Thursday, March 15, 2012

Massachusetts Lawyers Diary and Manual

The Massachusetts Lawyers Diary and Manual is a spectacular failure as a “diary” in the modern sense of the word. However, as the title is more than 100 years old, perhaps the book deserves the benefit of the doubt. The Massachusetts Lawyers Diary and Manual, or MLDM, is primarily a directory of people relevant to the practice of law in Massachusetts. It has contact information for all of the courts – every single one. There are also all of the phone numbers for Massachusetts - licensed attorneys in the state and different units of state and local government. The attorneys are listed both alphabetically and for lawyers outside of Boston, by city. It is also the most comprehensive print directory of Massachusetts government officials; there are many Federal government contact numbers too.

However, almost all of this information is online for free in some form. For courts, I find that Massachusetts does a good job of putting contact information for all levels of court on the Massachusetts Court System website. A search on Google or Bing can usually pull up the information too.

The MDLM does have some other useful and interesting material. On the useful side, it has a list of court filing fees. It also has a digest of Massachusetts Civil Procedure, which can serve as a refresher on a few of the rules, if one is not concerned by a lack of currency. It would be risky to rely on the MDLM’s section on probate and family law, given the recent changes in Massachusetts in the area. The MDLM has a marginally useful calendar for the current year. There is enough space to write down appointments, if you don’t have that many on a given day. However, it is tough to imagine using a heavy, 1000+ page hardbound book to keep important dates in. There are advertisements in the back for legal services like court reporting. I think advertising here makes a company seem a little more reputable than one you happen to find online.

It is a good book to keep around for historical research

As for “interesting” material, the MLDM has the most exhaustive list of unit conversions you will ever need. How many scruples are in three drams? Nine. Google will not convert that for you! Kidding aside, if you have an old contract or deed with an unusual unit of measure, this would be a handy desk reference. There is also a table that gives the last day you can do something, like file a motion, within a certain time period. (10, 15, 20, 30, 35, 45, 60 and 90 days.) Finally, the “degrees of kindred” chart could be useful when dealing with an estate matter.

The question a researcher has to ask is how important is it that this information be all in one place? The majority of the time, the information in this book could be found quickly online, for free.  I could envision a new attorney getting some use out of this book. Sometimes, when you do not know where to start with a question, the finite possibilities that are listed in a directory is a good starting point. The directory structure also gives one a better idea of the structure of the Massachusetts judiciary than the state’s website. Someone not comfortable searching online would also probably get good use out of the book. Is this book a necessity for a law firm? I would say no. With this book, you are paying for convenience.

Note: The publisher does provide a paid online version that I did not have access to test.

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