"In early days, I tried not to give librarians any trouble,
which was where I made my primary mistake. Librarians like to be
given trouble; they exist for it, they are geared to it. For the
location of a mislaid volume, an uncatalogued item, your good
librarian has a ferret's nose. Give her a scent and she jumps the
leash, her eye bright with battle."
- Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer
Times are tight everywhere these days. Our clients materially
benefit when we can be cognizant of the very real financial impact
that the necessary costs which our handling cases on their behalf
can present to their bottom line.
Because of this, when an opportunity presents itself to gain
access to a resource that is helpful, efficient and cost-conscious,
we should all take note. Many MBA member benefits meet this
standard, such as CaseMaker, a searchable online legal database
available for researching substantive law not only in
Massachusetts, but in 27 sister states as well.
Another exceptional opportunity that many lawyers may not be aware
of, but should, is right under our noses when we go to court: the
Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library system (MTCLL).
Since my childhood, with many happy hours spent amid the stacks at
the Cambridge Public Library, I have enjoyed the feeling of
wandering among volumes of books ready and awaiting only my time
A few years ago, likely echoing that urge when getting ready for a
hearing at the Superior Court in Cambridge, I saw a sign in the
lobby directing me to the law library. Once there, an extremely
knowledgeable staff and a great collection of treatises, both
practical and educational, greeted me. I signed up for my free card
on the spot and have never regretted the decision.
Besides being a location for quiet work and reflection at the
courthouse (and complimentary Lexis and Westlaw when there), one of
the best resources provided by the MTCLL is found on the Internet.
A visit to the MTCLL website (www.lawlib.state.ma.us/index.html)
will show you the several categories of information available
online for practitioners, including:
- Laws organized by subject (e.g., mortgages, landlord-tenant,
- Laws organized by source and database (e.g., procedural rules,
- MTCLL cardholder access to substantive databases (including
HeinOnline, NoloLaw and other business and media sources);
- Research support (either e-mail or chat) from a reference
- Document retrieval and delivery by e-mail or fax of practically
any source available at the library at no charge.
Thankfully for lawyers and the general public, word is starting
to get out about this fantastic resource. The Boston Globe
Magazine recently listed the MTCLL as one of the "101 Things Every
Bostonian Should Know." So here's a tip: If you haven't already
done so, be sure to stop in at the law library before or after your
next hearing in state court and get yourself a card.
The 17 locations are available on the MTCLL site. Once you're
signed up, you will have the ability to take out hard copy volumes
as well as have instant access to the extraordinary help provided
through the MTCLL's online services. You will be thrilled you did,
as I -- and my clients -- have been. As an institution, the
Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library system truly meets its goal
to advance justice for all by providing us such open and ready
access to the law.