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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

W(h)ither the Law Firm Library?

The WSJ Law Blog has this item, noting that Weil Gotshal is looking to unload its copies of volumes 1-118 of the Harvard Law Review.  As the items notes, this isn't so much a slam on that reasonably well-regarded journal as it is "a function of the ever-shrinking libraries with these volumes, and most others, being available digitally."

Well, I like Westlaw as much as anyone, but let me sing a brief dirge for the law firm library.  Most of us who teach did our time in law firms, and some actual work got done; unlike the character in Kermit Roosevelt's novel, we weren't eternally preparing job-talk papers.  Nevertheless, it used to be possible to be a bookish lawyer, and even a bibliophile, at a law firm.  Firm libraries were not immense, and most lawyers at the firm seemed barely to know that they existed.  But the bookishly inclined lawyer could sacrifice many a billable hour browsing happily and sleepily among the collected volumes, leafing through the odd or superannuated books that make their way inevitably into every law firm collection, and even keeping up with new law review issues.  We could form quiet and rewarding relationships with the law librarians, who shared our interests and who, from their perches, had a calm and unhurried long view of the lawyers who passed through the firm.  And, yes, if one was so inclined, the law library was a cool, dimly lighted and gentle place to avoid unpleasant new phone calls.  Alas for those days, now gone and never likely to return.

Your own law firm library memories are welcome.      

Posted by Paul Horwitz on October 3, 2007 at 12:17 PM in Books | Permalink

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I would also add a note for those occasional inserts of reminiscences, tributes, portrait unveilings, etc. contained in the (hard copy) Federal Reporter. As an associate, I always liked reading them, and they represent a minor, but attractive legal genre. I doubt you can even get them on westlaw these days, but if everything is digitized, another aspect of legal collegiality, of honoring the practice as a craft with a history, will be lost.

Posted by: Gerald Russello | Oct 3, 2007 1:53:29 PM

Gerald, I completely agree. The front-of-the-book stuff in the federal reporters was often fascinating -- also often formulaic, to be sure, but nevertheless regularly well worth one's time. And let's not forget the articles and other useful material in the FRD. Cheers, Paul

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Oct 3, 2007 2:08:49 PM

My firm library had a nice collection of Thurman Arnold materials...I still think The Folklore of Capitalism is worth reading. It was also very quiet...it's nice to have a still, quiet space in the midst of the blooming, buzzing hecticness of the modern law firm.

Posted by: FrankP | Oct 3, 2007 5:08:35 PM

I'm not yet in law school (I took my LSATs this weekend), but my first summer job in law was in the law library at Williams & Connolly. In fact, I specifically requested it, which surprised them because they thought I was to become a document clerk (apparently that's a more prestigious position). But I was attracted to the idea of just being surrounded by legal texts, and the atmosphere of the place was wonderful to me. I wonder if there will be anymore budding law profs after me who will have been introduced to the legal profession this way.

Posted by: David Schraub | Oct 3, 2007 5:35:48 PM

My firm not only had a rather large library (including several law review subscriptions, which even at the time I thought was a pleasant surprise, but odd), but also stunning views of the Hudson at sunset. It was extremely difficult not to daydream in there. It's since been moved to a very well-lit basement.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Oct 3, 2007 5:36:40 PM

Further to Bruce's comment: Although river views sound lovely, I won't knock the basement. I think I really began connecting with law school when I used to study in the basement of Columbia's law library in my second semester of law school. It was silent and, at least to one who enjoys the occasional horror novel, scary; but it was also wonderfully solitary and filled with interesting books and even more interesting orphans and castoffs. Ah, an evening with the Columbia Law School library basement and a milkshake at Tom's round midnight....good times.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Oct 3, 2007 5:41:44 PM

These days bookish lawyers read law blogs instead.

Posted by: AF | Oct 4, 2007 2:58:48 PM

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