Patrick Parsons is all about finding the answers to pressing legal questions. With dozens of people in and out of the College of Law Library on a typical day, as the coordinator of reference and instruction services, he helps people with a wide variety of issues, from how to present something in court to finding precedent for a desired outcome. He gives everyone the same warning though: When it comes to the law, the answer is often ‘it depends.’
Parsons joined the Law Library in 2016 after leaving his career as an attorney. He’d had his heart set on becoming a lawyer since his high school days in Connelsville, Penn. When he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2009, he was ready to hit the ground running. However, the recession made finding his groove as an attorney was harder than he thought.
He found himself taking all kinds of odd jobs, such as reviewing documents at a large firm and taking municipal court cases. He says that he felt ill prepared while doing legal research, which led him to a fellowship program at the University of Arizona, Tucson where he earned a master’s degree in library and information science.
“[In law school,] I wish I had learned a systematic approach to legal research,” said Parsons. “We only had WestLaw and Lexis Nexis reps demonstrate things, but I didn’t know how they fit together. I had no idea how to put together a thorough legal research project.”
At the College of Law, Parsons teaches students exactly how to conduct research in his Research Methods and Legal Technology Competencies and Operations classes. He also ensures that they are on top of the latest technology, both the latest tools being used by attorneys and the ramifications of using those tools in the workplace.
“It’s become an issue in law practice that lawyers have to be competent in technology in order to practice law,” said Parsons. “For example, improper handling of privileged information and redacted information. If I wanted to add something about client meetings and video calls, what can, or can’t you do? Can you record it? Does that eliminate attorney-client privilege?”
In addition, to teaching and presenting in classes, Parsons says that he enjoys being a part of the Georgia State Law community. It’s important for him to remain knowledgeable about what’s happening in the classroom and what’s happening in the world.
“We’re treated in a very inclusive way,” said Parsons. “Some law schools treat their librarians like glorified research assistants, but at Georgia State we get to propose our own courses. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”