D., those degrees can often be earned in two years or less. The best programs are also largely at public universities, offering big savings on tuition. The University of Washington, for example, estimates that the total cost of a Masters in Library Sciences degree is just about $47,000. It's not cheap, but it's at least a third of the cost of most J.D.s. (There's even an option for attorneys looking to transition into a law librarian career.)
Does it pay? Pretty much. The average salary for a law librarian in Seattle, for example, is $62,000. That's comparable to a first year lawyer earning a low-end salary at a small firm, according to Robert Half Legal, and more than twice the average Indeed salary for a paralegal. But, law librarian jobs are harder to come by than both paralegal and attorney positions, which can make finding a position more difficult -- but not impossible.
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