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.
The American Law Institute was founded in 1923 following a study conducted by a group of prominent American judges, lawyers, and teachers known as "The Committee on the Establishment of a Permanent Organization for the Improvement of the Law."
The Committee reported that the two chief defects in American law — its uncertainty and its complexity — had produced a "general dissatisfaction with the administration of justice."
According to the Committee, the law's uncertainty stemmed in part from a lack of agreement on fundamental principles of the common law, while the law's complexity was attributed to the numerous variations within different jurisdictions of the United States. ALI's incorporators included Chief Justice and former President William Howard Taft, future Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, and former Secretary of State Elihu Root. Judges Benjamin N. Cardozo and Learned Hand were among its early leaders.
The Committee recommended that the first undertaking should address uncertainty in the law through a restatement of basic legal subjects that would tell judges and lawyers what the law was. The formulation of such a restatement thus became ALI's first endeavor.
One of the Committee’s suggestions was for a Restatement of the Law that “should not only be to help make certain much that is now uncertain and to simplify unnecessary complexities, but also to promote those changes which will tend better to adapt the laws to the needs of life.” A Restatement should be critical and constructive, and although largely based on statutes and decisions, “it should not be confined to examining and setting forth the law applicable to those situations which have been the subject of court action or statutory regulation, but should also take account of situations not yet discussed by courts or dealt with by legislatures….”
Between 1923 and 1944, Restatements of the Law were developed for Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Judgments, Property, Restitution, Security, Torts, and Trusts. In 1952, the Institute started the Restatement Second - works that covered subjects not included in the first Restatement, as well as new editions of the original Restatements that updated them and reflected new analyses and concepts.
A third series of Restatements was inaugurated in 1987; work on that series continues today. In addition to the initial subjects, the Restatements now include Foreign Relations Law of the United States, The Law Governing Lawyers, Suretyship and Guaranty, and Unfair Competition.
Principles are primarily addressed to legislatures, administrative agencies, or private actors. They can, however, be addressed to courts when an area is so new that there is little established law. Principles may suggest best practices for these institutions. 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.
For more than half a century, ALI has collaborated with the Uniform Law Commission in developing and monitoring the Uniform Commercial Code, a comprehensive code addressing most aspects of commercial law. Other Institute projects have resulted in the development of model statutory formulations, including the Model Code of Evidence and the Model Penal Code.
Visit the Projects page to learn about our current projects.
ALI celebrated its 90th anniversary by producing a video that describes the Institute’s work and its enduring influence on American law. Interviews include ALI President Roberta Cooper Ramo, ALI Director Emeritus Lance Liebman, and numerous judges, lawyers and academics, notably Third Circuit Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee, Fifth Circuit Judge Carolyn Dineen King, California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, and Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood.
ALI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in the District of Columbia.