American Law Institute

American Law Institute

The American Law Institute (ALI) was established in 1923 to promote the clarification and simplification of American common law and its adaptation to changing social needs. The ALI drafts, approves, and publishes restatements of the law, model codes, and other proposals for law reform. The ALI is currently headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, next to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.


Restatements are essentially codifications of common law judge-made doctrines that develop gradually over time because of the principle of stare decisis. Although Restatements are not binding authority in and of themselves, they are highly persuasive because they are formulated over several years with extensive input from law professors, practicing attorneys, and judges. When done right, they reflect the consensus of the American legal community as to what the law is (and in some areas, what it should become).

Courts are under no formal obligation to adopt Restatement sections as the law. But they often do, because such sections accurately restate the already-established law in that jurisdiction, or on issues of first impression, are persuasive in terms of demonstrating what is the current trend that other jurisdictions are following.

In December 1923, Benjamin Cardozo explained the importance of the Restatements in a lecture at Yale Law School:

:When, finally, it goes out under the name and with the sanction of the Institute, after all this testing and retesting, it will be something less than a code and something more than a treatise. It will be invested with unique authority, not to command, but to persuade. It will embody a composite thought and speak a composite voice. Universities and bench and bar will have had a part in its creation. I have great faith in the power of such a restatement to unify our law. [Benjamin N. Cardozo, "The Growth of the Law" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924), 9.]


The reasoning behind Restatements is that there are some legal doctrines so well-established that it makes no sense to force lawyers and judges to cite a string of hoary old cases every time they wish to invoke such doctrines. Although there are treatises for some areas of the law that may be cited in place of a string of cases, treatise authors are human and treatises are not always perfect or reflect only one person's view as what the law is. Even worse, the cases cited for a particular principle may not actually fit together very well to form a coherent legal rule.

By citing a Restatement section, a lawyer avoids all these problems. Then the judge can look up that section, which includes a detailed discussion of all the common law cases that went into the principle summarized in that one section. [Cardozo, 7.]


Between 1923 and 1944, Restatements of the Law were developed for Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Judgments, Property, Restitution, Security, Torts, and Trusts. In 1952, the Institute started Restatement Second — updates of the original Restatements withnew analyses and concepts with and expanded authorities.

In 1987 the a third series of Restatements was started, with a new Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, The Restatement Third now includes Restatements of Unfair Competition, Property (Mortgages and Servitudes), Suretyship and Guaranty, Torts (Products Liability and Apportionment of Liability), and The Law Governing Lawyers. New Restatements on Agency, Property (Wills and Other Donative Transfers), Restitution and Unjust Enrichment, Trusts, Torts (Liability for Physical Harm), and Employment Law are also being developed as part of Restatement Third.

Also notable is the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a joint project of the ALI and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL).


* William Draper Lewis (1923-1947)
* Herbert Funk Goodrich (1947-1962)
* Herbert Wechsler (1963-1984)
* Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr. (1984-1999)
* Lance Liebman (1999-present)

ee also

Model Penal Code


External links

* [ The American Law Institute]

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