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Friday, September 15, 2023

Wednesday, September 20: Celebrate Constitution Day!

Come out and celebrate Constitution Day in the Law Library lobby! 

Stop by and grab donuts and coffee on September 20, and pick up a crossword puzzle about the US Constitution for prizes.

Don't forget to take a selfie with James Madison!   

When: Wednesday, September 20, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Where: Law Library Lobby
What: Donuts, Coffee, and Prizes!  


Wednesday, May 31, 2023

New Rare Acquisitions: The History of Legal Education

The Riesenfeld Center has recently acquired a series of rare and important titles connected to the history of legal education and the profession. The books were added to the collection through a  generous donation by William Lindberg ('73), who served for many years as an executive at West Publishing Company in St. Paul, on both the print and electronic sides of its product line. The Riesenfeld Center is deeply grateful for Mr. Lindberg's generous and thoughtful gift, which benefits the rare books collection in a direct way, through the acquisition of historically significant titles of permanent value.
Several of the newly acquired titles shed light directly on legal education as it developed in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Two are extensive notebooks from the collection of Byron Coleman, a prominent San Francisco attorney. The bound notebooks, underlining aspects of Coleman's legal education at Harvard in 1912 and 1913, are carefully typewritten in red and black, composed of more than 1800 pages analyzing cases and principles. Among the casebooks that Coleman studied and heard lectures on were those of famous faculty James Barr Ames (equity and trusts), John Chipman Gray (property), James Bradley Thayer (evidence), and Samuel Williston (sales). Coleman digested each case in preparation for class and exams. Notes from class discussions of the cases are recorded below the initial case summaries. The case method of instruction, pioneered in the 1870s by Christopher Columbus Langdell at Harvard and adopted generally in American law school curricula, is readily apparent in the volumes. Though not followed immediately, the case method took its place at Harvard and schools across the country by the early 20th century. Coleman also usefully recorded the dissenting and parenthetical commentary of his teachers, who included cases that were instructive but not necessarily (in their view) rightly decided. The notes offer fascinating insight into a formative period of American legal education, adding early discussions of landmark cases.
Other American legal titles among the acquisitions are also notable. Two in particular form a neat pair. Simon Greenleaf's Discourse
Pronounced at the Inauguration of the Author as Royall Professor of Law in Harvard University (1834), signed by the author, provides Greenleaf's vision, as a newly-appointed Harvard law professor, of American legal education as it was developing within universities; and he outlines the leading role Harvard was to play in American legal education. Greenleaf was named to the Royall professorship at Harvard Law School in 1833, remaining there until 1848. An influential faculty member during the school's early days, Greenleaf penned the leading American treatise on evidence in the nineteenth century. Another title from the same period, Samuel Atkinson's Catechism of American Law: Adapted to Popular Use (1832) appears to follow the question-and-answer format of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, dividing American law into familiar topics, including marriage, contracts, property, partnership, and insurance, which would be useful for laymen and introductory students. At a time when self-study and apprenticeship were common – and when legal literacy was important in a burgeoning mercantile society – the author Atkinson attempted to meet a public need. Each work offers a different and valuable perspective on legal education during a period of American growth in which there was enduring uncertainty over how best to learn and train in the law.
Among acquisitions on English legal education, volumes treat the role and value of forensic argument, the issue of religious tolerance in schools, and the reform of legal education in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Two items, Tutor and Pupils (London, 1891) and Letters to John Bull on Lawyers and Law Reform (London, 1857), reflect entrenched approaches, alongside efforts to modernize legal education in nineteenth-century England, at a time when American legal education began to break its own path. Taken together, the works show an evolving tradition in both countries, whose systems remained intertwined.
   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Tuesday, April 18: Celebrate Clarence Darrow's Birthday!

Join us in the Law Library lobby on Tuesday, April 18, to celebrate Clarence Darrow's birthday!  

Come out and pick up cake, donuts, and coffee! In addition, take a quiz about Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), the great American trial lawyer, to learn more about his life and career. 

The celebration is due to the Law Library's preeminent national collection of more than 1,000 letters, as well as speeches, case material and writings by and related to Darrow, which are held in the Riesenfeld Center.  

Finally, don't forget to take a selfie with Clarence!  

When: Tuesday, April 18, 11 a.m - 1 p.m.
Where: Law Library Lobby
What: Donuts, cake, coffee, and a quiz!

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Wednesday, April 5: Rare Books Open House!

Come out to the Riesenfeld Center's April open house, this Wednesday, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.!

Enjoy snacks and drinks, and see treasures from the library's rare books and special collections. 

WhenWednesday, April 5, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
WhereRiesenfeld Rare Books Research Center*
WhatRare books, bagged snacks and treats, and refreshments!

(*The Riesenfeld Center is in N30, on the subplaza past Student Orgs. in N20.) 

Monday, March 13, 2023

West Publishing and the History of Westlaw

Some of the great achievements in the history of legal publishing have been made in St. Paul, Minnesota, and around the Twin Cities. Fundamental to common law systems is of course access to court decisions, traditionally in the form of case reports. In the Anglo-American system, case reporting goes back to nearly the beginning of English common law in the Middle Ages. In America, Zephaniah Swift (1757-1804) published the first volume of American reports in 1789. Alexander Dallas (1759-1817) produced the first Supreme Court reports not long after, and the business of nominative reports (reports identified by the name of the individuals who created them) in the United States was born.
It was the dynamic figure of John B. West (1852-1922), however, who produced the system of national, standardized reporters that revolutionized American law reporting. West began selling law books in the early 1870s in downtown St. Paul. In 1876, West produced a weekly circular, The Syllabi, that reported notable Minnesota federal and state court decisions. In 1877, the publication expanded to include Wisconsin cases as The North-Western Reporter. The West Publishing Company soon introduced a uniform indexing system and case headnotes for its expanding regional reporters. Before long, these covered the whole nation in the form of the National Reporter System. The benefits brought by the system were immediately clear: American law was organized and searchable in a way that it had never been before. The rest was history: West Publishing became the leading legal publisher in the country, serving generations of the bench and bar. Under the aegis of Thomson Reuters, that tradition of legal publishing continues today.

In the early 1970s, another revolution transformed the legal publishing industry and would have equally wide effects. In this revolution, too, West Publishing Company played a leading role. The "second revolution" centered on the more widespread introduction of computers and automated searchable databases. Minnesota itself had become a hotbed in the 1960s for computer development, and West did not fail to take notice. In 1974, West Publishing developed a computer system to search case headnotes across its reporters, entering the market with its technology in 1975. The product, familiar everywhere today as Westlaw, marked the beginning of one of the most successful commercial legal tools developed. In 1978, locked in competition with Mead Data Corp., Westlaw began to provide full-text search for cases. In 1979, dial-up access to the database was offered over phone lines to its customers. By the early to mid-1980s, Westlaw terminals and the services it offered were becoming increasingly indispensable to American legal consumers. The rest, again, was history. Today Westlaw features more than 40,000 databases of information and is available in numerous countries across the world.
The history of the development of Westlaw, foundational to the larger history of legal publishing, requires an understanding of the challenges the system faced, the vision it required and the success it ultimately achieved. William Voedisch, who retired in 1996 as Manager of Technical Systems Development at West, was a key early developer of Westlaw, who has chronicled its early phases and some of the extraordinary work and decisions that went into creating it. Donated to the Law Library last year, Mr. Voedisch's narrative is a very important archival document, not only for the history of legal publishing and the development of database search capabilities that it documents, but for the history of computing itself and its inroads into key commercial markets, not least of which has been law. Voedisch's document, with permission of the author, is included below on the link. It will be a valuable resource for researchers and students of this history.
   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Wednesday, March 15: Rare Books Open House!

Come out to the Riesenfeld Center's March open house, this Wednesday, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.!

Enjoy snacks and drinks, and see treasures from the library's rare books and special collections. 

WhenWednesday, March 15, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
WhereRiesenfeld Rare Books Research Center*
WhatRare books, bagged snacks and treats, and refreshments!

(*The Riesenfeld Center is in N30, on the subplaza past Student Orgs. in N20.) 

Friday, March 10, 2023

New Library Digital Exhibit: Law Books and the History of Legal Education

 The University of Minnesota Law Library is pleased to announce the release of a new digital exhibit:

"Tools of the Profession: Law Books and the History of Legal Education"

"Tools of the Profession" explores the history of legal education through literature that has profoundly shaped it. From statute books to casebooks, and from treatises to dictionaries, legal literature has developed not only to record the law and aid professionals in practice, but to guide students from the earliest stages of study.

The exhibit also showcases the reciprocal nature of legal literature and legal education. In England and on the continent, legal literature developed in response to and as a product of education. Literature in our own country has followed a similar path: even C. C. Langdell's famed "revolution" in legal education, still with us today, is first evident in his 1871 casebook on contracts. A selection of historical books illustrates transformative developments in legal education over several centuries.

An accompanying digital exhibit, "Legal Education at Minnesota," is drawn from the Law Library's rich archives. This exhibit highlights course books, lectures, exam prep material, and early exams that shed light on the history of legal education at the Law School. Selections from the Library's student notebook collection, in particular, reflect how students have engaged with the law through a tradition of dynamic classroom instruction.

The physical exhibit, on which the digital exhibit is based, will be open in the Riesenfeld Center through the spring semester. For more information about the exhibits, please contact Ryan Greenwood (rgreenwo@umn.edu, or 612-625-7323). The exhibits were curated by Ryan Greenwood, Pat Graybill, Lily Eisenthal, and Joy Brown.