Who Is Roscoe Pound?

The Pound Civil Justice Institute was established in 1956 as the Roscoe Pound–American Trial Lawyers Foundation by a group of lawyers to honor and build upon the work of Roscoe Pound (1870–1964). Pound served as Dean of the Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936, and is acknowledged as the founder of sociological jurisprudence – an interdisciplinary approach to legal concepts in which the law is recognized as a dynamic system that is influenced by social conditions and that, in turn, influences society as a whole.

Roscoe Pound, by Patricia Marshall Tate

Dean Pound was a true renaissance figure. Originally educated as a botanist, he maintained a lifelong interest in the natural and social sciences, jurisprudence, linguistics, and literature. He was admitted to the bar in his native state of Nebraska after completing only one year of Harvard Law School. His connection with the consumer bar was cemented when he was engaged in 1953 to serve as the editor–in–chief of the law journal of the National Association of Claimants‘ Compensation Attorneys (NACCA) – the precursor to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) and today‘s American Association for Justice (AAJ).

Dean Pound receiving an award from the West Virginia Trial Lawyers
Association. To his right was Tom C. Clark, Associate Justice of the
Supreme Court of the United States.

After Dean Pound retired from NACCA, a group of its members established the Foundation, and Pound himself was active in setting out its mission. He donated his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, to house the NACCA Law Journal offices and to preserve his extensive library. In 1969, the Foundation funded the construction of a new building in Cambridge to house itself and ATLA, and Chief Justice Earl Warren laid the corner stone.

 Cornerstone of the Roscoe Pound-American Trial Lawyers
Building, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969

Through an emphasis on excellence in legal research and education, a commitment to open debate among all those who love the law, a practice of including accomplished practitioners from the defense side in our judicial education programs, and a focus on multidisciplinary explorations, the Pound Institute helps to continue the legacy of Dean Roscoe Pound -- truly, one of the giants of American law.