Norman Abrams (1955)  
Remarks for the Centennial Celebration of the University of Chicago Law School

It has been half a century since I entered the Law School. Yet, the vividness of my time there is still with me, as well as a feeling of attachment to classmates whom I have seen only occasionally in the intervening years.

Extraordinary how three years could have had such an impact. We had an unusual array of outstanding teachers—Llwelleyn, Mentschikoff, Meltzer, Kalven, Levi, Blum, Kurland, Currie, Sharp, Katz, Dunham, Crosskey, and Teft—the classroom was a place where intellectual sparks were struck and indelible impressions were left. In my mind’s eye, I can conjure up images of each of them, as if the classroom experiences occurred only yesterday.

Who can forget the time Karl Llewellyn came into class, read to us from Learned Hand’s “Spirit of Liberty” address, then stopped in mid-sentence, with tears in his eyes, and said, “ I can’t go on…” and walked out of the classroom, leaving us sitting there dumbstruck, but with a memory that would last throughout our lives. Who can forget Edward Levi sitting in and heckling from the rear in a class Aaron Director was teaching. Who can forget Harry Kalven’s classic baseball Torts hypotheticals.

In the intervening years, I have spent more than four decades on the faculty of another first-rate law school. Perhaps, because I pursued a career in law teaching, the Law School may have had a more direct effect on specific aspects of my professional life than on those of my classmates who followed other careers in the law. Did I become a law professor because of my experience at the Law School? This would be too simple an explanation; who can account for cause and effect in the various choices we make in life?

But in my teaching, I tried to model myself after some of my teachers at the Law School and in my research and scholarship, I was inspired, too, by their example. There were numerous times, too, in the course of the past 40 years, when in addressing issues of educational policy or curriculum or other issues that came before the faculty of my school, I would think back to my time at Chicago.

The Law School was for me a very special place. From all reports and information that I have, it still is. I can only wish that the legal education that my own students receive leaves them with as strong and lasting an impression and as warm feelings about their alma mater as mine did.

Norman Abrams
Professor of Law
UCLA Law School