The American Law Institute (ALI) developed from an idea that originated during a meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. In the early 1900s, judicial decisions and common law grew at such a rate that lawyers and judges were not able to keep up with it. The decision was made to form a committee of prominent lawyers, judges, and law school professors who would thoroughly examine basic legal subjects and write statements based upon the judicial decisions reviewed. ALI was thus founded in 1923. Its mission, as set out in its charter, is "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."
Some of ALI's members have included former President William Howard Taft, Secretary of State Elihu Root, U.S. Senator George Wharton Pepper, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo. Various bar associations' presidents as well as well-respected legal scholars who were known for their expertise in certain areas of law have also been included in ALI's ranks. Some of the more well-known past-members of ALI are Arthur L. Corbin, Herbert F. Goodrich, William Draper Lewis, Roscoe Pound, Austin W. Scott, John H. Wigmore, Samuel Williston, and Charles Alan Wright.
Since its founding, ALI has worked to develop multiple series of Restatements of the Law, which have grown to encompass over ten legal subjects. It has also constructed model codes, like the Uniform Commercial Code and the Model Penal Code. More recently, ALI has examined and analyzed legal concepts it believes need reform and has called these projects Principles of the Law.
For more information on the founding of the American Law Institute, see Elihu Root, The Origin of the Restatement of the Law, 3 Okl.St.B.J. 308 (1932). For further study, a comprehensive bibliography of works about the founding and early years of the American Law Institute can be found in The American Law Institute 50th Anniversary (also available in print).
For more information on ALI and its projects, see www.ali.org.
The University of Pennsylvania is host to the archives of the American Law Institute. Find out more from UPENN's Biddle Law Library Archives and Special Collections website.