Law Schools/Study of Law • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Today at HLS: Prepare to Practice Conference – Keynote Speech by Professor Daniel Coquillette

Taking place at Harvard Law School today is the 2019 Inaugural Prepare to Practice Conference, a joint initiative between the HLS Library and four other local law schools (Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, and Suffolk). This conference is designed to provide Boston-area law students with legal research instruction oriented toward their future roles as practicing attorneys.

The conference featured an excellent keynote speech by Professor Daniel Coquillette, the J. Donald Monan, S.J. University Professor at Boston College and the Charles Warren Visiting Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School. Professor Coquillette began his remarks by recognizing and thanking the law librarians who have helped him throughout his career as an attorney, law professor, and researcher. He characterized law librarians as “your very best friend and the ones who will see you through to the end.”

Professor Coquillette then provided a brief history of legal research, beginning with the observation that, since Gutenberg invented movable print in 1455, it has been possible to print absolutely accurate law books, which has transformed how law is studied and practiced. In particular, this facilitated several important developments in modern legal systems, primary among which is “precedent justice.”

He then noted that, until about 20 years ago, legal research happened exclusively in the law library, where all of the important primary and secondary legal sources lived and from which they could not be borrowed. Historically, law students wrote research notes by hand, and then, when he was a law student, using a portable typewriter. In addition, in order to find materials in the library, researchers had to use the card catalog, which featured an indexing system that many library users were unable to navigate and use without the help of a librarian.

All of this changed with the invention of online legal research. Today, he noted, Westlaw and Lexis provide essentially intuitive access to all of the primary and secondary sources that legal researchers would need, with automated, hyperlink-equipped citators that make the pain of having to use books to Shepardize cases a distant memory.

Professor Coquillete contended that, while on the surface this appears to have made legal research easier, it has also presented a new set of challenges. Today, if you want the legal information equivalent of a glass of water, you go to what is essentially a fire hydrant to fill that glass, and a lot of what is coming out of that fire hydrant lacks quality. Quality, of course, is expensive — ask any law librarian whose responsibilities include managing a library budget. Furthermore, information that has not been screened to determine its quality may, in fact, be as good as useless. This is a major problem of what he calls the modern “disinformation age,” and why the continued work of law libraries is so important to legal practice and scholarship.

According to Professor Coquillette, even if legal researchers have quality information, they also need two important skills to process it. The first is critical judgment, which is a skill that can be learned, both through experience and one-on-one mentorship. Without critical judgment, which allows a person to see the essence of a problem and craft a reasonable response to it, even quality information can be dangerous. The second is wisdom, which can also be characterized as perspective and seeing the big picture. This is stored in the culture of our systems of law and democracy, and is passed on through both people and books.

According to Professor Coquillette, it is easier than ever to lose sight of the big picture in our digital world of instant knowledge and instant gratification. One way in which people can regain it, however, is to read: not only legal materials, but also classic novels. As a conclusion to his remarks, Professor Coquillette recommended three books in particular that provide guidance on how we can critically view some of the largest problems of our time.

The first of these problems is climate. Professor Coquillette suggested reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In your reading, imagine that the ship (the Pequot) is human government and at the helm is Captain Ahab, a crazy megalomaniac who, despite all reasonable warnings not to, decides to take on the natural world as symbolized by a great white whale. Spoiler alert: the Pequot is destroyed, and Captain Ahab dies.

Racism is another great problem of our age, and Professor Coquillette recommended reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn to gain a bigger picture of that problem. The story presents, in code, a true picture of racism’s destructive impact on people and societies.

Problem number three is that of living and working in what he called “coercive environments.” This problem, in particular, comes with the territory in the legal profession. Professor Coquillette proposed reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison for guidance on contemplating this problem in a big-picture way. The theme of this book is that, if you get to the point where people see you for what they assume you should be, they see right through you and you become invisible and disappear, a phenomenon characterized by Professor Coquillette as a “moral sickness” of our age.

Professor Coquillette is a very engaging speaker, and his keynote was a perfect way to kick off this conference. Not only did it remind attendees of the value of law libraries and librarians as partners in the legal research process, but it also encouraged students to incorporate critical judgment as they work toward becoming attorneys who are charged with addressing and solving large- and small-scale societal problems.

Getting to Ellen: A Trial Lawyer’s Gender Transition and the Lessons of Vulnerability and Self-Compassion

Several colleagues from the library were among the Harvard Law School staff members who attended a talk this morning given by Ellen (Ellie) Krug, who transitioned from male to female while working as a trial lawyer and heading a law firm in Iowa in 2009.  Today, Ellie travels around the country to talk to audiences about coming out as a transgender person, and discusses the roles that vulnerability, authenticity, and compassion play in accepting yourself and others.

She opened, appropriately, by reminding us that “we’re all working to survive the human condition.”  She followed by making it especially clear that she was not there to speak about or for all trans/non-binary people.

Then, she began the educational part of the program by describing the three camps in the transgender world:

  • Gender Correctors:
    People who live their life presenting according to their birth gender, until they decide that they have had enough of that life and need to correct.
  • Trans Kids and Trans Youth:
    Children and young people who identify and declare early that they are not their assigned gender.  Because of the expansion of the internet, this group has grown much larger in the last 20-25 years, as they and their families can more readily research what this means and connect with others who are also going through the same experience.
  • People Not Identifying As Male or Female: These people may be called gender non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, genderfluid, or something else.

Tip: Visit http://www.transstudent.org/definitions/ for a comprehensive list of definitions of LGBTQ+ terms.

During the next part of her talk, she discussed three concepts that are critical to transgender people and their experience.

  • Gender Identity:
    This is how you perceive your gender according to your brain.  It is private, secret, and can be accompanied by fear.  Not only can people facing gender identity issues be afraid of losing everything they have built and would build by staying in their birth gender, but also of being being marginalized and ending up alone.  Stating that you do not identify with the gender you were assigned at birth can cause confusion to people who are “cisgender” (someone who identifies as the gender to which they were assigned when they were born).
  • Gender Expression:
    This how how you express your gender in public.  It is a means by which people, by wearing certain clothes and accessories and adopting certain physical characteristics, make an effort to “grab authenticity.”
  • Transitioning Genders:
    For some (but not all) people, this is the final stage in the path toward living with gender authenticity.  It can involve elements that are social (changing your name, changing your government identity documents, taking hormones) and surgical.  Note that not everyone chooses to have surgery.  It is expensive ($30-35,000) and takes a long time; also, in some places, there is a lack of access to health care professionals who can perform it.

Following a brief discussion of her own experience, Ellie discussed the concept of choice.  She made it very clear that transitioning from male to female was more than just a choice for her: it was an issue of survival because identifying as a woman was such a fundamental part of her core identity.  She also mentioned that she is much happier, relaxed, and more comfortable with herself now, and that people who have known her for a long time tell her that she is a much better person as a woman than she was as a man.

Finally, Ellie advised us about how we, as members of the law school community, can be more welcoming to trans and gender non-conforming people.  At the top of the list?  PRONOUNS.  Using someone’s preferred pronoun shows that you see them as a human being.  If you make a mistake, apologize and move on.  Ellie also listed a number of things that trans people should not be asked to do: educate non-trans people about trans issues, be a spokesperson for the trans community, or discuss their own experience with surgery or hormones.  Finally, when it comes to bathrooms, encourage them to use the bathroom of their choice.

Tip: To view a map of gender-inclusive bathrooms on the Harvard Law School campus, visit https://hls.harvard.edu/content/uploads/2018/10/HLS-Map-Gender-Inclusive-Bathrooms.pdf.  

At the end of her talk, Ellie reminded us of three important points to remember when working with any law students, but especially trans students:

  • “Human authenticity won’t leave you alone until you listen.”
  • Many people, especially in a law school environment, feel that they are not good enough or a failure.
  • It is important to have compassion, for both your students and yourself.

Tip: Regarding point #2, this is often referred to as “impostor syndrome.” I attended and wrote a blog post about an excellent program on impostor syndrome at the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting in 2018.

Obviously a blog post cannot do justice to what a powerful speaker and human being Ellie is.  My hope in writing this is that people take away the educational points that we learned from her, and feel encouraged to attend one of her talks themselves.  To learn more about Ellie and her work, visit https://elliekrug.com/.

You can also explore the Harvard Library collections’ works on this topic by searching the HOLLIS library catalog using these pre-populated searches:

Thoughts on Legal Citation

My relationship with the Bluebook goes back to when I was a first-year law student in 2004. There have been moments of love and moments of hate, but mostly, as someone who appreciates order, structure, and rules, love.

As a legal reference librarian, my interest in legal citation is more research-focused than anything.  There are few things that make my heart soar more than a work of legal scholarship that includes carefully drafted and correct citations to the sources referenced so that readers can find those sources with minimum pain and maximum efficiency.

However, legal citation has several purposes beyond just making it easier for researchers to find stuff.  “Citation Literacy” is a fascinating new article in the Arkansas Law Review by Professor Alexa Z. Chew of UNC Law School.  In the article, Professor Chew discusses four “communicative purposes” of legal citation: “(1) to locate the cited source … , (2) to communicate information to the reader about the weight of the cited authority … , (3) to demonstrate the writer’s credibility … and (4) to avoid plagiarism through proper attribution.” (pages 879-880)

Professor Chew also discusses what she calls the “untaught skill of reading citations.”  (page 890)  By removing citation information from cases in casebooks read by U.S. law students, she argues, the “dominant message sent by the first-year law school curriculum about legal citation” is that providing support for statements of law is either unimportant, optional, or both.  (pages 891-892)

Additionally, Professor Chew contends that, when law students read cases that do not include citations, they are not learning the skill of reading cases holistically.  This is not ideal, according to Professor Chew, because “understanding a case’s citations and how the information they encode informs the surrounding text is an essential part of reading a case in the first place.”  (page 895)

I was glad that Professor Chew also discussed the impact of learning legal citation on foreign-trained lawyers who are studying the U.S. legal system.  This part of the article made me re-think this issue myself.  When I taught substantive U.S. law classes in Germany last year, I gave them versions of cases that I had edited myself.  I also, for the sake of brevity, removed citations from those cases.

Looking back, I wish I had done more with Bluebook and legal citation with my German students.  I believe it would have helped them understand our legal system better, and it also would have helped them with their future forays into the world of U.S. legal research.

Speaking of teaching legal citation to non-U.S. law students, I maintain our library’s Bluebook Citation Guide for LL.M. Students.  After reading Professor Chew’s article, this guide seems, perhaps, overly procedural in nature.  I am now considering adding a section about why citation is important, and citing Professor Chew’s article in it.

My own experience as a foreign student contributes to my thinking on this issue as well.  Germany does not have an equivalent to the Bluebook citation system, or really any standardized system of legal citation at all as far as I know.  When I was writing my LL.M. thesis in Germany earlier this year, I was given a 4-page handout by my faculty supervisor, with examples about how to cite sources in the footnotes and in the bibliography (Literaturverzeichnis).  I did my best to follow the protocol, but I’m still not sure if I got everything right.

Below is a picture of footnotes 49-52 from my German LL.M. thesis:

The sources cited here are, in order: an article from the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz), a Federal Constitutional Court decision, a scholarly commentary on the Basic Law, and a U.S. law review article.

(Of course I did not notice until this very moment that footnote 49 should end in a period and not a semi-colon.  I guess I know now for sure that I did not get everything right.)

In these and all the footnotes in my thesis, author-written works are basically cited in a shortened format because full-length citations are provided in the bibliography.

I was told by people who read my thesis that my use of footnotes and citation was, perhaps, more extensive than is the norm in German legal scholarship.  But they knew that I am trained in U.S. law, and that I have spent years reading U.S. law review articles, which are heavily annotated compared to German legal periodicals, so it was understandable.

Anyway, I am very pleased to have seen an article in the legal literature about citation, and I hope this is a trend that continues.  I agree with Professor Chew that this is an important area of legal education that, perhaps, should be considered in a different light than it has been in the past.

Finally, I would like to briefly mention a new citation guide that we recently received in the HLS Library collection:

Global Arbitration Review’s UCIA – Universal Citation in International Arbitration
General Editor, Stephen Anway ; Assistant Editors, Alexis Martinez and Jonathan Allen
Published in 2018 by Law Business Research Ltd.
ISBN 9781912377299
Hollis Catalog Record

This is a guide to the developing convention on style and citation that is used by practitioners in the field of international arbitration.  It is “intended for use in all writings related to international arbitration – from memorials to awards, from scholarly articles to student briefs.”  (Editor’s Preface)  And, mercifully, it is much shorter than the Bluebook.

 

 

 

 

The Law and Police Searches

I recently returned from a leave of absence from the library. During my leave, I was fortunate to teach a US Criminal Law and Procedure course at the University of Würzburg in Germany.  Criminal Procedure was one of my favorite classes in law school, and I relished the opportunity to talk about the Fourth Amendment with German law students for an entire semester.

The language of the Fourth Amendment is, perhaps, as broad as it is on purpose:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This, of course, is where we started the semester – we spent a whole class session exploring what the students thought words like “secure” and “persons” and “search” and “unreasonable” should and do mean.  Then, we spent the rest of the course digging through the American case law on the topic, in which the courts have provided definitions of those legal terms of art.  We read and discussed some of the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal cases on Fourth Amendment searches: Terry, Mapp, Kyllo, Stoner, and Chambers.  We also looked briefly at many cases in which U.S. courts have carved out exceptions to the requirement that the police get a warrant before conducting a search.

I was SO impressed by the German students during this course!  Germany has a civil law tradition, which means that, aside from opinions issued by the country’s Federal Constitutional Court, German judicial decisions are not viewed as binding legal precedent.  This means that German law students spend most of law school studying statutory codes, not reading cases, let alone cases in a foreign language.  But they were up for every challenge, and we had enough time left over at the end of the course that I could throw in a class dedicated to Miranda.

Week after week, we kept coming back to the use of the exclusionary rule, which states that evidence that was seized by the police in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights cannot be used against the defendant at his or her criminal trial.

One case we discussed, U.S. v. Nora, 765 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2014), had a particular impact.  In the home in which a criminal suspect lived with his wife and kids (!), the police conducted a warrantless search and seized the following:

Narcotics: cocaine, cocaine base, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine, hidden in drawers and behind the refrigerator.

Weapons: six handguns, one rifle, and two shotguns (all with ammunition), hidden in a closet and in the garage.

The search was ruled to be unconstitutional, which meant that, under the mandatory application of the exclusionary rule, the evidence could not be used against the defendant in his criminal trial.

In the face of a case with these facts, is it even possible that the exclusionary rule is a good idea?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas perhaps doesn’t think so.  Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Collins v. Virginia, in which a warrantless search of the defendant’s driveway led to the seizure of a stolen motorcycle.  In an 8-1 decision, the Court held that searching a driveway, which is to be considered as part of the curtilage of the defendant’s residence, without a warrant or an applicable search warrant exception, violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Justice Thomas agreed with the Court’s holding, but wrote separately to express his doubt about the validity of the mandatory application of the exclusionary rule.  ScotusBlog described Justice Thomas’s opinion as follows:

“Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion in which he agreed with the majority’s resolution of the Fourth Amendment question. But Thomas stressed that the case was before the justices because, if Collins is correct and his Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the state courts would have to apply the exclusionary rule, which prohibits the government from using evidence obtained in violation of the Constitution, and “potentially suppress the incriminating evidence against him.” Thomas expressed “serious doubts” about the Supreme Court’s authority to require states to follow the exclusionary rule, which is “not rooted in the Constitution or a federal statute,” and he urged the court to take up that question.”

(http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/05/opinion-analysis-justices-decline-to-extend-fourth-amendments-automobile-exception/)

Overall, after talking about it every week for the whole semester, the German students in the course came out in favor of the exclusionary rule as an important check on the power of the police, although they were, at times, disappointed in its mandatory application.  The course also made them think a lot more carefully about police procedure in their own country, and about the idea that the separation of powers provides important checks and balances in a legal system (here, the judicial branch checks the executive branch).

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, the Harvard Library collections have some recent books you might want to explore:

The Fourth Amendment in Flux: The Roberts Court, Crime Control, and Digital Privacy, by Michael Gizzi and R. Craig Curtis (University Press of Kansas, 2016)

The Fourth Amendment: Origins and Original Meaning, by William J. Cuddihy (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Police: A Field Guide, by Davide Correia and Tyler Wall (Verso, 2018)

The Unexpected Scalia: A Conservative Justice’s Liberal Opinions, by David M. Dorsen (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government, by Mike Lee (Sentinel, 2017).

852 RARE: Speak, Memory* – Law Student Study Aids, circa 1674

In our occasional series of posts about games in the HLS Library’s Historical & Special Collections, we’ve covered playing cards describing notorious trials and educational flash cards for students of civil law. With exams around the corner, it’s a good time to shine a light on mnemonic devices – centuries-old techniques that aid in learning and retaining information in memory.

We have a beautiful first edition of Johannes Buno’s (1617-1697) work, Memoriale Codicis Iustinianei (1674). It features elaborate fold-out engravings, each corresponding to one of the books in Justinian’s Codex. The Codex is part of the Corpus Juris Civilis, the codification of Roman law ordered early in the 6th century AD by Emperor Justinian I.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), p. 58. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), p. 58. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Buno, an educator and theologian, distilled this massive trove of Roman law into a brief 83-page study aid. Taken together, the summaries and the engravings helped students master the contents of the Codex by combining fables, images, and letters. Buno called this the “Emblematische Lehrmethode,” or “Emblematic Teaching Method.” Let’s give it a try.

Here is the engraving that helped students master Book 9 of the Codes, which covers criminal law and procedure.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

A detail from Buno’s distillation of the text, Title 9.1, “Those who may not accuse,” (Qui accusare non possunt”) is shown here.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Beginning text for Book 9.1, p.37. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Beginning text for Book 9.1, p.37. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Presumably, a glance at the corresponding image in the upper left of the engraving, shown in detail here, would jog a student’s memory.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, detail, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, detail, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Or perhaps not. Things may have gotten lost in translation over time. At any rate, it is worth remembering that study aids for law students go back centuries, and that yesterday’s magnificently engraved book is today’s handwritten law student notebookelectronic casebook, or commercial outline. However you learn the law, good luck with your exams!

 

* with apologies to Vladimir Nabokov

 

 

 

 

 

NEW! HLS Library Bicentennial Exhibit Now On View

Collections | Connections  

Stories from the Harvard Law School Library

HLS Bicentennial Exhibit PosterThe Harvard Law School Library’s new exhibit celebrates HLS’s Bicentennial through the stories of some of the Library’s 2 million items and the people behind them. On view are historic photographs, striking rare books and early manuscripts, books published all over the world, fun glimpses of HLS Library history, and even an Awesome Box!

Collections | Connections documents the evolution of the Harvard Law School and its Library in response to the School’s evolving role in relation to society, legal education, and technology. Yet it is the people who make a place. Groups and individuals highlighted throughout this exhibit have cultivated the life and ethos of the Harvard Law School. Learn how the Library preserves this continuing story of the HLS community: faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are moved to question, prepared to reason, and called to act.

The exhibit is arranged around six themes: Keepers of Memory, Global Citizens, Promoting Justice, Supreme Court Clerks and their Justices, Library as Lab, and Preserving Legal Heritage. Curated by many members of the HLS Library, it is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, through June 2018.

852 RARE: Games People Play*

Believe it or not, Historical & Special Collections is home to some law-related games, including playing cards and materials created to help students learn the law. This set of educational cards, published in Halle, Germany in 1709, was intended to teach students civil law.

Civil Law Playing Cards

Chartae Iusoriae Juridicae (Halle, 1709), HOLLIS 3706209.

Our set consists of 34 cards, numbered 2 through 35. Each card contains several principles of civil law, written in Latin. The principles are numbered 5 through 194. It’s too bad the first card is missing from our set! Each card has been backed with marbled paper, and the whole set fits into a papier mâché box, also covered with marbled paper.

Case and Playing Cards

Case and Playing Cards, HOLLIS 3706209.

There is an eight-page instruction booklet, written in German, bound into marbled paper wrappers that match the playing cards. Students could use the cards as simple flash cards for self-study, or gather with a group of fellow students for a scintillating round of play. Here are a few excerpts from the instructions, translated by Jennifer Allison, an HLSL Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian:

  1. Those who would like to familiarize themselves with these laws and repeat them at will / must start by learning the first law on a card / tam quoad numerum, quam quoad sensum, and discuss it with their fellow players / who do the same thing.
  2. Once this has happened / they both, or also four, five, and six [people] could … / sit together / shuffle the cards / and deal them out to each player.
  3. At this point, the person who received the first card starts / by asking his neighbor a question about one of the cards in his hand e.g. ex fol 8. An possessor rerum immobilium satisdare teneatur? If this person answers / quod sic; he has answered incorrectly and must take the card / and must read … out loud from it / so that the other players, ex auditu, can be informed of the law. …

Instruction Booklet

Instruction Booklet, HOLLIS 3706209.

Let’s hope they were drinking lots of beer. Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder that legal study aids – and the market for them – have been around for a long time. Good luck in your law school studies, whichever study method you choose!

*with apologies to Eric Berne

852 RARE: Medieval Manuscripts Online – Magna Carta & More

The HLS Library’s Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the release of two early manuscript digital collections of interest to students and scholars of medieval Anglo-American legal history. We are grateful to the Ames Foundation for contributing some of the funding for these projects.

To celebrate Magna Carta’s 800th birthday, we have digitized our entire manuscript collection of English statutory compilations, which include Magna Carta, dating from about 1300 to 1500. Many of the volumes have beautiful illustrations, like the one shown here.

HLS MS 12

Magna Carta cum Statutis, ca. 1325. HLS MS 12, fol. 27r.

One of our favorites is a Sheriff’s Magna Carta – a single-sheet copy of the statute which was read aloud in a town square four times a year.

HLS MS 172

Magna Carta, ca. 1327. HLS MS 172.

We have also digitized our entire manuscript collection of registers of English legal writs, which were used to initiate legal actions in a court. Our collection of registers dates from about 1275 to 1476. Most of our manuscript registers are fairly humble, but this one has a magnificent illuminated initial:

HLS MS 155

Registrum Brevium, 1384. HLS MS 155, fol. 34r (detail).

 Cataloging information for each manuscript may be found by searching HOLLIS and browsing by “other call number”: HLS MS XXX; XXX refers to the manuscript number.

The Ames Foundation has begun a project to fully describe the contents of these statutes and registers to make them even more useful to scholars. Read more about the project, see an example of a fully-described manuscript (HLS MS 184), and find out how you can help.

Together with our recently released English Manor Rolls digitization project, these materials open up a new realm of research possibilities to scholars around the world. We hope you enjoy them!

CALI Unconference

We are currently hosting the 2014 CALI Conference for Law School Computing here at Harvard Law School.  Before the official conference started, several attendees met on Wednesday, 6/18, for an “Unconference.”

The Unconference agenda was completely attendee-driven: the participants selected topics and then broke off into small groups to discuss them.  Topics included:

  • Is “Law Practice Technology” Worth Teaching as Part of an Advanced Legal Research Course?
  • Flipped Classrooms
  • Building Virtual Communities
  • Polling Tools
  • How Do We Train Faculty to Understand When Multimedia Tools Are Adding Value, When They’re Just Wanting to be “Cool”?
  • What Tool has Really Helped a Colleague Teach and Didn’t Demand a Lot of Time?

Check out http://bit.ly/PreCALI for notes from the sessions.

Thank you to the attendees for some great discussions!

852 RARE : New Collection: The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of a new Modern Manuscript collection, The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913.

The Albert Burt (Harvard Law School, class of 1914) collection is relatively small by Modern Manuscript standards containing a mere 63 letters and 7 postcards.  But these 70 documents provide unique and invaluable insight into the life of a Harvard Law School student in the early twentieth century. In these letters written to his mother, father and two brothers , Albert writes about everything from the weather and housing, to life in Cambridge and, perhaps most interesting of all, his social and academic life at the Law School.

In one letter, dated October 29, 1911, Burt provides vignettes of faculty members.  He refers to professor Joseph Beale as the “argumentative Prof”  and notes a comment by a fellow student that, “doesn’t the old cuss love to get you to make a fool of yourself?”  Professor Bruce Wyman is described as the “round, roly-poly, jolly, smiling prof” who will, “… do pretty much nearly all of the work if you’ll let him.”

Excerpt of letter dated October 29, 2911. Box 1, folder 10 of the Albert F. Burt Letters.

Excerpt of letter dated October 29, 2911. Box 1, folder 10 of the Albert F. Burt Letters.

Dean Ezra Ripley Thayer is mentioned in a letter to Albert’s brother Howard written in November 1911.  He writes that, “…now it is etiquette in that class not to ask any questions unless you really want to know, because it takes the Dean so long to give a poor answer if he tries it himself and because you doubt whether the answer is trustworthy if he turns the question on the class.”

According to one letter the recently built Langdell Hall appeared to have been something of a novelty to students. In a letter dated October 22, 1911 Burt mentions that, “The whole plan of the institution seems to be that we should do our studying in these places”.   (The other “place” being Austin Hall.)  Encouragement to do so includes the existence of “… a whole staff to get us the books and everything we need in using them…” and that students were “…provided with lockers in the basements…” to store books and other necessary items.

This Albert F. Burt Letters will be of interest to anyone interested in the history of the Law School.  The HOLLIS number is 13846966.  A finding aid is also available. Researchers interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections and schedule an appointment.

Post contributed by Edwin Moloy, Curator of Modern Manuscripts.

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