Roswell (Rod) B. Perkins served as the sixth president of the American Law Institute (ALI) from 1980 to 1993. His President Files are available for research in the Archives of the American Law Institute at the Biddle Law Library.
“I hardly need to articulate how much my involvement with the American Law Institute has shaped my life and how much it has meant to me.” -Perkins to the ALI Council, 2008 
Roswell (Rod) B. Perkins served as the sixth president of the American Law Institute (ALI) from 1980 to 1993. Perkins was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1926. He received his undergraduate degree in 1945 and law degree in 1949 from Harvard. For most of his career, Perkins worked at the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton, where he was named partner in 1957.
When reflecting upon his first exposure to the American Law Institute Perkins shared,
“[W]hen I was a law student, I found the Restatements to be my very best tutor when boning up for an examination, such as an exam in torts or contracts. I would run to the library shelf in quest of clarity and simplification, having been totally confused by the professor’s reliance on the Socratic method – which produced no answers.” 
Perkins became a member of the ALI in 1964. He served as president of the institute for thirteen years, and as Chair of the Council from 1993 to 2008. During his presidency, he was instrumental in drafting the Principles of Corporate Governance: Analysis and Recommendations. He also worked to secure a stronger financial base for the ALI by raising an Endowment Fund. The institute honored his contributions with the ALI Distinguished Service Award in 2008.
The Roswell B. Perkins President Files were first added to the archives of the American Law Institute at the Biddle Law Library in 2000, with additional files donated in 2022.
The collection documents the span of Perkins’ work with the American Law Institute. The papers include correspondence with other members and subject files on projects. A substantial amount of material covers the drafting of the Principles of Corporate Governance: Analysis and Recommendations.
The ALI’s Corporate Governance Project began in earnest in 1980 and took twelve years to complete, spanning nearly all of Perkins’ presidency. In a tribute to Perkins, Erwin Griswold stated,
“Under his leadership, the project on Corporate Governance was undertaken, though it was known that this might give rise to controversy. When controversy did arise, Rod handled it with great skill and wisdom, bringing the full force of his ability and personality to bear on the issues, while advancing modifications which ameliorated the problems without abandoning the major objective.” 
Perkins’ collection includes correspondence on the project’s progress, his comments on early drafts, notes from meetings with advisors, and correspondence with the American Bar Association and the Business Roundtable.
The collection also contains files on other initiatives, such as correspondence on the Special Committee on Member Participation, the Third Restatement, the Federal Securities Code, and fundraising. There are many folders of correspondence with the American Bar Association, including discussions on the relationship between the ALI and the ABA. There are also Perkins’ notes on the history of the ALI and his reflections on his own work, including a 1990 report titled “Reflections on a Decade” where Perkins’ wrote about his experiences as ALI president.
Rod Perkins passed away in March 2019 at the age of 92. The Roswell B. Perkins President Files, 1959-2010, document his dedication to the mission of the American Law Institute and his contributions to the legal profession. The collection has been processed and a finding aid is available online.
Please contact the Biddle Archives and Special Collections Department with any questions about the Roswell B. Perkins President Files or visiting the archives.
 Perkins acceptance speech for the ALI Distinguished Service Award, 2008 (Roswell B. Perkins President Files Box 25, Folder 10)
 Perkins opening remarks to law students, circa 2000s (Roswell B. Perkins President Files Box 25, Folder 10)
 Griswold, Erwin “Roswell Burchard Perkins” The American Law Institute 1993 Proceedings, page 477 (Roswell B. Perkins President Files Box 22, Folder 17)