Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Drake Law School: 150 Years of Preparing Students: Research

Technology First

"Drake is the only law school in the nation, at the present time, to have a computer center with both Lexis and WestLaw."
— "Happenings at Drake University Law School" in 45 News Bull. 12 (1985). (This is the pre-cursor to the Iowa Lawyer magazine published by the ISBA.)


Today it is difficult to imagine creating any edited paper or publication without a computer. As pictured below, members of the 1980-81 Drake Law Review used typewriters to prepare articles for the printer.

Members of the 1980-81 Drake Law Review use typewriters to prepare the issue.


Computer Access

Now ubiquitous, computers were once a rarity. Consider this item from the Nov-Dec. 1970-Jan.1971 issue of the ISBA's News Bulletin: "...with information supplied by the Judicial Statistician, in cooperation with Drake University Law School and the Drake University computer, the proposed plan [for judicial district redistricting] was finally arrived at." ("Board of Governors in December Meeting" at p. 3) (emphasis added)

Opperman Computer Law Center images

In 1985 the Opperman Computer Law Center opened at Drake Law School, as pictured above. The center included both Westlaw and Lexis research training centers (a first in the nation), as well as an AT&T Information Systems computer laboratory with 17 AT&T PC 6300 personal computers. The grand opening ceremony included a ribbon-cutting by donor Dwight Opperman (LW 1951) and Governor Terry Branstad (LW 1974).


Drake Law Students use library computer lab in 2003

When Opperman Hall and Law Library opened in 1993, it became the home for the school's computer labs. Pictured above, students work in the Perkins Computer Classroom in 2003. At one point, the library housed four separate computer classrooms/labs, as well as other banks of computers located throughout the building. As mobile personal computing proliferated, the library consolidated its labs to two separate stations, as well as additional desktops throughout the building.


The new portable Macintosh computer in 1989

Above, the new portable Macintosh computer is shown off at Drake's 1989 computer law symposium.


Books still play an important role in legal research. However, there was a time when books and other print materials were the only players and researchers took notes long-hand. The following photo appeared in the 1955 Quax, the Drake yearbook, with the caption "Law Personified."

Drake law student surrounded by books

Electronic Research

As electronic legal research, originally called computer-assisted legal research (CALR) blossomed, initial access was through CD-ROMs and dedicated terminals with dial-up access, such as Drake's Westlaw and Lexis terminals pictured below.

Student working on Westlaw terminal circa 1985

Drake's old dedicated Lexis terminal


The development of the Web significantly changed online legal research. Today, in addition to web-accessible subscriptions, legal researchers also use apps to conduct research anywhere. Below, 1Ls Mary Rose Shelley (f) and Shannon Holmberg (b) use a tablet and a laptop as they study in the law library in 2015.

Drake law students work on tablet and laptop

The Law Library

Law Library in Carnegie 1959

Law Library in Carnegie circa 1975

Moving to Opperman in 1993


National Library Week 2007 Putting for Prizes

Tax Room 2012

Reference Tables 2014

Law Library Web Site · Locator Guide & Maps · Hours · Interlibrary Loan · Ask A Librarian

Drake University Law Library • 2604 Forest Ave. • Des Moines, Iowa 50311-3014