A Million from Make-Believe: Chicago-Kent’s Costumologist

Wanted: Strong, healthy girl who can teach German to two boys, take care of a bedridden elderly woman, and sew for the household. Wages: $3 per week.

On December 19, 1886, a twenty-year-old Wilhelmine Friederike Moscherosch stepped off the passenger ship Werra at Ellis Island, New York. In the pocket of her handmade coat, she had a copy of the governess ad from the newspaper, as well as a page of instructions to help her reach her new job in Chicago, still hundreds of miles away after the long voyage from Bremen. She also held a gold piece worth $5, given to her by her grandparents. She was alone, spoke very little English, and had the entire world ahead of her.


The Werra in 1882.

Wilhelmine (“Minna”) was born in 1866 in the tiny town of Sindelfingen, Germany, near Stuttgart. She was the eldest of eleven children, and when she was not attending school, there was always work to do at home. She expressed an early interest in sewing when she heard, at the age of five, the story of Snow White. Her mother discouraged playing and daydreaming, so Minna asked her grandmother for scraps of fabric with which to make a Snow White doll, and her grandmother helped the girl piece together a tiny figurine from a potato, and a miniature costume from a bit of wool. Minna was hooked, and became known for her talent with a needle and thread. She made clothes for her brothers and sisters, then began to take in seamstress work, which she did in her spare time. The earnings from her sewing went into her savings, and when she was twenty, she finally had enough for the journey to America. She answered an advertisement for a German tutor and caretaker in Chicago and was on her way. The five dollar piece, her grandparents told her, was an investment in her future. “Your square hands are beautiful,” her grandmother said, “because they can make things, and you can accomplish whatever you wish if your head and heart are right and hands are willing.”

Chicago was bursting at the seams with growth, and for a young “steerage girl” who barely spoke English, there was a lot of catching up to do. When she wasn’t occupied with governess duties, Minna dove headlong into her studies of the English language, putting her gold piece toward English lessons. In 1887, Julius Schmidt, her sweetheart from Sindelfingen, arrived in Chicago, and the two married in October of that year, beginning a partnership that would last 63 years. Together, the two attended the Columbian Exposition of 1893, which gave Minna the idea to teach dance and drama. Julius and Minna opened a small dance school, The Locust Studio, where Minna gave private lessons. Her talents became sought after in the small circles of artistic and creative people in Chicago, and soon she was designing and manufacturing the necessary costumes for amateur plays and pageants. The demands of her creative work became a full-time occupation, and Minna left her governess job so that she and Julius could open the Schmidt Costume and Wig Shop at 920 N. Clark Street.

Ad from Patterson's American Educational Directory, 1945

Ad from Patterson’s American Educational Directory, 1945

The shop, which sat across the street from the Newberry Library, was the country’s first shop dedicated to costumes and wigs. In 1915, Minna and Julius purchased the building for their endeavor, which specialized in costume making and rentals, and expanded to include Minna’s dance and drama lessons in an upstairs room. By the 1920s, the business was a million-dollar enterprise, which employed twenty people, including Julius and Minna’s two sons, and saw as many as 6500 costume pieces rented in a single day. The Schmidt sons, Edwin and Helmut, eventually stepped in to manage the day-to-day activities at Schmidt Costume and Wig so that their mother could move on to explore other interests. She began by organizing the Costumer’s Association of Chicago in early 1921, and enrolled in law school that same year.

In 1924, at the age of 58, Minna Schmidt graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law, after taking evening and Sunday courses for four years. “I merely took the course in law to improve my mind and make me fit for the many things I plan to do in the future,” she explained to the Pontiac Chautauqua, “When I use my knowledge of law it will be in doing simple helpful things for the good of humanity.” Her thesis, “Ancient Laws and Customs and the Evolution of the Status of Women,” reflected her interest in the role of women in history, a role that saw triumphant expansion in the 20s. A stickler for detail in historical costumes, Minna decided that in order to become an able historian of fashion and clothing, she needed to put her research skills to work. Following her law degree in 1924, Minna traveled to Madrid, Cairo, Paris, and Jerusalem, searching for examples of authentic costumes from a variety of time periods. She studied history, art, and literature to learn about the minute details of fans and shoes, beards and bustles. She applied all of this knowledge to the creation of a series of wax figures, built by her son Helmut, each of which Minna costumed according to a specific time period. While she worked on the figurines, she also started the Chicago Schmidt College of Scientific Costuming in 1927, where she offered lectures in period costuming and opened her extensive costume library to her students. In 1929, she returned to Chicago-Kent for her Master’s degree. That same year, she became a lecturer in professional costuming at the University of Chicago.

32 of the 400 figurines displayed at the World's Fair 1933-34

15 of the 400 figurines displayed at the World’s Fair 1933-34

Minna’s first set of figurines were based on women who she believed were “representatives of true womanhood.” The figurines were women who had been mothers and wives, and who had served their communities in some way. The first series, titled 3000 Years of Fashion, included 120 historical and literary figures, from the Bible’s Eve to a flapper from the 1920s. The series was so successful that Minna continued with a second: together with the Chicago Historical Society, she selected and researched a group of women and created a series of seventy-two wax figurines. For her third and most expansive series, Minna chose women from all levels of society, and wrote letters to representatives of foreign countries asking them to list four or five outstanding women and provide biographical information and portraits. The resulting series included four hundred historical female figures, for which Minna authored a book, 400 Outstanding Women of the World and Costumology of Their Time. The large series was displayed at the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Excerpt from Alumni News, Chicago-Kent Law Review, 1932.

Excerpt from Alumni News, Chicago-Kent Law Review, January 1932.

Minna Schmidt used her success and wealth to help others, as she had always dreamed of doing. She financed the education of seventeen brothers, sisters, nephews, and cousins, bringing many over from Germany to live in Chicago. In her later years, she set aside money for the educations of great-grandchildren, noting that her grandparents had done the same for her with the five dollar gold piece. She financed a hospital for women and children in her native Sindelfingen, and donated her Evanston mansion to Northwestern University at the age of 90, when she went to spend her final years in St. Mary’s Hospital. Minna’s figurines, which were donated to historical societies, Catholic schools, and libraries, have not withstood the test of time. Portions of the collections have been split amongst private collectors as many institutions to which Minna willed them have closed over the years. The wax figures have fallen victim to time and its endless supply of dust and decay, but the story of Minna Schmidt, the girl from steerage, survives, and it is a story which cannot be told without the recognition of the hundreds of years of accomplishments of women who came before her, and that is, perhaps, her greatest “simple, helpful thing” for the good of humanity.


Kertz, Jane. “Figurines Are Relics of Woman’s Career.” Chicago Tribune, 15 March 1956: N8.

Lyon, Marge. “Centuries of History Live in Her Museum of Figurines.” Chicago Tribune, 1 February 1953: 6.

“Minna, Famed As Costumer, Is Dead At 95: Mrs. Schmidt Noted for Figurines.” Chicago Tribune, 10 December 1961: A19.

Minna Schmidt, LL.D.Pontiac Chautauqua, 1929: 33.

Minna Schmidt (Moscherosch).” Evanston Women’s History Project.

“Mrs. Minna Schmidt Honored; 50 Years in Costume Work.” Chicago Tribune, 30 December 1936: 16.

Osborne, Georgia L. Brief Biographies of the Figurines On Display in the Illinois State Historical Library. 1932.

Schultz, Rima Lunin and Hast, Adele. Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. 2001.

“Woman, 58, Gets Her Law Degree Here This June.” Chicago Tribune, 28 April 1924: 2.

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Bowdler’s Day

Shakespeare Bowdlerized

On July 11 of each year, we recognize the birth of the man whose name has literally become synonymous with censorship.  In 1807, Thomas Bowdler, an English physician and philanthropist, published a volume titled The Family Shakespeare–essentially, a censored edition of Shakespeare’s works.  It was Bowdler’s intention to make Shakespeare “fit for the perusal of our virtuous females.”  Bowdler’s edition, for instance, changed Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damn’d spot!” to “Out, crimson spot!” These and other changes to Shakespeare’s original text lead to the coining of the verb “to bowdlerize,” to refer to the modification or omission of words of phrases in a text that are considered unsavory.  So, censorship.

For more information on the life of Thomas Bowdler, and the birth of the verb that bears his name, I highly recommend reading “How Not to Bowdlerize” by Ross E. Davies.

Here in the library, we cannot, in good conscience, celebrate a man who was made famous for censoring literature.  Still, Thomas Bowdler’s legacy can certainly serve as a benchmark in the history of free speech and censorship.

With that in mind, let’s all agree to celebrate an ironic Bowdler’s Day tomorrow by putting away our white out and permanent markers and reading some (unedited) Shakespeare.

Happy Bowdler’s Day, everyone!

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Better lawyering through creativity

Pelikan Fountain PenWho knew – creativity can help you be a better lawyer! A recent column from the Lawyerist blog describes several reasons lawyers should be creative. The article also features a few exercises for practicing creativity.

To be sure, strong legal writing can be heavily rule-bound. For the most part, you’ll need to adhere to established templates and forms. But when you need to make your work stand out — such as when writing a court brief or writing for marketing — consider using creative section headlines or even a few creative sentences for emphasis.

So break out your pens and let your inner artist run free — between deadlines, of course.

Pelikan Fountain Pen CC David Blackwell
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New Bluebook: a call for honest and accurate citation

The 20th edition of the Bluebook was just released about a month ago.  There are several excellent overviews on the differences between the 19th and 20th edition from the Pace Law Library Blog (which includes a link to a chart breaking down the changes), and the Brooklyn Law School Library Blog.  Please stay tuned for updates to the law library’s guide to the Bluebook, which will reflect all of the changes.

The exciting changes are, of course, in Rule 18: “The Internet, Electronic Media, and Other Nonprint Resources.”  The reality of legal research is that very nearly all legal research is done using a source cited using Rule 18.  Legal researchers and writers deserve a robust and comprehensive Rule 18 because citation is meant to support a scholarly conversation.  I believe scholars and students can only have that conversation if the citations tell the reader exactly what source the author relied on.  The new Bluebook tries to promote that scholarly conversation, but, ultimately, stops short. Continue reading

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Chicago-Kent at the 25th Annual CALI Conference – Updated with video!

caliorgCALI, the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction, may be best known to most law students for the CALI Awards given to the highest scoring student in each law school class or for their CALI lessons.

But they’ve also sponsored an annual Conference for Law School Computing Professionals since 1991, starting at Chicago-Kent and going on to become a national circulating annual conference that has been hosted by law schools across the U.S., sharing current trends in technology used in the classroom, legal research, and the legal profession.

This year the conference will be hosted by the University of Denver Sturm Law School in Colorado, but Chicago-Kent will still be well represented in the presentations we’re giving.


Our staff will be keeping legal tech professionals, faculty, and librarians up to date on the A2J digital legal aid courses, new developments with Oyez project’s Supreme Court content, as well as tools used for video management and setting up basic WordPress websites. The full schedule of content is https://calicon15.sched.org/

Want to follow along online?

On Twitter:

twitter-icon-danleecIf you follow the conference hashtag on Twitter, you’ll find attendees sharing their favorite quotes, link to resources, and keeping the conversation going throughout the weekend: #CaliCon15

Video Streaming (UPDATED!):

The conference sessions from Chicago-Kent staff have now been added to this post, if you’d like to review the content. You find the rest of the sessions on YouTube in the 2015 CALI Conference playlist or in the conference website link below. Continue reading

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Library Services for Alumni

Welcome Back

Did you know that Chicago-Kent Alumni still have access to many of the law library’s resources, even after graduation?  Whether you’ve been assigned your first big research assignment and don’t know where to start, or you need to locate an obscure journal or treatise, the law library and its knowledgeable staff will always be here to help.  As a graduate of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, you will always be a special member of our community, and we love to see familiar faces back in the library.

For more information on how the Chicago-Kent College of Law can assist you after graduation, please see the Alumni Services page of the law library’s website, and the home page for the Chicago-Kent Alumni Association.

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Tech tip: taking notes for work

Pen Paper ComputerYou’re an expert classroom note taker and have a great system to prepare for finals.  But you’ve likely found that you need a different set of note taking skills for work, one that’s more focused and simplified than what you used in class.

In a recent post from Attorney at Work, five lawyers talked about their favorite note taking apps and tips.  Surprisingly, many of these tech-focused attorneys admitted that they prefer pen and paper – but with a twist.  Some scanned their paper notes with their phones using apps like Evernote.  Others took handwritten notes on paper with a “smart pen” called LiveScribe, then later used an app on their phones to translate their handwriting into typed text.

The five lawyers offer a lot of great advice – but there is one suggestion that you should be cautious about.  One attorney mentioned that she likes to use LiveScribe and her smartphone to create audio recordings of her meetings.  When recording audio, however, keep in mind that some states have laws that require the consent of everyone present.  It’s also worth mentioning that audio recordings can be considered an invasion of privacy any time.  If you want to make an audio recording during a meeting, be sure to ask first.

Image by Pete O’Shea

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Memorial Day, 1918

Clyde Todd stood on the deck of the ship, the great vessel leaning and shuddering in preparation for its departure from the city of Bordeaux, France. He was anxious to watch it all shrink into the distance, until it was barely a speck on the horizon. He hoped he wouldn’t be the only one to cheer when it disappeared behind him. It was Christmas Day, 1918, the sun was finally shining after weeks of downpour, and the 6th Marine Regiment was heading home.

Clyde Todd, Class of 1920 Composite

Clyde Todd, Class of 1920 Composite

The following spring, Todd wrote about his military service for the 1919 issue of The Transcript. He began by describing the feeling of returning to law school after the war, of the difficulty in believing that his military service had been anything more than a vivid dream. “I assure you when we enter the halls…there is a feeling which to me is much the same as that which I always imagined must have come to Rip Van Winkle, when he returned after his years of absence from society,” he wrote. “Many of our experiences are hard now to believe as actualities. Although you naturally refrain from condemning your own eyes, yet often you wonder if they were not deceiving you.”

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1918, Todd was far from home, marching with his regiment into the historic city of Verdun. For months, they had been moving through a string of towns in central and eastern France, growing ever closer to the violence and threat of the enemy. The city had been mightily defended by the French through almost a year and a half of bloody attacks by German troops. Continue reading

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High Adventure: Chicago-Kent’s World Traveler

Excerpt from The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, Volume 1, Issue  6, 1916.  AC025, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives.

Excerpt from The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, Volume 1, Issue 3, 1916. AC025, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives.

The end of summer 1916 was a fine and peaceful introduction to the oncoming fall weather. The hot days of July were cooling to an agreeable 78 degrees in the August afternoon, and while corn farmers struggled with poor returns in the dry weather, the city folk breathed a sigh of relief as the temperature finally became livable. Of course, none of these concerns or comforts were shared by 1916 Chicago-Kent graduate and former public speaking instructor, Lowell Thomas. The August 1, 1916 issue of the Chicago-Kent Bulletin reported that Thomas was spending the summer in Alaska, collecting material for his travelogues.

Lowell Thomas in Alaska filming the Klondike River; 1916. Marist College B&W photo 1516.10

Lowell Thomas in Alaska filming the Klondike River; 1916. Marist College B&W photo 1516.10

Lowell Jackson Thomas, born in 1892 in Ohio, was never one to rest after a major accomplishment. At the age of 17, he was already a budding journalist, and had interviewed statesman and orator William Jennings Bryan, as well as Clarence Darrow, one of America’s leading labor attorneys, before even finishing high school. By 1911, he had graduated from Valparaiso University with degrees in education and science. Upon the encouragement of his father, who tutored him in elocution, he pursued a position as an instructor in public speaking at Chicago-Kent, which he held from 1912-1914, while also working as a reporter for the Chicago Journal. In 1914, still a young reporter, Thomas interviewed Booker T. Washington and covered the sinking of the Eastland in the Chicago River, but became known for publishing an exposé on con man Carlton Hudson, who skipped bail in New York years earlier only to set himself up as a reputable businessman in Chicago to reprise his swindling ways. Upon receiving a law degree from Chicago-Kent in 1916, one might assume that Thomas would take some time off before beginning his new position as public speaking instructor at Princeton. Instead, he headed to Alaska to exercise his creative mind by putting together a film about the Klondike Gold Rush, and financed the trip and the filming with a series of articles on the wonders of rail travel.

Chicago-Kent Bulletin, Vol. 1, Issue 6

Excerpt from The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, Vol. 1, Issue 6, 1916. AC025, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives.

By the time he wrapped up filming and began his new job (and the pursuit of another degree) at Princeton, Thomas had caught the eye of many important people. It was no wonder: at the age of 23, Thomas had already worked as an editor or reporter on six major newspapers, collected five university degrees, and taught at Princeton in a role he helped to create. The December 1916 issue of the Chicago-Kent Bulletin announced with pride that Thomas had been tapped to direct the speakers’ bureau for Mayor Mitchell of New York’s re-election campaign. Another job offer came swiftly, in early 1917, and this one from higher up: Franklin Lane, President Wilson’s Secretary of the Interior, hired Thomas to direct a national program, “See America First.” It was an offer that was rescinded just as quickly as it materialized, however. A month after the program began, the United States declared war on Germany. The cancellation of the promotional campaign saw the birth of a new opportunity, and it was decided that there was no one better than Lowell Thomas to run the campaign to change the minds of Americans toward support of the United States’ involvement in the war. Thomas insisted that the campaign would be a greater success if it was filmed, rather than produced in written format for the American people. The government, however, did not agree, and refused to provide a filming budget. Fortunately, Thomas was able to raise the $100,000 himself (the equivalent of over $1 million today) with the help of the many Chicago businessmen who benefited from his exposé on Hudson. With his new bride Frances Ryan, cameraman Harry Chase, and filming equipment, Lowell Thomas headed for Europe. He formed a company, Thomas Travelogues, and began to sign his letters “Lowell Thomas, Propagandist.”

T.E. Lawrence & Lowell Thomas from London session portraits; Marist College, glass plate 1270.58

Lowell Thomas & T.E. Lawrence from London session portraits; Marist College, glass plate 1270.58

The trenches of the Western Front were a dismal, uninspiring place, where Thomas and Chase found nothing to show the American public that would win any enthusiasm. The pair then visited Italy, where Thomas became interested in the campaign against Palestine. He obtained the permission of the British Foreign Office to travel to Jerusalem, and arrived just in time for the British to take control of the area from the Ottoman Empire. Shortly after, he met T.E. Lawrence, an Irish-English officer and former archaeologist who donned Arab robes and led Arab irregulars and forces in a revolt against the Turks. Thomas and Chase spent weeks following the dashing and photogenic Lawrence through the desert, and collected hundreds of still images and miles of 35mm films of Lawrence and the Arab forces. These images and films would become part of a multimedia show titled “With Lawrence in Arabia,” which traveled across America and Britain. The show was unique in that it featured Lawrence standing in front of a screen, narrating the events depicted in photos and short films. Though it is now considered to be the first of its kind, the documentary was widely panned, as the war had just ended and not only was Thomas’ job as propagandist at an end, nobody seemed interested in talking about the war in any capacity. There seemed to be something, however, in the part of the story about that gallant blue-eyed Oxford graduate, the gentleman who had led a revolt in the desert, and Lowell Thomas was there to tell it. By 1923, Thomas and Chase were perhaps the two best known international journalists, and were permitted to film in Afghanistan. In 1924, Thomas wrote the first of more than 50 books he would write in his lifetime, With Lawrence in Arabia.

Silent footage filmed by Thomas and Chase in 1917.

Lowell Thomas at microphone; Marist College B&W photo 1522.11.b.

Lowell Thomas at microphone; Marist College B&W photo 1522.11.b.

In 1925, Lowell Thomas tried his hand at radio broadcasting, and found yet another medium in which he could excel. By 1930, he was the host of the nation’s first nightly news program, “Lowell Thomas and the News” (or “Nightly News”). As the United States struggled through the Great Depression, Thomas thought it important to begin and end his broadcast on a light note by stating a friendly “Good evening, everybody” at the beginning of the newscast, and closing with “So long until tomorrow.” Since much of the broadcast was bad news, Thomas ended each episode with a light human interest story. The practices of trademark opening and closing lines, and of ending segments on a lighter note, began with Thomas and continue in broadcast news today. With his background in reporting and public speaking, Thomas seemed made for the role of the nation’s first broadcast news reporter, but he didn’t stop there. He also applied his experience in narrating on-screen images to rapt American audiences by lending his voice to Fox Movietone and American Newsreel Company newsreels.

Movietone newsreel, “The Battle of Britain,” narrated by Lowell Thomas, 1940.

Lowell Thomas with FDR (1); Marist College colored glass lantern slide 1428.35.

Lowell Thomas with FDR (1); Marist College colored glass lantern slide 1428.35.

In the 1930s, Thomas wrote, produced, narrated, and even appeared in news summaries twice each week, which were then broadcast in theaters across America. In 1939, he began the first televised nightly news broadcast, which was cancelled only a year later due to World War II. Thomas declined other offers to do television news with the hopes of traveling to Europe to cover the events of the war in person. However, he was refused a passport by President Franklin Roosevelt, who considered the front too dangerous to risk the loss of America’s most trusted news anchor. It’s possible that he also did not want to put his friend and neighbor at risk: Thomas’ baseball club, “The Nine Old Men”, which played benefit games to support causes across the country, annually defeated the President’s team of White House correspondents, “The Purgers.” Thomas was not allowed to travel until February of 1945, when he visited Berlin, India, China, and the Pacific in a matter of months, reporting riveting an interesting stories on what he found along the way.

Lowell Thomas & Lowell Thomas Jr.  broadcasting by battery from Tibet; Marist College B&W photo.

Lowell Thomas & Lowell Thomas Jr. broadcasting by battery from Tibet; Marist College B&W photo.

Ever an adventurer and documentarian, Thomas traveled to Tibet with his son, Lowell, Jr., in 1949, where they met the Dalai Lama and produced the first ever remote battery-powered broadcasts for CBS. He produced travel films for his own production company, Cinerama Productions. He established himself as an independent contractor and became a media tycoon in short order by forming several broadcast stations, Capital Cities, which acquired ABC in 1980. From 1955 to 1958, he produced the series “High Adventure” for CBS, and in 1963 took such advantage of jet travel that he crossed all 24 time zones twice, continued radio and television writing and producing, and kept speaking engagements and ski trips around the world for nearly eight weeks, before finally collapsing from jet lag. In April of the following year, Thomas continued to multi-task when he wrote to Chicago-Kent President Douglas Schwantes and Dean William Zacharias to kindly thank them and accept the honorary Doctor of Laws he was to receive at the convocation ceremony later that year, including that he “might have another engagement that I thought I might as well take care of at the same time.” He returned to visit Chicago-Kent once more, for the IIT Annual Reunion in 1974, where he received a professional achievement award. He told a reporter from the Chicago Tribune “I’m planning to retire at the age of 100. I’ve always worked around the clock, ever since my days in Chicago. I’m on a merry-go-round that I don’t think I’ll ever get off.”

Detail, Convocation Program, 1964. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives.

Convocation Program, 1964. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives.

Lowell Thomas bid his final on-air “so long” on May 14, 1976, at the age of 84. Though it was to be his last broadcast, he insisted that he would not retire, and changed his parting line to “So long…for now.” Five years later, in 1981, Thomas passed away in his home in Pawling, New York, after returning from a trip to Colorado, where he had given a speech and attended a corporate board meeting. After 46 years in broadcasting, countless firsts, and a life that can only be described as both hectic and spectacular, Lowell Thomas left the world he so loved to travel and experience. His outlook on life was best captured in his response to an interview question in 1976 posed by a Chicago Tribune reporter, who asked him which had been the best years of his life. “The best years of my life,” he said, “have been all of my years.”



The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, No. 1, Issue 3 (August 1916). The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, AC025, Box 1. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives, Chicago, Illinois.

The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, No. 1, Issue 6 (December 1916). The Chicago-Kent Bulletin, AC025, Box 1. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives, Chicago, Illinois.

Convocation Program, 1964. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives, Chicago, Illinois.

Holmberg, David. “Thomas Returns to Alma Mater.” Chicago Tribune, 19 May 1974: 7.

Gorner, Peter. “84 is only a number if you happen to be Lowell Thomas.” Chicago Tribune, 8 December 1976: A1.

Letter from Lowell Thomas to E. Douglas Schwantes and William F. Zacharias. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Archives, Chicago, Illinois.

Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia: Making a Legend, Creating History. CLIO online exhibit: http://www.cliohistory.org/thomas-lawrence/

“Lowell Thomas Dies at 89.” Chicago Tribune, 30 August 1981: B1.

Lowell Thomas Papers, Marist College Archives and Special Collections: http://library.marist.edu/archives/LTP/LTP.xml

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ABA Techshow Recap: The importance of online security

We’re back from the ABA Techshow, which is always a great opportunity to learn about the state of legal technology today.  The show was packed with lawyers from all kinds of law firms who came to learn about the latest technologies to improve efficiency, better market their practices, and engage juries in the courtroom.

This year, many sessions addressed security and technology. Topics ranged from encrypting documents, to password best practices, to the ethics of cloud computing.  Lawyers are increasingly concerned with data security because they have a responsibility to protect client data and confidentiality (not to mention that clients now often ask their lawyers undertake specific security measures to protect their information).

At first, it may seem that following all of the practices suggested during the sessions would be daunting.  Lawyers should use encryption, but does that mean they are expected to encrypt all of their email?  Passwords must be secure, but do lawyers need to generate completely random passwords for each account?  Because cloud services can be hacked, should lawyers avoid storing documents on any internet-based service altogether?

But not only did the presenters at the Techshow address these concerns, they also provided practical solutions.  To quote one of the presenters, ”Security shouldn’t be so tight that the lawyer cannot practice law.”

Lawyers aren’t expected to be perfect – but they are expected to take reasonable measures to protect their law firm’s data and client privacy.  For example, there are many emails that won’t require encryption, but lawyers should learn what encryption is and should consider encrypting emails about sensitive topics.

Lawyers should avoid bad password practices like using single words or names, but should consider stronger passwords such as using variations of phrases.  And to make reasonable judgments about which documents can safely be stored on the internet — and which documents will require a more secure solution — lawyers should review the terms of service for cloud-based applications (also known as “software as a service” applications, or SaaS).

If you missed this year’s show, there’s always next year.  The next ABA Techshow will be March 17-19, 2016.


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