Extras – Cincinnati Librarians Give Summer Associates an “Inside Look” at the Legal Profession

Mary Lynn Wagner is the Librarian at Keating, Muething & Klekamp in Cinncinati, Ohio.


In 1996, the private law firm librarians of Cincinnati, Ohio created the “Inside Look” program in an effort to educate summer associates on the realities of practicing in various specialty areas of law. The program was designed to enhance the associate’s educational experience by providing a candid discussion of the challenges and rewards of practicing law from the point of view of seasoned attorneys. Because the program was conceived and implemented by firm librarians, an added benefit is that it serves to enhance our visibility and further establish our role as central to the associate’s summer educational experience.


The idea for the program originated with Barbara Davis, librarian for Taft, Stettinius and Hollister and Anne Abate, librarian for Dinsmore & Shohl after they were asked to give a speech on legal research to some of the students at the University of Cincinnati’s Marx College of Law. Their joint presentation spawned the idea that maybe the librarians could do more to educate summer associates in preparing to practice in the specialty areas found in large law firms. They felt that a program designed and run by firm librarians would promote their organizational skills and professionalism, while benefiting both their firms and summer associates. Anne and Barbara presented the idea of developing a program for the summer associates at the next Cincinnati Private Law Librarians’ meeting. Enthusiastic about the idea, the group began designing the program for the following summer. The initial concept centered on inviting attorneys from the participating firms as speakers to provide insight to the summer associates on what practicing law on a daily basis is really like. The speeches given by attorneys were designed to be informal to put the summer associates at ease in order to encourage communication.

Once the librarians were committed to the program, subject areas and speakers were decided upon. Speakers were chosen based on their speaking ability, enthusiasm, expertise, number of years in the profession and, of course, their willingness to participate in the program. Partners composed the majority of the speakers, but the librarians often chose newer associates to provide the summer associates with varying types of experiences. The speakers were asked not to prepare formal presentations, but to talk candidly about what they do on a daily basis, why they chose their practice area, what they find most interesting about their profession/practice area, what law school classes helped prepare them for practice in their specialty area, and how their responsibilities have changed over the years. The attorneys were asked to speak for twenty minutes with ten minutes available at the end of each session for questions.

The Inside Look Program

The first Inside Look program was held on June 28, 1996, and ran from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The program was held at the Cincinnati Law Library largely because the group had very limited resources and no funding. Billie Grey, Director of the Cincinnati Law Library Association offered the library space without cost. Since membership in the library is optional, the Inside Look program offered her an opportunity to promote the library’s services and collection in exchange for her support. The date of the program was chosen based on the availability of the law library and the arrival of the summer associates.

Initially, it was decided not to approach legal vendors for funding because it was thought that the program’s content could be diluted with sales promotions. However, LEXIS-NEXIS did agree to underwrite the cost of breakfast the first year. Our main goal has always been to recover only those costs associated with running the program.

The content of the program included practice areas prominent in the participating firms (e.g. banking and commercial law, real estate, litigation, employee benefits, international law, bankruptcy, tax and estates planning, environmental, labor and employment, intellectual property, corporate law and securities law, and workers’ compensation law). The associates were asked to indicate which session(s) they wanted to attend prior to the program to ensure adequate space. The program was designed to have three discussion groups running concurrently. A librarian was assigned to introduce each speaker, act as time-keeper and moderator for questions. At the end of each session, the speakers were presented with a bottle of wine sporting a specially-designed Inside Look logo to thank them for their participation.

The program was a huge success as based on comments heard during the program and from the evaluation forms completed by the participants at the end of the program. The speakers and recruiters at the participating firms felt that it was a great way to expose the summer associates to various practice areas while enhancing the image of the firms.

The planning process for the 1997 program began in April, with librarians from Keating, Muething & Klekamp; Taft, Stettinius & Hollister; Dinsmore & Shohl; Thompson, Hine & Flory; Graydon, Head & Ritchey; Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease; and the Cincinnati Law Library. The committee began the planning process by assessing the strengths and the weaknesses from the previous year’s program and establishing a set of objectives for the year. It was decided that the first objective for the program would be to provide the students with an expanded program including quality speakers from a wider range of subject areas. The second objective would be to target as many law firms and corporate legal departments as possible. With these objectives in mind, we decided how much, if any, sponsorship would be needed from the vendors. We agreed that in order to provide the summer associates with the type of program we envisioned it would be necessary to obtain some vender support.

Letters describing the program and inviting participation were sent to twenty-five of Cincinnati’s largest law firms and legal departments. The law firms and corporate legal departments targeted were chosen from the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Book of Business Lists. The letters generated additional participation, but connections were sometimes difficult when the organizations had neither a librarian nor a recruiting contact.

The facilities at the Cincinnati Law Library worked well for the first year, but it could not accommodate the needs of an expanded program. The Cincinnati Bar Association agreed to provide three large meeting rooms at no charge. The Young Lawyers Section of the CBA also agreed to underwrite the cost of breakfast at the beginning of the program. LEXIS-NEXIS and Westlaw both agreed to underwrite the cost of lunch for the program. Each firm or company was charged a nominal $5 commitment fee to cover some of the expenses and to obtain a commitment from the firms.

The 1997 program was held on Tuesday, June 24, 1997. It began at 8:45 a.m. with breakfast and opening remarks by Barbara W. Silbersack, librarian from Thompson, Hine & Flory and Kent Wellington, Chair of the Young Lawyers Section of the Cincinnati Bar. Each summer associate was provided with a schedule for the sessions and biographical information on each speaker. The 1997 schedule was expanded to include five major time periods with three half-hour sessions offered concurrently. The associates were allowed to attend one or more of the sessions in each time period in order accommodate conflicts of interest. Five-minute breaks were scheduled between sessions. Attorneys from the librarian’s firms were again recruited to speak based on the same selection criteria as the 1996 program; however, more than one speaker was asked in some specialty areas in order to present a broader view of the subject area. Popular speakers from the ’96 program were invited to return, but many specialty areas were redistributed in order to give each firm a fair representation. Based on comments from the previous year’s evaluation forms, the following specialty areas were added to the program: sports law, personal injury arbitration, health care, and cyberspace law.

The last event on the program was a meeting in chambers at the Hamilton County Court House with Ohio Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Niehaus. Immediately following Judge Niehaus’ talk was a tour of the court house with lunch served at the Cincinnati Law Library.

Evaluation forms were again distributed to the summer associates to obtain necessary feedback on key areas such as food, program format, and speaker presentations. The evaluations showed that the summer associates were impressed with the wide variety of topics covered and the over-all quality of the program.

Fine Tuning the Program

A meeting was held by the librarians shortly after the program to discuss the evaluation results and to plan for the 1998 program. John Norwine, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Bar Association, was especially excited about the program’s success and offered to provide additional meeting rooms for the next year.

With two years of experience, the planning process for the 1998 program went much faster. This year, we began the planning process at the end of February and focused on how the program could be further enhanced for the summer associates. We decided to add a luncheon keynote speaker, James O’Reilly, retired Associate General Counsel of Procter and Gamble and a morning keynote speaker, the Honorable Jack Sherman, Jr., Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The program was again held at the Cincinnati Bar Association. In return for free use of their meeting rooms, the CBA asked to make a five minute pitch for membership sometime during the program.

After much discussion, it was decided to extend the length of the program from half a day to a full day. The first half of the program contained four sessions with three topics discussed concurrently. Two new topics were added from last year: the Year 2000 (Y2K) and a research panel discussion. The research panel was comprised of four attorneys who discussed how changing technology has affected their approach to research projects, what strategies they utilize while researching, and how they utilize the skills of their librarian.

Because litigation is such a dominant practice area in the firms and very popular among the summer associates we decided to allow more time for this specialty area. To accomplish this, we planned a 1 1/2 hour session in the afternoon devoted to a panel of litigators. The panel discussion was led by a librarian/moderator who posed questions to six litigators drawn from participating firms. This proved to be the most interesting and well received session of the day.

The litigation panel discussion was followed by a Graeter’s (a renowned brand of locally made ice cream) “ice cream social.” During this time the summer associates were able to mingle with speakers, other firm’s associates and complete evaluations.

LEXIS-NEXIS agreed to underwrite the cost of lunch and West Group/WESTLAW sponsored breakfast and the ice cream social. In an effort to create name recognition and enthusiasm for the program, a logo for the program was created by Mary Lynn Wagner. The logo was imprinted on folders containing program information for the speakers and the summer associates. Stress balloons with the program logo were distributed to all speakers, summer associates and recruiters who attended.


Our experience with the Inside Look program has been very positive. First and second-year associates at the participating firms remember attending and recommend it each year. The speakers, without exception, have enjoyed the opportunity to communicate their enthusiasm for their work and obtain feedback from the students. A further benefit of the program is that it facilitates communication and destroys misconceptions between the groups. Because the program is held early in the summer, it helps provide a bridge from the law school experience to law firm practice.

The Inside Look program concept is a simple one and could be easily replicated by any group of librarians. Even though there is competition among Cincinnati’s law firms and legal departments, it has been a satisfying experience working together to bring the program to life. As each year’s program is enhanced, we can look back with pride on our collaborative success.


For questions or additional information, you may contact any of the librarians listed below.

Anne K. Abate, Librarian for Dinsmore & Shohl, [email protected]

Barbara J. Davis, Director of Information Services for Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, [email protected]

Ann Hopkins, Director of Information Services for Frost & Jacobs, [email protected]

Barbara W. Silbersack, Librarian for Thompson, Hine & Flory PLL, [email protected]

Kathy Michniuk Steen, Librarian for Graydon, Head & Ritchey, [email protected]

Mary Lynn Wagner, Librarian for Keating, Muething & Klekamp, [email protected]

Matthew Wagner, Librarian for Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, [email protected]


Posted in: Extras, Legal Research Training, Summer Associate Programs