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COLLECTION Identifier: LAW-MMS-290

Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from Looking at the Law


Assorted material documenting 42 years of Neil Chayet's Looking at the Law radio program, including: physical and digitized episode transcripts; physical and digitized audio recordings; born-digital audio recordings; and related additional material.

Please see the following documents for instructions and access to the collection's digital material:
  • Research guide providing instructions on how to access the collection's digital material and to search all of the transcripts by keyword.
  • Master document containing links to digitized transcripts and audio recordings from individual episodes of Looking at the Law.
  • Dates

    • 1976-2017


    Conditions Governing Access

    Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to Historical & Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


    10.5 linear feet (7 Paige boxes of manuscript material, 4 boxes of physical audio material)
    2598 digital audio files (2598 digital audio files)
    The Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from Looking at the Law spans the years 1976 to 2017. This collection of educational radio programs documents the entire 42 year history of Neil Chayet's Looking at the Law, which aired in Massachusetts on WEEI Radio Station from 1976 through the late 1970s, and on WBZ Radio Station until the program's end in 2017. It was also eventually broadcast nationally on affiliated CBS Radio Network stations, and was distributed internationally by the United States Armed Forces Radio Service.

    The collection includes 10,651 typed paper transcripts, more than 6,400 individual audio recordings contained on 154 tapes/CDs and several gigabytes of digital files, and 2.5 linear feet of additional material including rough draft transcripts with handwritten corrections by Neil Chayet, calendars, and certificates of recognition. Also included is a copy of Neil Chayet's Looking at the Law, published in 1981.

    Each transcript and its related audio recording (if available) represent a single episode of Looking at the Law, and were all written in advance of being recorded for radio airplay. Each episode – all written and recorded by Neil Chayet – consists of a rapid summary of an interesting (and often quirky) court case, the recorded versions of which typically last about one to two minutes. The audio recordings all open with the host stating: “this is Neil Chayet, looking at the law,” with the L’s drawn out for effect. The end of each episode (transcript and audio recording) ends with a humorous pun summarizing the case. Episodes of Looking at the Law aired Monday-Friday (with few exceptions) with new/original episodes broadcast each day for the majority of the show's existence, and reruns airing only sporadically. The only exception being 2017, which is predominantly reruns.

    Most (but not all) transcripts contain a chronological script number and broadcast date in the upper-right corner, and feature the episode title in bold above the body of the text. Perhaps of special interest are the legal citations to the case featured in a given episode, which appear near the bottom of the page on many (but not all) transcripts.

    All transcripts in Series I. and all available audio recordings (Series II.) have been digitized to increase access to the collection. Please note that the audio fidelity represents the quality of the recordings found on the original tapes, CDs, and digital files, and varies from recording to recording. Furthermore, while the overwhelming majority of Looking at the Law episodes (transcripts and/or audio recordings) can be found in this collection in some form, gaps do exist. Approximately 115 transcripts (out of more than 10,000) are missing. The audio recordings are less comprehensive, with gaps existing throughout the collection, and significant gaps existing from 1979-1990 and 1999-2004.

    Please see the following documents for instructions and access to the collection's digital material:
  • Research guide providing instructions on how to access the collection's digital material and to search all of the transcripts by keyword.
  • Master document containing links to digitized transcripts and audio recordings from individual episodes of Looking at the Law.
  • Biographical / Historical

    Neil Lewis Chayet (1939-2017) was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1939. He was the son of a district court judge (Ely Chayet) and received his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in 1960 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School (HLS) in 1963. Following his graduation from HLS, Chayet pursued a legal career focused primarily on medical law and worked on several high-profile cases over the next decade, including serving on the psychiatric task force for the Boston Strangler murders investigation, and as a lawyer representing inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital in the late 1960s regarding invasion of privacy concerns stemming from the documentary “Titicut Follies”.

    Neil Chayet began his radio career as the host of “Looking at the Law” on April 1, 1976. Originally airing on Boston radio station WEEI, the daily program switched over to WBZ Radio 1030 (owned by CBS) sometime during the mid-to-late 70s, and was eventually broadcast nationally on various affiliated CBS Radio stations, as well as internationally via the United States Armed Forces Radio Service. Chayet recorded and hosted every episode of the program (more than 10,000 in all) until its end on June 30, 2017.

    Beyond his careers as a lawyer and radio personality, Neil Chayet was a faculty member of both the Harvard Medical School and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts. He also later served as an advisor to Massachusetts Governor William Weld during the 1990s, and was president of the Chayet Communications Group, Inc. Neil also served on the Board of Advisors of the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at M.I.T., the Board of Visitors at the Peabody Essex Museum’s Phillips Library, and the Massport Security Advisory Council. He also appeared occasionally on television, including a recurring “Looking at the Law” spot on WBZ-TV (Boston), and guest appearences on various shows, including: Oprah Winfrey, Montel Williams, Dick Cavett, and Nightline.1

    Neil Chayet passed away on August 11, 2017.

    1. “About Neil,” Looking at the LawTM, last modified June, 30, 2017,

    Series List

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Series I. Episode Transcripts, 1976-2017
    2. ___Subseries I. 1970s, 1976-1979
    3. ___Subseries II. 1980s, 1980-1989
    4. ___Subseries III. 1990s, 1990-1999
    5. ___Subseries IV. 2000s, 2000-2009
    6. ___Subseries V. 2010s, 2010-2017

    7. Series II. Audio Recordings, 1976-2017
    8. ___Subseries I. 1970s, 1976-1979
    9. ___Subseries II. 1980s, 1980-1989
    10. ___Subseries III. 1990s, 1990-1999
    11. ___Subseries IV. 2000s, 2000-2009
    12. ___Subseries V. 2010s, 2010-2017

    13. Series III. Additional Material, 1976-2016
    14. ___Subseries I. Rough Draft Transcripts , 1967-2016
    15. ___Subseries II. Miscellany, 1981-2015, bulk 1995-2015

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Martha Chayet in July, 2018.

    Processing Information

    The Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from Looking at the Law was surveyed and inventoried by archivists from the Harvard Law School Library’s (HLSL) Historical & Special Collections department during the spring and early summer of 2018. At this time, the paper transcripts from Looking at the Law (Series I.) were stored in three-ring-binders organized by year, with each transcript organized in chronological order, while the physical audio material (cassette and DAT tapes, and CDs) was in a very loose chronological order. The collection, along with funding to digitize the transcripts and audio recordings, was generously donated to HLSL by Neil's wife, Martha Chayet, and arrived at HLSL on July 9, 2018, along with several boxes of rough draft transcripts and other additional material, which were also in a loose chronological order. Several thousand digital files (primarily audio files of individual LatL episodes from 2007-2017) were also retrieved from Neil Chayet's personal computer by HLSL archvists in the fall of 2018.

    The material in this collection was handled, edited, and reorganized by a large number of individuals from 1976 to its arrival at HLSL, including: various assistants and interns working for either Neil Chayet or WBZ/WEEI radio stations over the course of four-plus decades; as well as Martha Chayet, and her assistant. As a result, other than the official episode transcripts found in Series I., the rest of the collection was reorganized thematically and chronologically in the absence of a usable original order. All paper materials were removed from their original containers (binders, boxes, and folders) and placed into new folders and boxes with appropriate folder names. The physical audio material was also re-boxed in a more accurate chronological order. All reorganization of the collection was done with the approval of the donor. All physical materials in Series I. and Series II. have been digitized and made available via this finding aid and the collection's Master Document.

    The collection was arranged, digitized, and made accessible by staff in HLSL's Historical & Special Collections and Digital Lab departments, as well as by Harvard Imaging Services and Media Preservation Services.
    Link to catalog
    Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from Looking at the Law, 1976-2017: Finding Aid. HOLLIS 99153687141903941
    Chris Spraker
    Description rules
    EAD ID

    Repository Details

    Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

    Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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