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A history of law departments in the United States

It’s one of my fancies to delve into histories of companies, old magazine and newspaper articles, and house histories of law firms – to name a few sources for archival digging – and to compile a historiography of US law departments. A previous post described my foray into TimesSelect to look for early articles published in the New York Times that referred to law departments (See my post of Dec. 31, 2006.). John Grisham needn’t feel threatened by the page turner that this antiquarian foible may produce. But then, with Tom Hanks cast as the debonaire blogger….

Here are some tidbits, previews of coming attractions. AT&T early on had an internal law department: “C. P. CELEN, 64, PHONE EXECUTIVE; Vice President and General Counsel of A. T., T. Company Dies in Home Here LAW HEAD FOR 16 YEARS Served Government in World War in Litigation Over U. S. Control of Wire Systems,” Oct. 9, 1942, Page 21, 175 words.

A decade before, we find riveting evidence of a Boston & Maine legal team: “T. S. ALEXANDER DIES; PROMINENT ATTORNEY; Former General Counsel of the Boston & Maine Came Here From Boston,” Oct. 1, 1934, Page 17, 85 words. And to cap it off, this bouncy scene from US Rubber about a politico appointed to head the legal department: “U. S. RUBBER EARNED $10,000,000 IN 1920; Reserves Took Care of Sharp Declines-Tire Trade Now Almost Normal. JOHN W. DAVIS ON BOARD Ex-Ambassador to Great Britain Will Become Company’s General Counsel.” April 20, 1921, Bus. & Fin., Page 27, 247 words.

The phone lines are open for advance orders for the seminal treatise, Morrison on the History of Pre-War US Law Departments, Volumes 1 through 4. The books will be better than the movie!

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One response to “A history of law departments in the United States”

  1. M. Sean Fosmire says:

    If you know your history, you will also know that John W. Davis
    1. ran for President against Calvin Coolidge three years later, in 1924, and
    2. spent the next decades arguing in the Supreme Court against various New Deal programs; and that
    3. his last Supreme Court argument was in favor of the separate but equal position in a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education, arguing in opposition to Thurgood Marshall (and others).