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The American Law Institute and Penn Law School: A Legacy of Partnership

December 01, 2010

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ALI Reporters with William Draper Lewis (standing) in Northeast Harbor, Maine, undated.


Last spring, the American Law Institute (“ALI”) created an internship designed for second-year students at Penn Law School to gain familiarity with the mission of the organization.  The initiative represents the most recent example of a long-standing partnership between the Institute and Penn Law School.The American Law Institute was founded in 1923 in response to a perceived uncertainty and complexity in American law. An association of practitioners and scholars known as the “Committee on the Establishment of a Permanent Organization for Improvement of Law” published a study that recommended an organization be formed to improve the law and its administration.  William Draper Lewis was a member of this committee and was elected the Institute’s first Director.  A longtime professor at Penn Law School and, at the time of his appointment, the institution’s Dean, Lewis described the lofty aim of the American Law Institute in a 1923 report to the membership as follows:We speak of the work which the organization should undertake as a restatement; its object should not only be to help make certain much that is now uncertain and to simplify unnecessary complexities, but also to promote those changes which will tend better to adapt the laws to the needs of life.Although he had plenty of help, Lewis is generally credited as being the main driver behind the Institute’s mission and philosophy.  The Institute’s headquarters were originally operated out of Lewis’ office at the Law School.


In its early days, ALI counted among its members many leading figures in law at the time:  Elihu Root, Learned Hand, Benjamin Cardozo, and William Howard Taft were founding members.  In addition to Lewis, there were other Penn Law notables who were affiliated with the Institute during its early days.  George Wharton Pepper was a long-time officer in the ALI, most notably serving as ALI President from 1936 to 1947, and as the Institute’s first Chairman of the Council from 1947 to 1960.  Pepper was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and Pennsylvania senator who taught at the Law School from 1882 to 1910.  Herbert F. Goodrich, who was Institute Director from 1947 to 1962 and participated in many projects, was Dean at Penn Law School from 1929 to 1940.  William E. Mikell was a member of an early committee that acted as a kind of pre-cursor to the Institute’s incorporation.  Mikell, who succeeded Lewis as Dean from 1914 to 1929, was an expert in criminal law who served as Co-Reporter on ALI’s Model Code of Criminal Procedure.  His fellow reporter on this project was his colleague at Penn Law, Edwin R. Keedy, a long-time and esteemed professor at the Law School and Dean from 1941 to 1945, and for whom the Keedy Cup is named.

Other notable officers associated with Penn Law include Bernard G. Segal, who was Institute Vice President and Treasurer at various times.  Segal was an alumnus of the Law School and member of the Penn Law Board of Overseers from 1956 to 1962.  More recently, Geoffrey Hazard, who was Director of the Institute, has taught at Penn Law School since 1994.  The Law School continues to have connections to the Institute.  Professor Stephen R. Perry has been a member of ALI since 1998.  Curtis R. Reitz, who is Emeritus, has written publications for ALI-ABA.  The Institute even counts among its members Dean Michael A. Fitts.
Given the historical partnership between Penn Law and ALI, it should come as no surprise that the Institute’s archives are located here.  Since 1995, we have received regular transfers of historical materials–in print and digital format–which we process and make available to our worldwide community of researchers.  Researchers come to the ALI Archives expecting to uncover the story  and influence of ALI.  What many of them also receive is a history lesson in Penn Law.
If you are interested in learning more about the ALI Archives, you can peruse our online finding aids or contact Jordon Steele.