Studying Lawyers’ Information Seeking Behaviour to Inform the Design of Digital Law Libraries

in International Workshop on Digital Libraries in the Context of Users' Broader Activities (DL-CUBA) JCDL 2006, Conference paper (text), Chapel Hill, NC, USA


In this paper, we describe our ongoing work which involves
examining the information seeking behaviour of legal
professionals. This work involves studying the behaviour of both
academic and practicing lawyers with the long-term aim of
integrating user-centred legal information seeking support into
digital law libraries. We report preliminary findings from the
initial phase of the study, which comprised a series of semistructured
interviews and naturalistic observations of academic
law students looking for information that they require for their
work. This group of academic lawyers often found it difficult to
find the information that they were looking for when using digital
law libraries. A potential symptom of this difficulty was that
hazy and incorrect knowledge of the digital library system and
information sources within the system were rife. This suggests
the need for students to understand more about the digital library
systems that they use (within-systems knowledge). We also
found that although this group of academic lawyers often used
several electronic resources in a complementary fashion to
conduct legal information seeking, they often chose to rely
primarily on one of either the LexisNexis or Westlaw digital law
library platforms. Their preference was often based upon vague
or sometimes flawed rationale and suggests the need for students
to appreciate the situations in which different electronic resources
might be useful (between-systems knowledge).