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BIALL law librarians group concerned digital literacy issues being ignored – are digital natives digitally naive?

New reasearch by The British & Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) on legal information literacy standards suggests the next generation of lawyers will struggle with legal research.

The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) established a working group in February 2012 to develop suitable legal information literacy standards for use by their colleagues in all sectors of law librarianship in the UK. BIALL was pleased to contribute to the recent Legal Education and Training Review (LETR), highlighting a number of problems with trainee solicitors’ research practices which are widely recognised by those responsible for training them. In its final report, LETR concluded that consideration should be given to the BIALL Legal Information Literacy Statement.

During the preparation of the statement on legal information literacy, the Working Group addressed some of the following observed research habits of trainees:
– they appeared to be generally unfamiliar with paper-based resources, compared with digital;
– trainees would rely on one-hit-only searching – they would not check thoroughly or contextually around their findings;
– Google would be used extensively in searches for legal sources;
– trainees would frequently be unable to distinguish between the genres of legal research tools – the difference between an encyclopedia and a digest, for example;
– trainees seemed to lack persistence, diligence and organisation in searching.

Ruth Bird, the chair of the BIALL Working Group on Legal Information Literacy, said “The discovery of this is a wake-up call on the whole issue of legal research.Whilst we welcome the recognition of the relevance of the Legal Information Literacy Statement by the LETR, we are disappointed not to see the adoption of the Statement by LETR. This would have gone some way to ensure that institutions tackle the shortfall in digital literacy abilities which could detrimentally affect lawyering skills for future generations.”

The BIALL Legal Information Literacy Statement can be found here:

The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) was jointly undertaken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and the Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS). It was intended to be the most substantial review of legal education and training since the publication of the Ormrod Report (Report of the Committee on Legal Education, Cmnd 4595) in 1971. Work on the Review commenced in June 2011 and the final Report was delivered to the Review Executive in June 2013. Thereafter it will be a matter for the frontline regulators to decide, in the light of their regulatory responsibilities, what action they will take in response to the review recommendations. More information: