What is a Law Librarian?
Law librarians are information professionals that specialize in legal information. They work in a variety of legal and non-legal settings including law schools, private law firms, businesses, and government agencies. Law librarians research, analyze, and evaluate legal sources for quality and accuracy. They also teach, train, develop library collections, and manage libraries and information centers.
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is the primary professional association serving law librarians and other legal information professionals. More information about law librarians and law librarianship as a career can be found on the AALL website.
Legal Reference vs. Legal Advice
Although law librarians often work in legal settings and with legal information, it is illegal for them to give legal advice to their patrons. Only licensed attorneys may give legal advice. Law librarians may provide research help and assistance in locating legal information. However, law librarians cannot help patrons interpret the law, select particular forms, or analyze legal issues or points of law. Some of the things law librarians can and cannot do are listed below.
Law librarians can:
- suggest sources of legal information;
- teach patrons how to use legal information resources;
- teach patrons legal research skills; and
- help patrons find definitions, case law, or statutes by showing them how to use search terms and indexes.
Law librarians cannot:
- recommend specific forms or show patrons how to fill out those forms;
- offer opinions about how a specific legal problem should be handled;
- draft legal documents;
- interpret the law (cases, statutes, or regulations);
- analyze legal issues; or
- interpret any court or other legal document.
If a patron needs legal advice, they should contact a lawyer. A librarian can help find them a lawyer in their area.
The Southern California Association of Law Libraries provides a great chapter on this issue in their online publication Locating the Law: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 5th ed. Information about the Unauthorized Practice of Law in Colorado is available on the Colorado Supreme Court Attorney Regulation homepage.
Colorado Law Libraries
There are a number of law libraries in Colorado. Listed below are Colorado law libraries that are open to the public. Many public libraries also have limited legal collections. Public libraries and librarians can be great resources for finding legal information when access to a law library is not convenient or available. Contact your local public library directly for information about their collection and services.
Westminster Law Library
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Ricketson Law Building
2255 East Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
Reference: (303) 871-6206
William A. Wise Law Library
University of Colorado Law School
Wolf Law Building, 2nd Floor
2450 Kittredge Loop Road
Boulder, Colorado 80309
Reference: (303) 492-3522
Colorado Supreme Court Library
101 W. Colfax Avenue, Suite
Denver, Colorado 80202
(temporary location- first floor of the Denver Post Building-formerly known as the Denver Newspaper Agency Building)
Contact: (303) 837-3720
U.S. Courts Library, 10th Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Room 430 Byron Rogers Courthouse
1929 Stout Street
Denver, Colorado 80294
Contact: (303) 844-3591
National Indian Law Library
Boulder, CO 80302
Contact: (303) 447-8760
Law Library Associations
Another way to find information on law librarianship, law libraries, and legal research help is through the organizations and associations dedicated to law librarianship. These associations provide information on legal research as well as professional development for law librarians.
American Association of Law Libraries
Colorado Association of Law Libraries- CoALL
P.O. Box 13363
Denver, CO 80201
Southwestern Association of Law Libraries