|Credit: Library of Congress|
This is an introduction to “Louis D. Brandeis’s MIT Lectures on Law,” recently published for the first time by Carolina Academic Press. In the mid-1890s, Louis Brandeis taught a course on law to undergraduates at MIT. Brandeis later said, “Those talks at Tech marked an epoch in my own career.” At the time of the lectures, Brandeis had been practicing law for 15 years, had published the Harvard Law Review “Right to Privacy” article, was head of one of the nation’s most successful law firms, and had begun the public interest advocacy for which he would soon earn the title “The People’s Lawyer.” In the lectures, Brandeis presents his views of areas of law in which he would lead the country over the next five decades as activist lawyer and Supreme Court Justice — anti-trust, labor, privacy, criminal procedure, legal ethics, legislation, evidence, the judicial role, and jurisprudence. In some areas of the law, we see the foundations of Brandeis’s later work. In others, we find Brandeis taking positions that were the opposite of those he would take in the future. A careful examination of the lectures reveals that the “epoch” he identified in his career was his change of views as to the value of legislation. Prior to the lectures, Brandeis was a strong supporter of the common law and was skeptical about legislation. During the lectures, he grew to believe that legislation was a necessary response to the rapidly developing industrial and economic challenges of the day. He would become the foremost defender of legislation in the following century.