William P. Atkins, a partner in Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman's McLean, Va., office, recently wrote an article for Legal Times commenting on the decline of use of the law library in firms by summer associates and young associates and the increased dependence of online legal research resources. In the article he voices his concerns and notes researching solely with electronic tools may lead to a myopic research strategy. He states, “in relying so heavily on a singular case found electronically, the researcher adopts a view ironically constrained by technology, its boundaries set by what a keyboard and mouse can deliver to us, not by the totality of information out there.”
Although Mr. Atkins shows an appreciation for print resources, he is by no means “an embittered Luddite.” He admits to being addicted to his Blackberry and is “a big fan of online research,” but conditions their usefulness as being tools.
In concluding his article, Mr. Atkins describes his firm’s answer to “how to bring associates into the law library.” The solution is “Summer Associate Research Challenge” which was created by Mr. Atkins and Kevin Kramer, another partner, about six years ago. The goal of the contest is to answer the most legal research questions in 90 minutes or less by only using print resources and providing photocopies of the answers. Regarding the challenge, Mr. Atkins remarks, “this fun, page-flipping fury shows that our field will always benefit from a broad understanding of the law first. That means we need to keep a healthy level of familiarity and faith in books, versus continually leaving research to cyberspace.”