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Cornell Library at Vermont Law & Graduate School

Vermont Librarians' Legal Information Toolkit: Where to Start?

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A patron walks in with a legal question. You are not an attorney or a law librarian, but you want to provide assistance. because you're a librarian, and that's what librarians do. 

When you assist a patron who is navigating a legal process or issue, please keep the following in mind:

  1. Requests for legal information that seem specific and simple are not usually specific and simple; and
  2. You are not an attorney, and therefore you should not conduct legal research on the patron's behalf or provide legal advice; but
  3. You are someone that the patron trusts, and there are resources that you can help them navigate.

Be cautious about providing assistance that could be construed as legal advice. Avoid the temptation to suggest a specific form, document, case, or answer to the patron's question. Even if you think you know the answer, or you have dealt with a similar situation in the past, legal issues are subtle and nuanced. Telling a patron that they should fill out a specific form or use a specific article or case in their argument could create a problem for you later if the person does not win their case or get the outcome they hoped for.

Instead, focus on helping people understand and navigate sources of legal information, so that they can do their own search and find items that might be relevant to their situation. Show the patron how to navigate websites, suggest databases that contain the types of material they're looking for, help them look up a citation in order to find the full text of a document, and ask them questions to help them brainstorm search terms to use.

Refer them to CLIC

If your patron runs into a problem using one of the suggested resources in this guide, or if they just get stuck and need more help to move forward with their question, please feel free to refer them to us. We can provide suggestions and, if the patron would like, help with legal research databases via a virtual reference appointment. Contact us at:

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