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Archives and Special Collections

The Archives of Biddle Law Library preserves, promotes, and provides access to the archives of The American Law Institute (ALI), and the National Bankruptcy Archives (NBA), as well as a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and Penn Law historic records.

**Beginning 3/12/2020 Biddle Archives is canceling all on-site research visits until further notice and will have limited availability for remote research requests.

About the American Law Institute

The American Law Institute is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and improve the law. ALI drafts, discusses, revises, and publishes Restatements of the Law, Model Codes, and Principles of Law that are enormously influential in the courts and legislatures, as well as in legal scholarship and education. By participating in the Institute’s work, its distinguished members have the opportunity to influence the development of the law in both existing and emerging areas, to work with other eminent lawyers, judges, and academics, to give back to a profession to which they are deeply dedicated, and to contribute to the public good. 

History:

The American Law Institute (ALI) 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 a lawyers’ organization be formed to improve the law and its administration. The committee was chaired by Elihu Root and counted Learned Hand, Benjamin Cardozo, and Samuel Williston among its members.

The ALI was conceived as a representative gathering of the American bar (including judges, lawyers, and law professors) for the stated mission “to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its better adaptation to social needs, to secure the better administration of justice and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal work.” Former Penn Law Dean William Draper Lewis was the Institute’s first director, running the organization’s operations out of his campus office.

ALI Projects: 

The Institute engages in intensive examination and analysis of legal areas thought to need reform. This type of study generally culminates in extensive recommendations for change in the law and usually is published as  Principles of the Law . These projects have dealt with topics such as Aggregate Litigation, Corporate Governance, Family Dissolution, Software Contracts, Transnational Civil Procedure, Transnational Insolvency, and Transnational Intellectual Property, as well as a proposed revision of selected portions of the Federal Judicial Code.

In addition, from 1947 to 2012 the ALI worked with the American Bar Association to provide continuing legal education to lawyers, via a joint venture named American Law Institute-American Bar Association Continuing Professional Education (ALI-ABA). Inspired by the need to refresh returning WWII lawyer-veterans on the law, ALI-ABA provided the first national program of post-admission legal education and underscored the importance of continuing education to all lawyers. In 2012, by mutual agreement, the ALI and the ABA chose to move forward separately in their CLE efforts, with the intellectual content of ALI-ABA being absorbed into the CLE group of the ALI.

Description of the Collections:

The Archives of the American Law Institute (ALI) are located at the Biddle Law Library at Penn Law. Under the terms of a custodial agreement between the Institute and the University, the archives were moved from the Institute to the Biddle Law Library in May 1994 and are currently maintained by the Library’s Archives Department. The collection contains records of the Institute since its inception in 1923, as well as the archives of American Law Institute-American Bar Association on Continuing Professional Education, an educational program administered by the Institute since 1947 to 2012. The collection consists of over 500 linear feet. The largest portion of material relates to the creation of the Restatements of the Law and the Uniform Commercial Code and contains drafts, meeting minutes, audio tapes, and correspondence. There is also material from all fo the other codes and projects, including the minutes of the Council and the Executive Committee.

Major Collections

The Institute’s first project was a comprehensive Restatement of the Law, completed in 1944. The nine broad areas of the common law analyzed and restated were Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Judgments, Property, Restitution, Security, Torts, and Trusts. In the 1950s, the Institute began work on the Second Restatement series, which updated the original Restatements, reflected new analyses and concepts, and expanded upon the authorities used in reaching the conclusions set forth. The Second Restatement also treated some subjects not included in its predecessor, such as Foreign Relations Law and Landlord and Tenant Law. In 1987, the Institute began its Third Restatement of the Law and work on that series continues.

Eventually, the ALI grew to encompass other projects in addition to the Restatements, codification projects such the Model Code of Evidence and Model Penal Code. Since 1944, the Institute has cooperated with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in developing and monitoring the Uniform Commercial Code, or UCC. 

This collection is comprised of papers compiled by individuals who were involved with the American Law Institute as reporters for various projects. These projects include things such as the Restatement of Torts or the Complex Litigation Projects, and the collection is largely made up of things such as correspondence, drafts, comments, or meeting transcripts.

In 1989, the American Law Institute began producing videotaped oral history interviews with individuals who were active in the Institute's affairs. The project is ongoing. The Oral Histories Record Group, 1989-1993, includes video oral history recordings with Herbert Wechsler (1989 April 13), Homer Kripke (1989 September 9), and A. James Casner (1990 May 16). Each oral history has a corresponding transcript. Also included is a typewritten transcript of an oral history with Paul Wolkin (1993 July 8 and 26).

There are multiple collections concerning annual meetings held by the American Law Institute, which primarily include correspondence, addresses and remarks, reports on codification projects and other ALI-related activity, annual meeting programs, yearbooks, proceedings, and related records regarding activity at the meetings. In addition, there are records concerning the American Law Institute Council, similarly including things such as minutes, correspondence, and other related records. There is also a "Reel-to Reel Audio" collection containing recordings of ALI meetings, including not only the annual and council meetings, but also project meetings as well.