KU News Service

Book examines lawyers, legal field in popular culture

Wed, 02/27/2013

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor has published a book collecting depictions of lawyers, judges and legal professionals in popular culture from one of the format’s golden ages.

Michael Hoeflich, John H. and John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at KU, has published “The Law in Postcards & Ephemera 1890-1962.” The book collects postcards, holiday cards, cigarette cards and real photo cards he’s collected over a period of 10 years.

“I’m fascinated by the way people view the legal profession,” Hoeflich said. “It’s not as simple as ‘people love their own lawyer but hate all other lawyers.’ The postcards were picked partly for their humor and partly for their design. But I hope lawyers, legal historians and others will give it a look because it does give a representation of attitudes about lawyers throughout history.”

Hoeflich chose the period of 1890-1962 because it was “the golden age of postcards.” Technology such as photography and chromolithographic printing, which allowed affordable multicolor prints, combined to inspire a revolution in pop culture, and the postcard was born. People could cheaply send postcards through the mail to friends and family, and many also started collecting them as a hobby. Of course, to sell, they needed to feature images and themes that were popular at the time. And sell they did.

The book features categories such as animal and child lawyers, drinking lawyers, lawyers and money, ethnic lawyers, legal buildings and women lawyers. The last, women in the legal profession, was still quite a novelty in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a series of cards depicts a woman practicing law with her baby in the courthouse, reflecting a common attitude of the time that women should work in the home raising children as opposed to outside of it. The drinking lawyers category features cards making all manner of jokes, puns and connections between the bar association and the bar as a tavern. Children dressed as lawyers and judges, and illustrations featuring dogs, cats and monkeys as legal practitioners were wildly popular at the time as well.

Photography’s influence on both post cards and law practice itself cannot be understated. Hoeflich highlights this with his section of real photo cards. Kodak and similar companies made the cards as unique pieces for individuals from their own photographs. Many law firms used that as a way to either advertise or send a postcard with a photo of themselves through the mail.

“Real photo cards are great because they’re all unique,” Hoeflich said.

The art of photography not only changed postcards, but in some instances the law itself. In the late 19th century American and English law did not allow for no fault divorce. In essence, the only way to get a divorce was to prove adultery. So a couple that agreed they wanted to end their marriage would hire a private investigator and a photographer who would take a staged photo of a spouse having an affair as “proof” of infidelity. Naturally, both parties would agree to the terms of divorce in advance and would use the “incriminating photos” to get the divorce they both wanted.

“Photography essentially made it possible to have no fault divorces,” Hoeflich said. “It became a joke, everyone knew it was happening and eventually the law changed. But you can see all of that reflected in the postcards of the time.”

All of the postcards and ephemera contained in the book come from Hoeflich’s personal collection. For a decade he’s collected them from eBay, flea markets, antique stores and anywhere else he could find them. He started collecting after writing a series of articles for legal journal The Green Bag about representations of lawyers in popular culture.

His work is far from being completely lighthearted fun. He’s also published extensively on legal topics such as copyright, legal history, law and the arts, comparative law, contracts, ethics and others.

When looking to tackle the issue of obesity in rural America, where should we start? The answer is not what you might think. Empathy, says Christie Befort, an associate professor at KU who has just won a $10 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to investigate solutions to rural obesity. Many physicians are embarrassed talking about weight—especially in a small town where everybody knows each other, Befort says. By providing obesity treatment options in rural primary care, she plans to start a conversation, and maybe a revolution, in rural health care. For more details on Befort's efforts, check out the 2015 Chancellor's Report: and her video: Tags: #KUcommunities #Obesity #Health #Rural #Midwest Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute - PCORI

Whistling the night away. #exploreKU shot by saamanthathomas on insta.
Explore KU: Experience a KU Men's Basketball tradition It’s explosive. It’s dramatic. It’s intimidating. It’s a KU tradition (see more at simply known as the Confetti Toss. But it creates a primal eruption of fan enthusiasm at the opening of every KU men’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. It starts as the visiting team is introduced on court. The KU student section is visibly bored and unimpressed. The entire section under the north basket holds up University Daily Kansans — making the point they’d rather read the newspaper than even look at the other team. They shake and rustle the student newspapers. Then the moment they were waiting for arrives — the Jayhawks enter the court. All Rock Chalk breaks loose. Newspapers, confetti and thousands of thundering voices soar into already charged atmosphere of KU’s hallowed basketball arena. The confetti hits its high point, near the banner on the north wall reading “Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog.” And the confetti rains back into the stands, onto the court and into the memories of all at hand. It’s time to play.

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