The Law Books Are Just Props

It’s one of the most familiar images in lawyer advertising–the attorney who is sitting or standing in front of a shelf full of law books. Sometimes the image is taken in a lawyer’s office or conference room, and sometimes it’s in what looks like a law library. For many, this image connotes class. And for some, it suggests that the lawyer is smart, having read of all these large and imposing volumes.

There is a reason why the books look old and distinguished. Many have’t been printed in hard copy for years. Twenty years ago when I was in law school, legal research was a labor-intensive and manual exercise. All of the law books were printed in these bound volumes and the supplements that showed the most recent court decisions were printed on extra thin paper. And if I wanted to to see which cases had referred to a particular court decision, I also had to look that up manually. Law firms needed to devote a large amount of floor space to their law library. Those days are long gone.

Today, a vast majority of legal research is conducted online. The law books are mostly for show. Remember that the next time you see this image in lawyer advertising or when you are sitting in a lawyer’s office or conference room. Hiring a lawyer is too important a decision to be influenced by such images. So please repeat after me: the law books are just props.

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