Even in the digital age, lawyering is always located. Lawyers live and work in physical space, and they deal with other lawyers and with clients who also have at least some measure of physicalized existence. Distracted and ofttimes overwhelmed by written records, legal historians have traditionally paid little attention to the physical environment of lawyering, but under the influence of contemporary cultural factors this is beginning to change. Indeed, in light of recent works on American, English and even ancient law it may be time to recognize the birth pangs of a new interdisciplinary field that we might label “legal topography”, or the study of law in place. Part geography, part architecture, part art, part rhetoric, part anthropology, part psychology, and part performance studies, legal topography would examine how professional constructions and public perceptions of law are literally shaped by the conditions and dynamics of place, and how those in turn reflect changing historical understandings of law and lawyering. This article probes some of the parameters of legal topography in exploring lawyering in place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, over a formative period of 120 years, from 1775 to 1895, tracing the shift of lawyering's locus in that quintessential American city from colonial fort and tavern to purpose-built courthouses and the first modern skyscrapers. The article was originally written for a special University of Pittsburgh Law Review symposium on Pittsburgh legal history, appropriately entitled "The Steel Bar: Pittsburgh Lawyers Forging America from the Frontier to the Future."
Bernard J. Hibbitts,
Lawyering in Place: Topographies of Practice and Pleadings in Pittsburgh, 1775-1895,
University of Pittsburgh Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.pitt.edu/fac_articles/128