December 25, 2011
In Memory of My Friend and Mentor, Larry Ribstein
Posted by Gordon Smith

Larry Ribstein presented a paper in a conference at Lewis & Clark Law School in October 1996. I was a young corporations professor, and he was already a big name in the field. We had recently tussled in an email forum on limited liability companies -- which Larry subsequently edited and published in The Business Lawyer -- and I was not sure what to expect of him in person. Those who knew Larry understand that he could be rather direct in defending his views (or, as Larry Solum observed, he "defended his vision of law with a tenacity and rigor that is rare, even among law professors"), and, truth be told, I was a bit afraid of him. Over the two days of the conference, however, I found myself increasingly drawn to him at meals and during the breaks. The second day of the conference involved a trip up the Columbia Gorge and then to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood for dinner. Larry and I spent much of that day talking, cementing a friendship that I count as one of my most treasured in the academy.

Over the ensuing 15 years, Larry and I often presented at the same conferences, and we usually sat together to watch and discuss the presentations. We collaborated on various blogging adventures, and I was looking forward to seeing him next week at the AALS Annual Meeting. Isn't it amazing and wonderful that so many of us could feel this sense of intimate connection to him? 

How is that possible?

As I have reflected about Larry's passing over the past day, I realize that he was my friend because we shared a love of ideas, and he was my mentor because he taught me the importance of getting those ideas right. A few years back, I presented a piece called "Unlimited Shareholder Power" at a symposium at Notre Dame. Larry was also on the program, and after my presentation, he immediately approached with with some comments. I knew that he would not be enamored with my proposals, which finally appeared in print this fall, but I am still struck by the generosity of his comments. He seemed quite taken with my idea that each corporation could become a "laboratory of corporate governance," and we played with that idea for some time.

This type of interaction was the norm with Larry Ribstein. He was all about developing great ideas. And I loved him for that.

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