On January 4, 2021, Kline School of Law’s Legal Research Center welcomed Eric Berg as its new Research & Instructional Services Librarian.
After graduating from Rutgers Law School in 2011, Eric Berg, a New Jersey native, was a personal injury litigator for several years. However, Berg soon discovered a passion for legal research which led him to obtain a master’s degree in library and information science from Rutgers in August 2020. Prior to joining Kline Law, Berg was a research analyst at Fox Rothschild LLP.
Before Kline and most recently you were a law firm librarian. What made you want to transition into academia?
Academic librarianship appeals to me because I enjoy helping people learn to research, and I am excited to take my own research in a more scholarly direction. I believe that research competency is an essential part of legal practice, so I’m excited to join Kline and help train the next generation of lawyers to be effective researchers.
What’s your approach in working with and supporting students?
I would like to help students learn practical skills to help themselves. Think of your research skills as a toolkit that will help you not only with legal research, but also with career development, client development, and every other aspect of your professional life. Above all, I want Kline Law students to feel welcome to come to me, and the Legal Research Center, for research help. When I was a law student, I was too shy to ask librarians for help—please don’t be like me in this respect!
You’re interested in ensuring Kline Law students have high-level general research skills as well as a fluency with emerging AI-based research tools. In your new role, how do you hope to cultivate these skill sets?
In my role as a class instructor, I plan to use practical exercises to help students hone their research skills. I want students to become familiar with the evolving offerings of legal research platforms. AI is a double-edged sword: it has allowed the development of tools like the quick “Westlaw Answers” that now come up when you type a question into Westlaw’s search, as well as litigation analytics that are based in part on AI analysis of thousands of court dockets. Students and lawyers should recognize the value of these tools, but should also know to take AI-generated answers with a grain of salt: trust, but verify.
Litigation analytics, for instance, are only as reliable as the data they are based on. I plan on covering litigation analytics in a unit of the Intellectual Property Research course that I will be co-teaching with Becka Rich this semester.
What are the top six research tips you’d give students?
- You know the saying “measure twice, cut once?” Research is the measuring part of practicing law. Failure to research can have real negative consequences for you and your clients!
- For legal research, start with secondary sources. But don’t get frustrated if you don’t find the answer there—if you are researching a novel issue, it might not be covered by treatises or law reviews. And remember to verify any answers you find by checking primary sources.
- Keep in mind that many legal issues may be determined by statutes and regulations rather than (or in addition to) case law.
- The biggest time-saving tip I can give for statutory research is to use the Popular Name Table in Westlaw or Lexis to look up statutes by name.
- Court dockets and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings are treasure troves of information, including valuable examples of work product from pleadings to contracts.
- Take advantage of the wealth of free research published by the government! Congressional Research Service reports and state attorney general reports are just a couple examples of helpful resources you can find online.
I understand that you have some interesting hobbies. What would you want the Kline Law community to know about your outside interests?
I’m what is known as an AFOL: Adult Fan Of LEGO. I find that building and sorting LEGO is a great stress reliever. I recently finished a 4-story replica of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. I’m a lapsed homebrewer and enjoy craft beer. But I spend most of my spare time hanging out with my wife, our 6-month old son (one of the few good things to come out of 2020), and our 3 cats.