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“About the middle of the century William Blackstone, then a disappointed barrister, began to give lectures on English law at Oxford (1758), and soon afterwards he began to publish (1765) his Commentaries. Accurate enough in its history and doctrine to be an invaluable guide to professional students and a useful aid to practitioners, his book set before the unprofessional public an artistic picture of the laws of England such as had never been drawn of any similar system . . .

This was far from all. The Tory lawyer little thought that he was giving law to colonies that were on the eve of a great and successful rebellion. Yet so it was. Out in America, where books were few and lawyers had a mighty task to perform, Blackstone’s facile presentment of the law of the mother country was of inestimable value. It has been said that among American lawyers the Commentaries “stood for the law of England,” and this at a time when the American daughter of English law was rapidly growing in stature, and was preparing herself for her destined march from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.”
“English Law,” The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition

Fast forward two hundred years in view of that Pacific Ocean, and the legal self-help movement in the United States made a giant leap forward, in the tradition of William Blackstone’s efforts to explain the law to the unprofessional public.
In the late 1960s, two legal aid lawyers who were working to help low-income families in the San Francisco Bay Area put together a legal self-help publishing company called Nolo. From its beginnings, Nolo has “advocated for a more open and democratic legal system” in addition to publishing do-it-yourself workbooks on a wide variety of legal topics. has a robust web presence, and all of its products are available in an electronic format.

The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries are pleased to offer you remote access to over 300 full-text self-help law books online provided through Nolo, “the nation’s oldest and most-respected provider of legal information for consumers and small businesses.” Come into one of the seventeen Trial Court Law Libraries, and get a library card to access these online books.

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