Cases and Case-Lawyers

Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Vol. 35 (Forthcoming)

Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2016-40

32 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2016 Last revised: 8 Sep 2016

Date Written: June 27, 2016


In the nineteenth century, the term “case-lawyer” was used as a label for lawyers who seemed to care more about locating precedents applicable to their current cases than understanding the principles behind the reported case law. Criticisms of case-lawyers appeared in English journals in the late 1820s, then in the United States, usually from those who believed that every lawyer needed to know and understand the unchanging principles of the common law in order to resolve issues not found in the reported cases. After the Civil War, expressions of concern about case-lawyers increased with the significant growth in the amount of published law after private companies entered the legal publishing market. By the turn of the twentieth century, it was generally acknowledged that the number of cases had made it impossible for attorneys not to focus on locating precedents. Later in the century most references to case-lawyers were historical, even as the amount of published law facing lawyers continued to grow. Professor Danner examines legal periodicals and other sources to explore the connection between the growth in numbers of published cases and reporters, and hostility toward case-lawyers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Suggested Citation

Danner, Richard A., Cases and Case-Lawyers (June 27, 2016). Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Vol. 35 (Forthcoming), Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2016-40, Available at SSRN:

Richard A. Danner (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

Box 90361
Durham, NC 27708
United States


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