How ACLL Librarians Can Help You: Reference Assistance v. Legal Advice

Reference assistance v. legal advice

The Alameda County Law Library Reference Desk, located on the first floor of the library in Oakland at 125 12th Street, is staffed by a team of professional reference librarians, a circulation assistant, and an evening reference assistant.  Reference staff can help patrons define research questions and use the library’s print and electronic materials.

Reference staff are NOT attorneys and are prohibited from giving legal advice or engaging in any activity which might constitute the unauthorized practice of law (CA Business & Professions Code section 6125).

Library patrons may not solicit library staff or other patrons for legal advice or assistance, or monopolize staff time with unreasonable requests.

Reference Staff CAN:

  • Tell you where items are located in the library
  • Help you understand legal citations
  • Suggest specific titles, databases, resources, or areas of the collection for your question
  • Show you how a set of books is organized and indexed
  • Show you how to use the library catalog and subscription legal databases
  • Photocopy, fax, or email you a specific citation for a fee through our fee-based document delivery service
  • Refer you to another library if our library does not have what you need
  • Refer you to legal assistance organizations in the area
  • Give you the telephone numbers for bar associations’ lawyer referral services and show you attorney directories

Reference Staff CANNOT provide legal advice including the following:

  • Interpret or explain the meaning of the law, regulations, court cases, or any other documents
  • Give legal advice or state opinions on legal issues
  • Advise you of your legal rights
  • Answer questions about statutes of limitation or court deadlines
  • Help you complete a legal form
  • Select specific forms for you
  • Conduct legal research for you
  • Recommend a particular lawyer
  • Tell you who has a particular book checked out
  • Tell you whether a statute or case is still good law or has been overruled


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