This week, I am strolling the muggy streets of Chicago, where I am attending a portion of the annual NABE–ABA annual meetings.

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.

Library at 190 S. LaSalle, Chicago. Through the window you can see the Chicago Board of Trade to the south, with the Roman goddess Ceres atop a golden pyramid.

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.

Here are more of Greg and Kathleen’s engagement photos (with library).

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!

190 S. LaSalle, Chicago. The library is up beneath the gabled roof.

Movie night, I heard more than once on Wednesday, was a misnomer. Convention organizers worked mightily to convince conventioneers about the event’s true nature, and about the evening’s value.

First of all, we learned, they would be showing a number of legal movies, but it wasn’t going to be a movie screening. Only portions would be shown.

And yes, there was going to be a live band—Sugahbeat—who had played at conventions past. But they, and the food, would all combine to complement the movies and the experience. It was a cool, hybrid thing.

Well, I bit. And I had a good time. But convention-attendees may not have gotten the message, as the room was pretty sparsely attended (in all fairness, I left by about 6:45, so it could have picked up and started hopping after I left—which happens with many parties).

That’s too bad, because a crowd would have enjoyed watching Chicago, Legally Blonde, Erin Brockovich and My Cousin Vinny. But still, the format would have made that a challenge.

That’s because the talented Sugahbeats were the sound in the room—the movie volumes were all off. We should be thankful for that, in a way, because (1) the band is really good and (2) four competing movies would cause a migraine. But more than once I caught myself thinking that the band was great and the movies, silent though they were, were a distraction. But then I would gaze at the screen and think, “That’s a great scene! I wish I could hear it again without the band playing.” I mean, Joe Pesci uttering “yoots” or regaling the judge with an explanation of his clothing suggestion? That begs to be heard. (For that amazing scene, go here.)

I may not be the only one to have felt that way. At least once—as the band covered Rehab by Amy Winehouse—the lead singer stared past the tables of listeners to look into the eyes of Julia Roberts as the plucky Brockovich. Roberts held the singer’s gaze for more than a few beats, and I could swear that the crooner wished, just for a moment, to watch that cool scene beginning to end.

I hear you, sister. I hear you.

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