'Are You a Member of the Law School Community?': Access Policies at Academic Law Libraries and Access to Justice
109 Law Libr. J. 269 (2017)
28 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2016 Last revised: 25 Aug 2017
Date Written: June 21, 2016
Law libraries play a crucial role in facilitating access to legal materials, which is a necessary prerequisite to achieving access to justice. However, many academic law libraries, particularly at private law schools, are closed to members of the general public. This paper explores the access policies at law libraries at the top 25 law schools and in the three largest metropolitan areas to investigate whether members of the general public who live in these areas have adequate access to legal materials. This paper also includes a case study of the Seattle area to offer insight into how members of the general public in Seattle can obtain access to legal materials. This paper proposes introducing legal research clinics and restructuring advanced legal research courses at both public and private law schools to help address unmet legal needs and to provide students with public service opportunities. The success of both proposals hinges on the willingness of law librarians to oversee the legal research clinics and to teach the advanced legal research classes. Both proposals will help law schools comply with ABA Standards 303 and 304, which go into effect beginning with the 2016-17 academic year. Implementation of these proposals will also improve the image and reputation of law schools and the legal profession, better equip law students with necessary legal research and writing skills before they graduate, and reduce the amount of unmet legal needs in communities.
Keywords: law libraries, access to justice, ABA Standards, legal education, law schools, public service, law clinics, legal research
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