Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chicago Law and the "Tradition of Restraint"

Here’s a brief note, mostly for my fellow University of Chicago law alumni, that draws upon a few fugitive hours I spent recently in the Laird Bell papers. It is based on correspondence, as 1940 turned into 1941, between Laird Bell, a masterful lawyer and graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and its then-dean Wilbur Katz  “I was admitted with some other lawyers into the presence of the Assistant Attorney General [Thurman] Arnold the other day in Washington,” Bell reported to Katz, “in a room suggestive of Mussolini’s famous office.  Arnold led off by saying that we had a great law school, that the boys were much more alert in their questioning than the students at Yale or Harvard, and that he was delighted with the atmosphere of the institution.”  In acknowledging Bell’s note, Katz asked whether Arnold had also said, as he had on other occasions, that the Chicago boys were “not as personable” as Yale or Harvard graduates.  “Less polished,” Bell replied.  Arnold “apparently felt that there was a tradition of restraint in the eastern institutions not so prevalent on the Midway.”