How a love of law led me to the library
By Meghan Maddigan
My Grade 12 yearbook is filled with illegible scrawls wishing me well in law school. I have always loved the law – its philosophical basis, its depth and range, even its eccentricities. I now work steeped in it, literally surrounded by it and in the heart of a building that develops it. Yet I am not the classic TV portrayal of a lawyer. I work for Courthouse Libraries BC and couldn’t be happier.
When I went to work for the library, colleagues teased me that I was going to need to start wearing my hair in a tight bun while expounding on the merits of the dewey decimal system. They also warned me I was likely to get bored. I’m delighted to report they were mistaken.
Courthouse Libraries BC is a non-profit organization that serves two very distinct groups: the legal community and the public. Finding ways to meet these very different needs leads to an array of challenges, especially within the budget of a non-profit society. Yet accomplishing this is one of the things that make this work rewarding.
It’s also rewarding to get to be part of an organization that is reinventing itself. We are so much more than books; becoming leaders in utilizing technology to expand access to legal information. As our technological abilities grow, more people from more places can access reliable legal information in a practical way. This makes me excited to come to work in the morning.
Describing my “daily job” is difficult due in a large part to the diversity that makes up my day. I organize and deliver training and outreach programs to lawyers around the province, making sure there are programs that I would have wanted to attend as a practising lawyer. I also help train legal advocates and those helping the public access legal information. I contribute to both of our websites – www.courthouselibrary.ca and www.clicklaw.bc.ca, our public-facing website. I meet with law students, articling students, and clerks to introduce them to finding tools and help. I field calls from lawyers around the province to see what they want and need from us. I also help on the reference desk – when lawyers get stuck on their research, I get to help solve their clients’ toughest legal challenges. I am privileged enough to do all of this without recording lengthy timesheets and my day is no longer meted out in six minute increments. Instead of being adversarial with other lawyers, I get to call them and simply ask, “how can I help?”
My job is about helping people access the law. At its core, I get to be part of access to justice in this province and it inspires me. Sometimes this is obvious – when I help self-represented litigants find key information to understand the process they are in. But when I help lawyers do their job in a way that makes them faster and more efficient, I know they can offer their clients less expensive service and this means more people get access to their skills. When I help newly called lawyers with skills to find the right legal information and show them where they can go for help, I know that we are building a strong foundation of new lawyers in B.C.
In high school, I had no idea that a career in law would lead me to a library. I am so delighted it did.
Meghan Maddigan, Client Services, Legal Community Liaison, Courthouse Libraries BC..
This article was published in the March 2012 issue of BarTalk. © 2012 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.