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American Bar Association, American Association of Law Libraries, American Law Institute, Association of American Law Schools, West Publishing Company, Legal Profession, Legal Publishing, Court Reports, Eldon R. James, Roscoe Pound, U.S. Legal History


Between 1935 and 1940, the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and the American Association of Law Libraries joined forces to work on solutions to a problem often referred to as the “duplication of legal publications.” The need for practicing attorneys and law libraries to purchase multiple and duplicative versions of published law reports and other law books was burdensome in costs, complicated the research process, and contributed to what the American Law Institute identified as the two chief defects of American law: “its uncertainty and its complexity.” This article highlights the efforts of the ABA, the AALS, and the AALL to develop solutions to the problem, focusing on the leadership of Harvard law librarian Eldon R. James within the ABA and elsewhere. Although these efforts ultimately failed, the story illuminates a moment in the history of law librarianship in which a prominent law librarian provided leadership on a matter of concern to the entire legal profession.