At the 2022 AALL Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado, PLI raffled off a gift certificate to Spa Finder. We are pleased to announce this year’s winner is Tom Kimbrough, Associate Director for Collection Development at Underwood Law Library at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. In keeping with tradition, Tom kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Read on to learn more about Tom’s work at Southern Methodist University, his start in international law, the article that changed his life/career, and more.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you become a librarian?
Prior to becoming a law librarian, I spent eleven years as a transactional lawyer at four different law firms in three countries, including as a senior associate in the Mergers & Acquisitions and Korea practice groups at the Hong Kong office of Baker & McKenzie and as an associate in the Corporate Finance, China, and Korea practice groups at the Beijing office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. I regularly worked on projects in China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Guam. That fun pretty much ended once my second child came along and I basically had a choice of whether to try to save my law career or save my marriage/family life. The precise moment of truth came in December 2003 when the partner I worked for the most told me I needed to relocate to New Delhi for four-to-six months for a big new project (representing Samsung Electronics in a new mobile phone supply network contract with an Indian counterparty). My reply was to submit my resignation.
I had no idea what I would do next until I stumbled across (“googled across?”) Mary Whisner’s wonderful article “Choosing Law Librarianship: Thoughts for People Contemplating a Career Move,” which changed my life. I moved from Hong Kong to Seattle/Mukilteo, spent a year as a volunteer working with Lettice Parker at the Snohomish County Law Library in Everett, and then enrolled in the University of Washington’s law librarianship program. After graduating from UW, I was offered a job as a Foreign & International Reference Law Librarian at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and now, sixteen years later, I am still very happily at the SMU Underwood Law Library as the Associate Director for Collection Development.
What do you like most about your job as Associate Director for Collection Development at SMU’s Underwood Law Library?
I enjoy the diverse combination of teaching students, doing research projects for faculty, and selecting new materials (print and electronic) for our law library’s collection. This mix of various responsibilities keeps the work fresh and exciting. And I am very fortunate to work with an extremely talented and kind group of colleagues who get along fantastically and thoroughly respect each other’s abilities and expertise. It is by far the most harmonious work environment I have ever experienced, and I hope to go on for another decade at least.
Which PLI publication do you most frequently recommend to students and/or faculty?
I teach a course on International & Foreign Legal Research (three credits) in the SMU Law School. I spend one class session discussing the legal systems of four very different non-U.S. jurisdictions (P.R. China, Iran, Kenya, and North Korea) from a comparative perspective. When I discuss China I often refer my students to the interesting and useful panel discussion provided in PLI’s Doing Business in and With China 2021, which I enthusiastically recommend to my students as providing valuable information on many legal and practical issues facing lawyers who advise clients with projects in China. Because this excellent resource is available on the PLI PLUS platform to which the SMU Law Library subscribes, it is easy for my students to access it.
What did you think of this year’s conference? What was the highlight for you?
I greatly enjoyed and learned from this year’s AALL conference in Denver. For me the highlight was AALL Program H-4 “Shameless Self-Promotion for Law Librarians: How to Get Visible, Benefit Your Career, and Impact Your Profession (While Having Fun).” I am currently trying to promote, especially to law students and young lawyers, my recently-published law journal article “Law Firm Dynamics: Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game,” 75 SMU L. Rev. F. 241 (2022). I believe that my article provides useful advice to lawyers working in, or planning to work in, law firms, and I greatly appreciated the suggestions that the panelists at this AALL program provided me to try to enhance the visibility of my article. If you know any law students or young lawyers, please consider forwarding the link to my article to them. 🙂