Vanderbilt Law Review

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In 1923, a group of lawyers, judges, and teachers met to consider the desirability of forming the American Law Institute ("ALP) and of undertaking its ongoing project of restating the law. They began their deliberations with the recognition that the legal system had serious failings' and that the public was generally dissatisfied and skeptical about the justice it dispensed. The central difficulty with the system of justice, they thought, was the fact that legal outcomes were so uncertain. Uncertainty, they argued, made the legal system cumbersome, expensive and inaccessible; it denied justice to litigants and discouraged legitimate activities. The reasons for this uncertainty were many. Among them, the prospectus noted:

"the lack of agreement among the members of the legal profession on the fundamental principles of the common law, lack of precision in the use of legal terms, conflicting and badly drawn statutory provisions .... the great volume of recorded decisions, the ignorance of judges and lawyers and the number and nature of novel legal cases."

These were understood to be serious problems, but, as serious as they were, the solution seemed right at hand. After all, these were precisely the kinds of problems that a group of well intentioned and capable lawyers might effectively address. What was needed, they thought, was an opportunity for the "best" lawyers to work together in an atmosphere that was free from the need to rep- resent the interests of particular clients. Freed of partisan interests, the participants would be able to use objective measures of rational discourse to find agreement, develop precision, and clarify legal doctrines. The result would be a series of restatements that would rally the legal community around correct statements of legal principle.

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