Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 4:10pm to 6:00pm
VC 101

2015 Cecil A. Wright Memorial Lecture

Robert Gordon

“Caesar” Wright’s Legacy:  The Necessarily Uneasy Relation Between Legal Education and Legal Practice."

In 1957 C.A. (“Caesar”) Wright and his colleagues won the fight they had waged for decades to take control of educating lawyers from the benchers of the Law Society and to relocate it in university-based law schools staffed by full-time academics.  The issues apparently settled in that fight have recently been reopened, as the downturn in the legal job market has caused many lawyers to question whether law schools adequately prepare their graduates for practice, and to urge the schools to do more vocational training and less academic research.  These are valid concerns; and the schools should respond (as most are now doing) by paying more attention to practice, but in ways that preserve the schools’ distinctive missions to understand how the legal system works and to help the profession serve its ultimate goals of achieving justice and realizing the public purposes of law.    


Professor Robert W. Gordon is a preeminent legal historian, with expertise in evidence, the legal profession, and law and globalization. He has written extensively on contract law, legal philosophy, and on the history and current ethics and practices of the organized bar. Professor Gordon is known for his key works, The Legacy of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1992), and Storie Critiche del Diritto (Critical Legal Histories) (1995), and is editor of Law, Society, and History: Themes in the Legal Sociology and Legal History of Lawrence M. Friedman.

Professor Gordon received his BA from Harvard University and his JD from Harvard Law School. Before going to law school, he worked as a newspaper reporter and served in the U.S. Army. Following law school, he served in the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts (1971). Professor Gordon taught previously at Stanford Law School in 1983-1995, and most recently, he was the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School. He also taught at the University of Buffalo Law School SUNY and the University of Wisconsin, and was a visiting professor at Harvard University, Oxford University, the University of Toronto, and the European University Institute.

Professor Gordon has served on several American Bar Association and Connecticut Bar task forces on professional ethics and practice and on the Advisory Board of the Legal Profession Program of the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation). He also is a past president of the American Society for Legal History. His forthcoming publications include: Lawyers of the Republic; Taming the Past: Law in History and History in Law (essays on legal history and the uses of history in legal argument); and The American Legal Profession, 1870-2000.

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