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Student Spotlight: Emily McCutcheon Switches from Practicing Law, to Law Librarianship

Emily McCutcheon

Featured student: Emily McCutcheon

Location: Knoxville

Education: BA in political science and history from Emory University; juris doctorate from University of Georgia Athens School of Law; currently in second semester of the first year in the MSIS program.

Current jobs: I work at the Law Library of Congress as a remote content management internship. It started as a practicum last semester. Essentially, they had a lot of old legal resources and they’re spread out all over the place so a lot of links were not accurate or were broken. I was taking all the old resources and putting them into LibGuides so they would be redirected and accessible. We started with states and I did 26 states. I also worked on finding updated sources and making sure those sources were free and accessible. Now we’ve moved onto countries, which is much harder. I’ve done one so far. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s given me the opportunity to work in DC without being in DC.

Also, when I first applied, Dr. Fleming-May offered me a position in the UXA cohort, and I would be her GTA. I work at the law library for 10 hours a week. I work at the reference desk, and that’s what I did in law school, too, which is what made me interested in this career path.

Why SIS?

When I was in law school, I had the most perfect job ever. I worked for a really wonderful hospitality legal firm in Atlanta. I got to work for nice hotels, I got to meet rappers, it was a wonderful opportunity, but I hated it. The actual practice of being a lawyer was awful for me. I was lucky that this was the most perfect job for me but realized I wasn’t loving it.

Since I worked in the law library, I talked with the law librarians who worked there. They told me what I was describing was what they do. It just really seemed to click.

How has your experience been at UT?

It’s funny because when I was in law school, what I did at the reference desk is what I thought librarians did in general, that’s all they did. Once I started talking to the law librarians about what they actually did, there’s so much more. One thing I really noticed was the teaching aspect, which is what a lot of academic librarians do, even outside of law libraries. I did not have any teaching experience, but the faculty is helping me to get it. Everyone in the program is like, “Oh, is this what you want to do? This is how you do that and what you need to do.”

I’m a part of the UXA cohort and the whole usability and user experience is not a big thing in law libraries, they typically have someone else do it. I can suggest how to improve user experience and it’s impressive to the people I’m working with.

The stuff I’m learning in class can be directly applied to my work. I’m in the collection development class, and the class forces you to pick an agency and develop a collection for them, so of course I did it for the (UT) law library. I’m in class and getting a grade and I can take the stuff that I do and hand it off to the real world and they will use it.

What’s next?

Once I got here everything started to fall into place. It was the right path – I applied, I got the GTA offer, I was able to work in the law library, and then I got the law library internship, and someone at the law library recommended the Supreme Court to me and I never in a million years thought I would get past the first round and I have. So it affirms that this is the right path.

I’m waiting to hear back from the Supreme Court; right now I’m a candidate for their research services department at the Supreme Court Library for a summer position, and I hope I get it.

I’ve been very lucky and I don’t know if I would be quite as lucky and quite as taken care of if I was at a different school. I think UT really tries to help you find what you need to do and what you want to do, and connects you with people who can help you do it. I haven’t met any disillusioned librarian students.