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Bar News - August 20, 2014

What To Do With Old Law Books?


Many lawyers preparing to downsize their practices confront the question of what to do with entire walls of bookshelves filled with law books, dating back decades, perhaps even centuries. These volumes were the foundation of law practice, the source of the law to which a lawyer’s seasoned judgment was then applied. Given lawyers’ embrace of precedent, such books were, or are, in rapidly disappearing quarters of the profession, revered. For a long time, such reverence was rational.

With increasing frequency, lawyers call the Bar Association to sell their law books. Or perhaps to give them away.

No sale, I sadly say; perhaps you can give them away. Maybe.

Many lawyers, young and old, find inspiration, or connection in their proximity to the books’ retained wisdom. For some lawyers and some clients, though, law books are elegant, reassuring décor.

But for an increasing number of lawyers, and for their clients, law books are archaic, mere repositories of dust, attracters of moths.

Today, with everything digitized or soon to be, the law exists in the cloud, in characters on a screen, searchable, infinitely replicable, and instantly retrievable. The contents of those groaning shelves, those stately, substantial volumes are now... trash. Too harsh? Solid waste, then. Let’s face it – the weightiness of these books now holds only the potential to strain backs and escalate tipping fees at the dump.

When we get calls seeking to find a new home for their books, sometimes we put ads in Bar News, or post on social media. Sometimes takers are found. I don’t know what happens to the books no one has called about. I don’t want to ask; I can’t stand the thought of them going to the dump. Boxed up somewhere, with no place to go.

I am not an early technology adopter. I am not a digital snob. The obsolescence of law books is not something I welcome. Dear readers, please rebut these dismal observations; correct me, prove me wrong! And most of all, please suggest ideas or places for these books to go. Are there new uses for these leather volumes?

What books do you still use? I’d love to hear (or read) your thoughts. Write me at Or, apply pen to paper and write to me at 2 Pillsbury St., Suite 300, Concord, NH 03301.

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