Developing the legal information professional
Purpose -Legal information work has expanded with the growth in knowledge management and emergence of a new type of knowledge/information manager, the professional support lawyer. This study investigated competency requirements for library-based information work in UK law firms, including the specialist subject knowledge required, methods of development and the impact on information professionals of professional support lawyers. Design/methodology/approach -The investigation used a pragmatic
... used a pragmatic mixed-methods approach, including a mainly quantitative questionnaire, administered online to 64 legal information professionals, followed by 8 semi-structured interviews and a focus group with 4 participants. A literature review informed the questionnaire design and contextualised the findings. Findings -The survey confirmed a broad range of competency requirements and clarified the specific subject knowledge needed. Participants favoured a varied combination of formal and informal learning. Most also wanted specialised professional education for the sector. Research limitations/implications -The nature of the sample and use of categorised questions were limiting factors, partly compensated by inviting open-ended comments and follow-up interviews. A larger study using qualitative methods with professional support lawyers and fee-earners would provide a fuller more rounded picture. Practical implications -The findings indicate that the subject knowledge needed for legal information work in law firms is more extensive than for other sectors and suggest that information science departments should strengthen and extend curriculum content to reflect this need. Originality/value -The study has advanced our understanding of the competency, education and training needs of UK legal information professionals, challenging assumptions about academic/professional qualifications and illuminating the blend of competencies needed.