The Modern Law Library


What can Texas tell us about the rise and fall of the death penalty?

By the late 1960s, use of the death penalty was on the decline in the United States. But after the U.S. Supreme Court declared in the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty as practiced violated the Eighth and 14th Amendments, there was a political backlash. By 1976, Georgia had a new capital punishment system that did pass Supreme Court muster, and other states followed suit—including Texas.

Why do barristers wear wigs? ‘Dress Codes’ explores fashion and the law

Ask any attorney about the most outlandish clothing they've seen worn in a courtroom, and most will have a colorful story. But what determines the appropriateness of any outfit?

How your firm can use technology to build business and keep clients

As a longtime technology consultant to law firms, Heinan Landa knows that lawyers are cautious customers who can be resistant to change. But the old expectations around client service no longer exist, he says, and meeting the new standards requires a shift in the way law firms do business.

‘White Fright’ author discusses historical lynch mobs and the attack on the Capitol

Historian Jane Dailey was saddened by the events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, but the riot at the U.S. Capitol did not seem unfamiliar to her.

Check out our favorite reads from 2020

As a tumultuous year draws to a close, we gathered together ABA Journal editors and reporters to discuss what the past year has been like for them as readers. With the stress of the pandemic and national elections, how had their reading habits changed? Were they concentrating on current events or comfort reads? With our offices operating remotely, did they have more time for reading?

Former corporate lawyer draws inspiration from her family for her tireless clemency work

Brittany K. Barnett was a perfect fit for corporate law. As a certified public accountant who comes from a family with an entrepreneurial spirit, it made sense to fulfill her childhood dream and become a lawyer. But the same east Texas upbringing that gave her the ambition to succeed as a corporate attorney also wound up pulling her toward what her mother calls her "heart work": clemency and sentencing reform.

Lawyer recounts the life and legacy of the mysterious man behind Pilates

In 1963, John Howard Steel was a 28-year-old attorney with a challenging litigation practice, an unhappy marriage and a stiff neck. At the urging of his mother, Steel decided to try physical therapy at a gym owned by an elderly German immigrant named Joseph Pilates. It was a decision that would change Steel's life.

Having a hard time connecting with your witness? Try these tips

You're a plaintiffs attorney with a promising tort case, but getting the narrative evidence you need from a particular witness is like squeezing blood from a stone. How can you get through to them and help ensure that your client gets the damages needed for long-term care? The real problem might be that your communication styles are fundamentally different, says author and trial consultant Katherine James.

Knowing when to tell your client no and other ethical dilemmas

One of the most important ethical obligations a lawyer has is knowing when to tell their client no. But how do you know when that moment has come, and how do you deal with it?

Voting rights attorney writes a tale of dark money chicanery in ‘The Coyotes of Carthage’

Steven Wright spent several years at the Department of Justice's Voting Section witnessing all manners of election chicanery, voter suppression and dark money campaigns. So when he turned his efforts toward fiction, he decided to write what he knew.

Constitutional scholars sound warning on SCOTUS and the separation of church and state

The separation of church and state is a concept that is often talked about, but there's hardly a national consensus on what that should look like—or whether it should exist at all. In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has been shifting towards an "accomodationist" interpretation, say the authors of The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State. To Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman, this is a dangerous approach.

‘Demagogue’ tells the story of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s rise and fall

What made 1950s America vulnerable to a man like Joseph McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin? In Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, author Larry Tye takes an in-depth look at McCarthy's life.

6 key numbers that can diagnose the financial health of your law practice

Do you know how many billable hours you can devote to a new case? Or whether you need to add another attorney to your firm? Can you afford to take time off from your practice, and if so, how much? If you're one of the lawyers who is kept up at night with worries about your firm's finances, you are not alone.

Convicted of a crime that never occurred? It happens all too often, law prof says

We are used to hearing about wrongful convictions in which a murderer walked free because an innocent person was misidentified. But when Jessica S. Henry, a professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey, was researching material for her course on wrongful convictions, she discovered that in one-third of all known exonerations, the conviction was wrongful because there had not even been a crime.

Well-meaning social reforms created ‘Prison by Any Other Name,’ authors say

At a time when the country is discussing how the justice system and policing can be reformed, it's critical that we avoid adopting reforms that have damaging consequences.

We need to reckon with feminism’s contributions to mass incarceration, says law professor

As a law professor at the University of Colorado Law School, Aya Gruber has seen her Millennial students wrestle with a contradiction that she has long struggled with herself.

What does police abolition look like?

Recent protests over police brutality have raised the volume on calls to defund the police. But while police abolition may be new to some, it’s a concept that has been…

What’s lost when jury trials vanish?

Thirty years ago, between 9% to 10% of federal criminal cases actually went to trial before a jury. That may not seem like a large percentage, but by 2018, only 2% of defendants received a jury trial.

Meet 9 American women shortlisted for the Supreme Court before Sandra Day O’Connor

As early as the 1930s, presidents were considering putting the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. So, who were these other candidates on the short list, and why did it take until 1981 for Sandra Day O'Connor to become the first female justice?

An insider’s guide to succeeding in law school⁠—even during the COVID-19 pandemic

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson says that near the end of every school year, he has law students come into his office "usually in tears." They tell the professor that if they'd only known at the start of the year what they'd figured out by the end of the year, they'd be so much further ahead.

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