Information needs and information seeking behaviour of private practicing lawyers in Swaziland : a case study of the Law Society of Swaziland.
Mathabela, Ntombikayise Nomsa.
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Information needs and information seeking behaviour of lawyers in terms of accessing well-resourced legal information collections is essential in their daily professional lives. The lack of legal information access by lawyers through their professional organization’s information service negatively affects the provision of competent legal services. This study endeavoured to empirically investigate the information needs and information behaviour of private practising lawyers in Swaziland regarding accessing legal information and the role played by their professional body, the Law Society of Swaziland (LSS) to meet their information needs. The study applied the pragmatism paradigm and used a mixed method approach by adopting and triangulating qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis. The population of the study was confined to all lawyers outside the civil service and corporate organizations in Swaziland, the Law Society executive officials and librarians in library collections that had legal information resources. A survey research design was used, with a survey questionnaire and interviews as tools. For reliability and validity of the results, a co-efficiency test on Cronbach Alpha was run on the findings of the questionnaire. A census sampling of all lawyers in private law firms registered with the Law Society of Swaziland was undertaken. About 170 questionnaires were distributed and 128 returned, giving a 75.3% response rate. Interviews with seven librarians and seven Law Society executive officials were conducted, giving a response rate of 100% and 77.5% respectively. Quantitative and qualitative data obtained were captured using Census and Survey Processing System software (CSPro7) and analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 24 to generate descriptive and inferential statistics. Further, the qualitative data was also analysed using thematic content analysis. Findings showed that a majority, 52% lawyers are in the Hhohho region followed by 42% in Manzini, while there is only 2% in the other two regions. Of this, a majority, 81% were male and a majority were in the age group of 26 to 45 years. Most, 65% were attorneys with 0 to 5 years’ experience in practice. Further, a majority 86% of the lawyers hold a basic law degree. The findings indicated that 100% lawyers need and use legal information for legal advice, disputes and negotiations, drafting legal documents, and representing clients, followed by 88% for legal research, 84% administration of estates and 66% administrative duties. On information resources used, the results showed that 100% are textbooks, while 99% are cases, statutes, constitution, with 98% unreported cases. Other resources highly used are reference material (88%), law journals (83%) and 81% government publications. The lawyers, 97%, access legal information from other colleagues, while 94% from their personal collection, and 87% from online databases. Further, 83% access it from their law firms. However, the results show that very few access legal information from the libraries in the country. The results showed that 43% access it from the University of Swaziland library, while 5% use public libraries or court library and only 2% access the Law Society library. Both the lawyers and the interviewed librarians identified several challenges in accessing legal information. The majority (53%) lawyers noted lack of time as their major challenge, followed by inadequate or outdated resources and lack of adequate electronic resources in all the collections they access. In relation to the Law Society library, the major challenge noted is that 77% are not aware or even use it. Findings in the study as confirmed by the librarians showed that the libraries faced challenges like lack of material, lack of funds and a lack of needs specification by the lawyers. The study also reveal that 86% lawyers used the internet for legal information and further 95% access Google. In addition, a majority, 98% are comfortable with both the electronic and print formats resources. A majority (70%) rated their ability to search legal material by themselves as good. Consequently, the study recommend that there is need for the establishment of online legal information access for lawyers through the Law Society library and improving awareness, utilization and acquisition of legal resources.