In Memoriam: Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr.

4 Min Read By: Keith R. Fisher

How does one commemorate a career full of content and commitment?

On January 11, 2018, the Professional Responsibility Committee, the Business Law Section as a whole, and indeed the entire American legal community lost a good friend. Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr., Professor Emeritus, prolific author, distinguished scholar, former executive director of the American Law Institute, and former Business Law Advisor, passed away at the age of 88.

Geoff’s was a storied teaching career, spanning over 50 years. He grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri and graduated from Swarthmore College and Columbia Law School. He taught law at Yale, the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, Hastings, from which he retired in 2013. Though his interests in the law were wide-ranging (he once taught at course entitled “Western Moral Concepts”), his principal areas of academic interest were civil procedure and legal ethics.

His choice of these areas of concentration, as he recounted in a 2014 interview with Business Law Today, was not deliberate but purely adventitious. Originally slated to teach torts at Boalt Hall in the 1950s, he switched to civil procedure when a staffing problem created a need in that discipline. “It was a lucky break for me,” he said. He never looked back.

Similarly, an accident of fate led him to the field of legal ethics. Concurrently with a move in 1964 to teach at the University of Chicago, Geoff became executive director of the American Bar Foundation, which led to involvement in the drafting of the Model Code of Professional Responsibility. He went on to be the principal draftsman of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct in 1972 and the reporter for the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 1983.

It is well known that all of us take a professional responsibility course in law school as a mandatory prerequisite to the awarding of a law degree. Ethics credit is also a mainstay of many states’ mandatory continuing legal education (CLE) requirements. What is less well known is that inclusion of ethics in the core curriculum and in CLE is due to Geoff’s efforts to gain widespread recognition of the central importance of this subject.

The list of influential treatises and casebooks co-authored by Professor Hazard is impressive. Prominent among them are The Law of Lawyering (4th ed. 2015) with W. William Hodes and Peter R. Jarvis; The Law of Ethics of Lawyering (6th ed. 2017) with Susan P. Koniak, Roger C. Cramton, George M. Cohen, and W. Bradley Wendel; and Legal Ethics: A Comparative Study (2004) with Angelo Dondi. Also of particular interest to our Section’s readership, and exemplary of the breadth of Geoff’s interests, is Board Games: The Changing Shape of Corporate Power (1988) with Arthur Fleisher, Jr. and Miriam Z. Klipper, a book that examined the transformation of industry, finance, and corporate governance by the M&A wave of the 1980s.

Characteristic of Geoff’s collaborative nature was this marked preference for co-authorship. As he explained in his 2014 Business Law Today interview, “[Y]ou have to talk about your ideas with your colleague. Typically, that results in seeing things that you wouldn’t have seen if you didn’t have the conversation.”

Collaborative efforts were also, of course, at the heart of his work when he succeeded Herbert Wechsler as the fourth executive director of ALI. Serving for 15 years in that capacity, Geoff’s stewardship saw the completion of many important projects, including the Principles of Corporate Governance and the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law, and the initiation of new or updated Restatement projects in a host of areas, including Agency, The Law Governing Lawyers, Property, Restitution, Suretyship, Torts, Trusts, and Unfair Competition. He was also involved in the parturition (and increasing globalization) of several Principles of the Law projects, including Family Dissolution, Transnational Civil Procedure, and Transnational Insolvency.

For all his immense learning, Geoff was a quiet and reserved member of the Professional Responsibility Committee, but he was a reliable participant. Even when age, infirmity, or the press of other commitments prevented him from attending meetings in person, he regularly communicated his thoughts and was tremendously helpful to me during my tenure as chair of that committee. He was invariably supportive of our efforts and complimentary of the work we did when advising the Section on resolutions proposed for consideration by the House of Delegates.

Geoff Hazard’s imprint on legal ethics, and on the American legal system in general, is immanent. He was a gentleman, a scholar, a mentor, a counselor, and a friend. He will be sorely missed.

By: Keith R. Fisher


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