Legal Records at Risk Project

You will find a brief description on our website (, but to give you a little more background our terms of reference and intended outcomes are attached. We hope, in short, to provide practical assistance to institutions specialised to law which may be seeking advice on how to manage their institutional records, dispose of those for which they have no further business need and preserve those of value for posterity. We believe that the records of such institutions may provide a rich resource for historians in many fields (academic, legal, social, geographic etc) and that they should therefore not be overlooked by researchers. Many institutions specialised to law are, of course, also businesses, hence my email to you.

It appears from our preliminary research that legal business records are more at risk now than in the past. Most local archive repositories, as I am sure you know, are exceedingly strapped for cash in the current economic climate and may have to start refusing to accept business records unless a) businesses assume more responsibility for the sensible listing and conservation of their records prior to transfer and/or b) the archives are given some financial incentive to collect the records eg a donation by the businesses to help cover the cost of transfer and preservation.

I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest to see a black hole appearing in the UK’s legal/business history, given the enormous research potential of the records, and I see our project as having mutually beneficial effects for researchers, ourselves and archives. It would be valuable to hear your Associations views on all this, and particularly useful to find out just how business historians view the research potential of records of solicitors, barristers, arbiters, legal executives etc.


Clare Cowling
Associate Research Fellow and Project Manager
Legal Records at Risk Project
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
School of Advanced Study
Charles Clore House
17 Russell Square
clare.cowling @

Legal Records at Risk Project blurb.docx