My role is in NABE’s Communications Section, where representatives from bars around the country examine the best way to, y’know, communicate.
Today I’m talking not about NABE, though, but about—law firm libraries. For personal reasons, Chicago always reminds me of the musty stacks of legal materials. And that makes me wonder: Who still uses those things?
My own recollections go back to the years I worked at a large national firm—then called Mayer, Brown & Platt. Their Chicago office on 190 South LaSalle was their biggest (the Windy City office is still their largest, I’ve learned), and I headed up a staff of proofreaders (that was the go-go ‘80s, so they not only were hiring lawyers left and right, but they also had three shifts of proofreaders; we were the day shift).
Don’t get me started on proofreading legal documents by hand, when “redlining” guaranteed your fingers would be Sharpie-red before lunch. In fact, when I look back at the masses of material I plowed through, I am rather shocked that I later decided to go to law school.
In any case, the library.
Mayer Brown’s library was on the top floors of its 40-story building. It was quiet, beautiful and, even in the 1980s, rarely used. So that was the perfect spot to perch for a young proofreader in the hours before work as he wrote his English Ph.D. dissertation. (No, I did not become a professor; the charms of the English writer Matthew Arnold eventually waned in my soul, and off to law school I went.)
You can read more about the building here.
Despite the fact that the spirit of my stalled dissertation remains in that library space, I still recall it with much affection. But that ardor led to a surprise.
Thinking I might stroll into the building on this trip and try to wheedle my way upstairs sans keycard, I discovered that the firm had moved northeast to another beautiful (and less postmodern) skyscraper. But the library? Whatever happened to that?
A little searching shows that it remains where the lawyers deserted it. Unupdated and lacking years’ worth of pocket parts, the library stacks stand as a testament to an earlier time. And now they serve as clubby background to a chichi bar.
Not only that. The space is viewed as a terrific venue for events, including seminars, speeches and weddings.
Here are a few images of the library as engagement photography backdrop. I want to go on record (in case this beautiful young couple stumbles across this post) that the photos are gorgeous and the young people themselves stunning. But I have to say …
… I’m not sure anything cools the heat of love more quickly than leaning against a stack of South Western Reporters, or Tax Law Updates. But to each their own.
Do you too have fond memories of libraries? Like me, do you find a close connection to those stacks where you performed some of the hardest work of your life?
And in your law practice, do you still turn to the books? Or are those days entirely in the past?
And to Kathleen and Greg, wherever you are: Best wishes!Follow @azatty