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.

Upcoming Event at the Harvard Law School Library: Prepare to Practice Inaugural Legal Research Conference 2019

We are looking forward to hosting our first Prepare to Practice Legal Research Conference for law students next Tuesday, May 21, 8:30am – 4:30pm. We are teaming up to four other Boston-area law schools (Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Suffolk) to offer this full-day event, which focuses on getting students up to speed on research methods for fact-finding, corporate law, immigration, and many other topics.

The conference will feature speakers from firms, courts, non-profits, and law schools. Student attendees will also also have the chance to speak with legal database providers about some of their latest and greatest services!

A complimentary continental breakfast and lunch will be provided. The conference will conclude with a networking reception in the ​Harvard Law School Library.

Are you a Boston-area law student who is interested in attending? Attendee spots are still available, and we would love to have you join us! To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/prepare-to-practice-inaugural-legal-research-conference-2019-tickets-57800959225.

New Title Spotlight: “Testamente und Erbstreitigkeiten” (“Wills and Inheritance Disputes”)

The law library recently added a very interesting book to the collection:

Testamente und Erbstreitigkeiten: von Kriemhild bis Cornelius Gurlitt
Walter Zimmermann
2018, C.H. Beck
ISBN: 9783406730238

This book provides a historical survey of wills and inheritance disputes and includes transcriptions (in normal, readable font) of actual language from testamentary instruments.  Researchers who are interested in historical wills will especially enjoy this book, although it requires an ability to read German.  However, due to the book’s highly narrative and accessible style, an in-depth knowledge of German legal language is, in my opinion, not necessary.

The following subjects and people are described:

  • Testamentary distribution in the Song of the Nibelungs
  • Offmei Wöllerin, 1321 (a well-to-do widow from the town of Regensburg)
  • Heinrich Tuschl von Söldenau, 1376 (Bavarian nobleman and landowner)
  • Erasmus von Rotterdam, 1536 (famous scholar and humanist)
  • Martin Luther, 1542 (leader of the Protestant Reformation)
  • Laurentius von Ramee, 1613 (military commander whose will included a requirement that his successor marry his — Ramee’s — sister)
  • Neidhard Pfreimbder, 1662 (whose will precisely listed his property but did not name an heir)
  • Immanuel Kant, 1798 (philosopher)
  • Last will of Beethoven (drafted as an outrage-filled letter by the composer to his brother and nephew in 1802)
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1830 (author whose will specifically provided for his daughter-in-law)
  • Constanze Mozart, 1841 (widow of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  • Arthur Schopenhauer, 1852 (philosopher whose will included a provision to provide for his dog)
  • Fürstenhaus Leiningen, 1897 (in which the son in a royal family was disowned because the father did not approve of the son’s marriage)
  • Elisabeth, 1898 and Franz Joseph I., 1901 (Empress and Emperor of Austria and Queen and King of Hungary; she was known as “Sissi” and has been extensively portrayed in books and movies)
  • König Otto I von Bayern, 1916 (Bavarian king who suffered from severe mental illness)
  • Franz Kafka, 1922 (Polish author whose testamentary request that his works be destroyed was not followed)
  • Estate of the Wittelsbach Family, 1923 (describing an agreement under which property of displaced royalty was returned to state ownership)
  • Thurn and Taxis Library and Archive (protection of cultural assets of an entailed estate, or Fideikommiss)
  • Adolf Hitler, 1945, and Eva Braun, 1944 (leader of Germany’s National Socialist government, which carried out the murder of millions of people during World War II, and his companion)
  • Albert Einstein, 1950 (physicist; disputes surrounding his will led to the exposure of intimate details about his life)
  • Estate of the Krupp Family, 1966 (steel manufacturing family that used several testamentary devices to avoid paying inheritance taxes)
  • The Insect Collection of Georg Frey, 1976 (Frey’s widow ignored testamentary directives regarding who should have the first right to buy the collection and offered it for sale elsewhere)
  • The Estate of Axel Springer, 1984 (German publisher who had several marriages and children; the battle over his estate lasted 30 years)
  • The Willy-Brandt-Medal, 1992 (“Can a widow make money from her husband’s personality rights?”)
  • Donations for the Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche of Dresden, 1995 (If a donation unlawfully decreases someone’s compulsory right to inherit, must the donation be returned?)
  • A Sociologist’s Index Card Box, 1998 (the impact of “vagueness” in a will on the inheritance rights)
  • Cornelius Gurlitt’s Estate of Stolen Art, 2014 (Can a testamentary devise lawfully include ill-received property?)

Why Research Historical Wills and Probate Documents?

Old wills provide a fascinating window into how people in the past really lived. During the summer of 2005, as a research assistant to Pepperdine Law Professor Kris Knaplund, I spent many enjoyable hours in the Los Angeles County Probate Archives, reading and documenting wills and other probate records from 1893. 

Although the main objective of this research project was to better understand the effect of the 1861 California Married Women’s Property Act on women’s inheritance rights, the project provided an additional bonus.  We learned about people from all walks of life in late 1800s California, from successful landowners and wealthy widows, to lawyers, business owners, farmers, and (perhaps most surprisingly) shepherds who had immigrated from the Basque country to Los Angeles.  If you are interested in reading more about this project, check out Kris’s article, The Evolution of Women’s Rights in Inheritance, which was published in the Hastings Women’s Law Journal in 2008.

Are you curious about historical probate materials in the Harvard Library collections?  Here are a few HOLLIS library catalog searches that you can use to look for sources:

Law Library Adds the Mueller Report to the Collection

U.S. politics has been abuzz since the recent release of a report by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which details findings of a two-year investigation into possible Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have made the entire Mueller Report available online.  It can also be downloaded from the Special Counsel’s page on the Department of Justice’s website (archived at https://perma.cc/C24U-HCME).

The internet can be great for accessing documents, and terrible for reading and processing them.  Have you tried, and given up, reading the Mueller Report on your computer or, worse yet, on your phone?  Is your printing account credit too low to print the 400+ pages of the report yourself?  If you are a Harvard Law School affiliate, you’re in luck. You can check out a copy of the Mueller Report, printed and bound by the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, from the law library’s reserve collection

Further Research: Trump Administration

Perhaps, after perusing the Mueller Report, you would like to read more about Trump and his presidency?  If so, you may find this Harvard Library catalog (HOLLIS) search useful:

HOLLIS Search: Subject = “Trump, Donald, — 1946-“

There is also a helpful HOLLIS search for materials on the US government in general since Trump’s election:

HOLLIS Search: Subject = “United States — Politics and Government — 2017-“

Further Research: Investigations by the Justice Department’s Special Counsel’s Office

The office that issued the 2019 Mueller Report is the U.S. Justice Department’s Special Counsel’s Office. Its historical precursor, the Office of the Independent Counsel, was established under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-521). In the late 1990s, under the auspices of this office, Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr investigated potential misconduct by President Bill Clinton. That investigation led to Clinton’s impeachment, and ultimate acquittal.

In 1999, the law that governed the Office of the Independent Counsel expired. However, under Department of Justice regulations that went into effect on July 1, 1999 (64 Fed. Reg. 37038; codified at 28 C.F.R. §§ 600.1-600.10), the Attorney General gained the authorization to appoint a Special Counsel to conduct a similar type of investigation that the Independent Counsel used to perform. According to the regulations, the Special Counsel is required to “investigate and, when appropriate, to prosecute matters when the Attorney General concludes that extraordinary circumstances exist such that the public interested would be served by removing a large degree of responsibility for a matter from the Department of Justice.”

Important Note:
The Justice Department’s Special Counsel Office is not the same as the federal government’s
Office of the Special Counsel.  Under 5 U.S.C. §§ 1211-1219, the Office of the Special Counsel is part of a federal government oversight regime, which also includes the Merit Systems Protection Board, established under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-454).

For more information about the history of the special/independent counsel, there is an excellent description on the PBS Frontline website, A Brief History of the Independent Counsel Law. For a more in-depth treatment of the topic, the Congressional Research Service has published a thorough, well-annotated report that was updated in March 2019 — Special Counsel Investigations: History, Authority, Appointment, and Removal.

Interested in finding additional books and articles about the history of investigations into misconduct by U.S. politicians? Below are some HOLLIS searches to get you started.

Legal research databases: Summer 2019 and new grad access policies

Lining up a summer job or preparing to graduate? Before you head out, you’ll want to know what’s available to you from the big three research databases and beyond.

BLOOMBERG LAW

RETURNING STUDENTS’ SUMMER USE: You may use your HLS Bloomberg Law account for any purpose, including research for employers.

NEW GRADUATES:  You may continue to use your HLS Bloomberg Law account for six months after graduation. 

If you haven’t already signed up for a Bloomberg Law account and would like to do so, go to www.bloomberglaw.com/activate (use your Harvard email. No activation code is necessary). If you have any questions, contact the Bloomberg Law 24/7 Help Desk at 1-888-560-BLAW or blawhelp@bna.com. You can also contact our representative, Brendan Greally.

LEXIS

RETURNING STUDENTS’ SUMMER USE:   You have free unlimited use of your HLS Lexis Advance account during the summer, whether you’re clerking, interning, externing or at a firm. (Keep in mind that you may be required to use a different ID when researching for a client. Be sure to check with your employer.)

NEW GRADUATES:     After graduation, you have automatic extended access to your HLS Lexis Advance account for six months, through December 31, 2019. If you participate in the Student Rewards program, be sure to use up your points by June 30 (starting July 5, there is a different program for graduates).

ASPIRE PROGRAM FOR GRADUATES ENGAGED IN NON-PROFIT WORK:  The ASPIRE program provides 12 months of free access to federal and state cases, codes, regulations, law reviews, Shepard’s® Citation Service and Matthew Bender® treatises to graduates who are engaged in verifiable 501(c)(3) public interest work.  If interested, you need to apply for this access.

If you have any questions, please contact our representative, Becky Ehrlichman.

WESTLAW

RETURNING STUDENTS’ SUMMER USE:  You can use Thomson Reuters products, including Westlaw and Practical Law, over the summer for non-commercial research. You can turn to these resources to gain understanding and build confidence in your research skills, but you cannot use them in situations where you are billing a client.  You do not have to do anything to gain access to these tools over the summer. Examples of permissible uses for your academic password include the following:

  • Summer coursework
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Law Review or Journal research
  • Moot Court research
  • Non-Profit work
  • Clinical work
  • Externship sponsored by the school

NEW GRADUATES: You have access to Thomson Reuters products, including Westlaw and Practical Law, for six months after graduation by registering for “Grad Elite” access here. “Grad Elite” access gives you 60-hours of usage on these products per month to gain understanding and build confidence in your research skills. While you cannot use it in situations where you are billing a client, Thomson Reuters encourages you to use these tools to build your knowledge of the law and prepare for your bar exam. 

If you have any questions, please contact our representative, Mark Frongillo.

OTHER DATABASES
Continuing students have full access over the summer to most other library resources at Harvard simply by using your HUIDs and PINs. So if you need JSTOR, HeinOnline, Academic Search Premier or most other databases, you’re all set!

New alumni continue to have access to some databases, including HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library and the CQ Press Library, a great source for information and data on government and politics. Click through to our guide to Library Services for HLS Alumni for information about how to claim your Harvard Key and get access, plus learn about other resources for alumni and how to stay connected from afar.

QUESTIONS?
Feel free to contact us with any questions about summer access, alumni access, or any research-related questions over the summer and beyond. Our full contact details are available at Ask a Librarian.

Excel on exams and papers with tools from the Library

Congratulations on making it to the end of the academic year.  As you prepare for exams and finish up your papers and projects, check out some of these resources from the HLS Library to help make the process a little easier:

Prepare for HLS Exams guide – We’ve organized some information and resources from the Library and elsewhere at HLS to help get you through this stressful part of law school, including links to study aids, tutorials and past exams; lists of recommended books on law school exam strategies; research basics on 1L topics; and a few ideas for short study breaks.  Also find links to exam information from the Registrar’s office and self-care offerings from the Dean of Students Office’s Wellness program. 

NEW! Wolters Kluwer Online Study Aid Library – If you enjoy study aids like Examples & Explanations, Glannon Guides or Casenote Legal Briefs, now you access them for free on your computer, tablet or mobile device whether you’re on campus or off.  The Library’s subscription includes hundreds of titles covering topics from contracts to conflict of laws.  Create a personalized login to highlight, take notes or add bookmarks to text. Access is controlled by HLS IP address and is limited to the Harvard Law School community. Off-campus access is controlled by HLS account username and password.

Bluebook Citation for LLM Students – If you’re an LLM student writing a paper, this is the guide for you.  In addition to downloadable charts and slides, this guide is packed full of tips based on FAQs from Library Bluebook training sessions – from what to do when the Bluebook doesn’t have a rule for citing something you find online, to working with non-English sources, to using signals (see, see also …) correctly.  JD students will find this helpful as well.

Finally, remember to take a break now and then.  Play a game, take a nap, meditate, take a walk … anything that helps you refresh and recharge.  The Take a Study Break guide has a bunch of ideas.  And anytime you’re looking for some “portable quiet”, stop by the circulation desk or reference area for free earplugs.

Best of luck!

852 RARE: Serving Up a Sampling of Plates

Inspired by the array of objects in this drawer, I wanted to highlight some of the plates we have in Historical & Special Collections for this installment of 852 RARE. They come in a variety of materials and sizes and are from a number of different collections. Each has an interesting story to tell. I hope you enjoy this small sampling of plates!

Some of the plates in Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

Campus Plates

Langdell Hall commemorative plate (blue), 1927
Wedgwood, Etruria England
22 cm Queensware plate
Accession no. 2017.19

This is one of two Wedgwood plates in the collection depicting Langdell Hall, the other copy is red and was issued in 1932. The 1927 set was the first set of college plates that Wedgwood issued. The set included 12 views of Harvard University with a fruit and flower border that according to one collector was based on a design used on Harvard dining hall china c.1840.

Dane Hall commemorative plate (red), 1952
Wedgwood of Etruria & Barlaston, England
26.5 cm Queensware plate
Accession no. 2005.02.1

This is one of two Wedgwood plates in the collection depicting Dane Hall ca.1852; the other copy is in blue. According to the stamp on the back, this is a limited edition plate made in England exclusively for the Harvard Cooperative Society. Wedgwood issued this as part of set of 12 dinner plates that featured images of Harvard in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See our copy of the lithograph this image is based on olvwork364043

Walter Hastings Hall plate, Accession no. 2017.70

Walter Hastings Hall Commemorative plate, early 20th century?
Made in Germany
12 cm ceramic plate
Accession no. 2017.70

This small white decorative plate with gold edges and a color image of Walter Hastings Hall in the center was a gift of Anne Elizabeth Bishop “in Loving Memory of My Father, Dr. Orvel Calhoun Crowder, S.T.B. 1957 Harvard Divinity School and my Great Grandfather Dr. Hall Laurie Calhoun, M.A. 1903, Ph.D. 1904, Harvard.” Hastings Hall was completed in 1889 as a Harvard University dormitory. Law students have been living there since at least 1924—it is the oldest residence hall at the Harvard Law School and currently houses 97 students.

Student Plates

Melamine plate, black background, head and shoulder view of John G. Roberts.

Learned Handmade Plates, 2008
José Klein ’08
10-inch melamine plates
Accession no. 2008.01.1-31

Klein designed 31 melamine plates depicting Supreme Court justices, as well famous law school cases in order to fulfill his Harvard Law School written work requirement. For a period of time, Klein sold copies of the set to collectors via his personal website, which is how Historical & Special Collections came to acquire its set.

“As a collection, the Learned Handmade Plates represent an album of the American Law School Experience. The plates are snapshots from the core of law as it is taught. Most law students have been expected to memorize most of the cases depicted here. They have been evaluated on the basis of how well they can reproduce the information these cases contain. . . . The Supremes on the other hand, remain. They have established permanent settlements in the imagination of the American Law Student. They are fetish objects, things to be held in adulation and contempt, to be stared into but never penetrated. In this sense, the Supremes are oracles. . . . The plates ask the eater/viewer to engage with the law as it is made by judges. They turn the act of eating into an act of civic engagement.”


The Record, April 24, 2008, Volume 126, no. 12

“The plates ask the eater/viewer to engage with the law as it is made by judges. They turn the act of eating into an act of civic engagement.”


José Klein, The Record

Faculty Plates

Black-patterned Chinese plate, 1948
13.75 in. bronze enameled plate
Roscoe Pound Visual Materials Collection
Engraving: “Roscoe Pound / Given By The / Chinese National Government / 1948.”

Underside of bronze enameled plate. center of the bottom has an engraved message in Chinese and in English: “Roscoe Pound / Given By The / Chinese National Government / 1948.”
Underside of the bronze plate given to Roscoe Pound

Among our collection of Roscoe Pound visual materials is a bronze enameled plate given to him by the Chinese National Government in 1948. Pound served as dean of the Harvard Law School for twenty years (1916-1936) and in the 1940s served as an advisor to the Ministry of Justice in Nanking, China. The visual materials collection also includes photographs of Pound in China, including this photograph of Pound posing with members of the Hebei Court, Beiping, China.

Judge Baker Guidance Center plate, 1971?
Lunt Sterling
28 cm sterling silver plate
Eleanor T. (Eleanor Touroff) and Sheldon Glueck Visual Materials, Accession no. 1970.01.4
Engraving: “Eleanor Glueck / IN APPRECIATION OF / 40 YRS SERVICE / TO / THE JUDGE BAKER GUIDANCE CENTER”

Eleanor Glueck (1898-1972) and her husband, Sheldon spent their careers studying and writing about issues related to juvenile delinquency. In 1934 they published One Thousand Juvenile Delinquents: Their Treatment by Court and Clinic, a study of delinquents referred by the Boston juvenile court to the Judge Baker Guidance Center (JBGC). The JBGC (formerly known as the Judge Baker Foundation) was founded in 1917 “as a charitable and educational institution for the guidance of emotionally disturbed children.” Its work included community education, research, and training, eventually becoming the home of an organized program of training and research in child development. Eleanor served as trustee at the JBGC from 1932 until her death in 1972.

Golden Plate Award, 1967
American Academy of Achievement
Framed ceramic plate and metal plaque
Diplomas, honorary degrees, citations and awards of persons affiliated with Harvard Law School. 1834-, HOLLIS 990094615880203941

View of golden plate mounted on red velvet background with metal plate mounted on red velvet background in gold frame.
Paul Freund’s Golden Plate award

We have a number of commemorative plates given to Professor Paul Freund (1908-1992) over the years. The Golden Plate Award has been presented since 1961 by the American Academy of Achievement, a nonprofit foundation, founded by Brian Blaine Reynolds to “bring aspiring young people together with real-life heroes. . .” In 1967, Freund was honored in connection with his constitutional law scholarship. Printed on the plate: “American / Academy of Achievement / Prof. Paul A. Freund.”  Learned Hand, another Harvard Law School alumnus, was also a recipient in the 1960s.

Today: Election Day in Israel!

Nearly 6 million people are eligible to vote in today’s Parliamentary election in Israel, in which several parties from across the political spectrum are vying for control of the Knesset. This is explained in a thorough English-language election primer written by Maayan Lubell and published by the Reuters news service, available at
https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-israel-election-parties-explainer-idUKKCN1RJ0AQ.

Polls are showing that the parties expected to win the most Knesset seats in today’s election are Likud (headed by current PM Benjamin Netanyahu, English-language website is at https://www.likud.org.il/en) and Blue and White (led by former chief of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz; website, only available in Hebrew, at https://bg19.co.il). No party is expected to win an outright majority in the election, which means that a coalition government, in which multiple parties join forces to form a parliamentary majority, would have to be established.

There are several English-language news sources offering coverage and analysis of today’s election. Below is a selected list.

Here are some pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog for materials in the Harvard Library collections related to elections in Israel:

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:

852 RARE: When the French Revolution was a Current Event

A recent Harvard Law School Library project—undertaken in preparation for the renovation and re-purposing of the Lewis building—resulted in a spreadsheet of hundreds of older titles for me to sift through, verify, and (often) catalog.  While the list is daunting it has led to a trove of fascinating books and pamphlets all of them are intriguing to anyone who appreciates primary materials.

I’ve particularly enjoyed working with copies of the French constitution in its various iterations, published in 1791, 1793, and 1795. Some are elegantly bound; others are still in their original paper wrappers.

A particularly lovely specimen of the former is this 1791 constitution, not even 10 cm (4 inches) tall, bound in green in morocco with marbled pastedowns, gold-tooled spines, and gilt edges. The frontispiece showing the King Louis XVI accepting the constitution, which established a constitutional monarchy.  Folded in towards the end of this pocket-size volume is a map of France.

An edition of the same constitution, printed in the provincial city of Le Puy in south central France, is in its original cheap (and wonderfully tactile) paper wrapper with the bookseller’s simple title and date (14 septiembre 1791) in manuscript and pages untrimmed.

Naturally events in France and its constitutions were of great interest beyond France, and a number of titles in the collection–such as these two–reflect that:

Detail of title page of London edition of the constitution published in Year I of the French republication calendar (1793).

 

Landau edition of the Year III constitution (1795), with manuscript note on title page: “5 Fructidor III” (i.e. 24. August 1795). Text is in French and German on facing pages.

 

 

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