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Is our legal heritage at risk? What might be done to rescue private sector legal records

Citation: Cowling, Clare and Reynolds, Michael (2016) Is our legal heritage at risk? What might be done to rescue private sector legal records. The Law Society Gazette . ISSN 0262-1495 (Submitted)


Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Private sector legal records are at risk of becoming lost or inaccessible through globalization, digital obsolescence, physical neglect, lack of interest on the part of information owners or reduced archive resources to preserve and provide access to the records. All records in the private sector face similar challenges, but modern legal records (early twentieth century to the present day) are particularly vulnerable due to recent developments which are transforming the nature, organisation, regulation and economics of legal services. These changes are outstripping the capacity of the traditional providers of legal research facilities to make relevant records available to researchers. Additionally, unless systematic efforts are made towards collecting private sector legal records, research using modern legal records will continue to be weighted towards the study of the legislation and the courts, producing a lopsided historical picture of the UK’s legal framework. In this article the authors explain concerns about the potential loss of legal records from the private legal sector and outline the ways in which the Legal Records at Risk research project at the IALS aims to investigate the issues and help identify possible solutions.

Additional Information: Pre-print of an article prepared for The Law Society Gazette by Clare Cowling (Director, Legal Records at Risk Project, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London) and Dr Michael Reynolds (Solicitor and Chartered Arbitrator, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford).
Creators: Cowling, Clare and Reynolds, Michael and
Official URL:
Subjects: Law
Keywords: legal education, legal research, legal profession, archives, archival sources, legal records
Divisions: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
  • April 2016 (submitted)


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