Career Alternatives, Job Searches, Libraries / Librarians

Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Law Librarian

library Above the Law blog.jpgAs we announced yesterday, we’re doing a series of open threads on career alternatives for attorneys. If you have a law degree, but can’t get into / aren’t interested in Biglaw or contract attorney work, what are some other good options?

We kicked off the series with a post about job opportunities with accounting firms. If you have a suggested career path, please email us (subject line: “Career Alternatives”), and include some basic info about the field that you’re nominating (e.g., how to get into it, pluses and minuses, salary data, etc.).

Back to law librarians. Longtime ATL readers know that they’re hot, as reflected in our law librarian hotties contest (male nominees here, female nominees here, and winners here). And it sounds like their profession is, too. From an enthusiastic law librarian, who works for a university:

Don’t forget law librarianship. Great hours, low stress, academic lifestyle, and the chance to abuse law students at will. Nothing could be finer.

Seriously, this a great profession. The work is interesting, law students and professors are intelligent and fun to work with, the stress level is low, the pace is comfortable, and I feel like I’m doing positive things for people. I have fun at work every day, and get many of the benefits of the law school academic lifestyle in spite of only having been in the middle of my class at [a top 30 law school]. There are plenty of jobs, many in very nice places to live. I highly recommend it.

Sounds promising — especially the part about abusing law students. Read more, after the jump.

We started off by asking our tipster: Is additional training needed beyond the JD? E.g., a master’s degree in library science?

Yes, for the most you will need to get a masters in library science. It takes about a year, but is not nearly as challenging (or expensive) as a year in law school. There are some exceptions to needing an MLS, but not enough of them to be counted on if one is considering a career change. Library school can be done part-time and online, although as a former practicing attorney, I know that “part-time” isn’t always a realistic goal for lawyers.

Traditionally, law librarians with JDs (who make up about 40% of the 5000+ member American Association of Law Libraries) have worked in academic (i.e., law school) law libraries, doing reference work and teaching legal research, as well as managing the library. Directors of academic law libraries are usually considered law faculty, with all the perks thereof.

What about law librarian opportunities in Biglaw?

Increasingly JD law librarians are working in firm libraries, where rank and file pay is very good (by law library standards). Doing so can allow you to still be part of the law firm environment, if you like that sort of thing, without the long hours or having to be responsible for cases.

Finally, the $64,000 question: what’s the pay like?

Overall, JD law librarians make considerably more than librarians in general. AALL does a biennial salary survey…. I have attached [some tables — see below]. As you will see, on average, law librarian pay is fully competitive with public-sector law practice, so the cost of “education vs. pay” considerations are about the same as well.

Good stuff. We thank our correspondent for the helpful information!


law librarian salary compensation table 1.jpg


law librarian salary compensation table 2.jpg

Earlier: Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Accounting Firms

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