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LWI Lives - February 2022

Lisa A. Goodman: Living the Dream DOWNLOAD PDF

By Wayne Schiess

Lisa A. Goodman had wanted to be a lawyer ever since fifth grade, when she saw a documentary about Thurgood Marshall. But all she knew about being a lawyer was what she saw on TV. Today she has realized her fifth-grade dream, but along the way there have been stops and starts and a few sharp turns that showed her that lawyers do lots of different things—including working in libraries.

Lisa was born and raised in Michigan, where her parents, both from Shreveport, Louisiana, relocated. Her father was a Vietnam-era veteran and 30-year employee at General Motors. Her mother earned a degree in accounting from Grambling State University and worked as an accountant in both Louisiana and Michigan.

While Lisa was in high school, an English teacher watered the seed the Thurgood Marshall documentary had planted. This English teacher, knowing that Lisa aspired to the legal profession, helped Lisa choose her college major by offering this advice: “English is a good program of study for a future lawyer because lawyers write a lot.” How wise. Lisa’s high school career also included being president of the National Honor Society, entering speech and oratory competitions, competing in quiz bowl, and studying French for four years.

Lisa attended college at the University of Michigan, where she majored in English literature. She found college to be intense, and she decided to take some time off before going to law school. During this break, she learned that Eastern Michigan University offered a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, and she thought that might be a good path to becoming a lawyer, so she enrolled.

With law school still waiting in the distance, Lisa took her paralegal degree to Ford Motor Company. Around the same time she began working there, Ford brought all litigation discovery in-house, and Lisa spent a year responding to interrogatories and requests for production of documents all day. This environment created a lot of pressure and caused her to ask herself, seriously, whether she really did want to be a lawyer.

But she didn’t give up on her dream. Instead, she left Ford and spent a year as a paralegal in a personal injury law firm. She liked working in the small five-person office (as opposed to a large paralegal “bullpen” at Ford) and having the opportunity to see the nuts and bolts of the litigation from beginning to end. She conducted client-intake interviews, drafted motions and briefs, an-swered phones, and filed documents in court. She got to see a little bit of everything while work-ing closely with a supervising attorney. For Lisa, this was very different from seeing only the dis-covery slice of the pie at Ford while working on an approximately 30-day time clock with each set of discovery requests.

Now it was time for law school. She attended Wayne State University Law School and loved the academic side of studying law. She was noticing, though, that she didn’t enjoy the practical side quite as much. Still, upon graduation, she went to work in the labor and employment department of a law firm in Michigan and, as a young associate, spent a good amount of time in the library. Compared to the adversarial nature of law practice and the necessity of billing time at a law firm, working in the law library was … fun! Besides, one of the happiest people she met while working at the law firm was the law firm librarian.

So Lisa decided that she needed to explore that path. She wanted to learn more about being a librarian and attended a library studies information program, ultimately deciding to leave the law firm and to attend Wayne State to pursue a Master’s in Library and Information Science. She recalls that although the first research paper she was required to write was challenging, because it was a more academic pursuit, she loved it.

Upon graduation, and holding both a J.D. and a. M.L.I.S., her first job was as a reference librarian at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth, Texas. Although she had never lived outside Michigan, she found that she loved the Dallas-Fort Worth area (what locals call the “Metroplex”). After six years working as a librarian there, she left and went to the law library at Louisiana State University and worked there for four years, rising to the position of Associate Director and serving one year as interim director. She had found the path to being a lawyer that suited her well.

Now came a big change for Lisa: she left LSU and became a librarian at Yale Law School—one of 40 members of the law library staff. Lisa rose to the level of Assistant Law Librarian for Administration (a/k/a Associate Director). At that time, her supervisor, the director of the law library, was embarking upon a plan to groom associate directors at Yale to become directors at other law school libraries around the nation. The plan worked. After three years, Lisa left Yale in 2019 to become the director of the law library at Texas Wesleyan, which by this time had become Texas A&M University School of Law.

Lisa was enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to return to a familiar law school in a beloved place—she was ready to hit the ground running. But we all know what happened next: Covid-19.

The pandemic has loomed over two of her two-and-a-half years at Texas A&M. “Covid dampens everything,” she said. Nevertheless, Lisa continues moving forward: she teaches two advanced legal research courses to upper division students, one during spring semesters, and the other during an intensive one-week winter-session as well as during the summer term. In addition, she supervises six library faculty members and four support staff members, and she oversees the law library’s budget. She loves engaging in the varied responsibilities of administering a law library.

That’s Lisa’s legal world. In her personal life, she loves travel—a high school trip to France having inspired her. She is a member of three groups that travel together. The groups she travels with cater to African-American women interested in international travel and have great names: Travel Divas (her favorite and the one she most often travels with), Pumps and Passports, and Ladies & Luggage. She picks destinations and trips she’s interested in and goes.

She took a wonderful trip to Dubai in the holiday season of 2018. She loved the food, the sites, and the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. In particular, she had dinner in a sky-high elevated platform where a five-course meal was served, after which she and her friends watched fireworks. She and her travel-group friends have also visited Aruba and Jamaica (several times).

Her 2020 trips to Alaska, Singapore, and Malaysia were canceled due to Covid and resched-uled for 2021 and then cancelled again! She’s hoping to make it to Greece in 2022.

Lisa also loves live music, particularly rhythm and blues, and has made multiple trips to Las Vegas to see certain musical performers, with Usher, Bruno Mars, and Maxwell being her favorites.

As with many in the legal research and writing field, one of the most enjoyable experiences for Lisa is mentoring younger law librarians. In fact, she participates n the formal mentoring pro-gram of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). She also serves as a mentor for AALL’s Leadership Academy fellows. Her goal is to help these young librarians follow a path to becoming successful law librarians, especially those interested in becoming law library directors—as she was.