January 05, 2012
Larry Ribstein: In Memoriam
Posted by Christine Hurt

[HIllary Sale was kind enough to ask me to say a few words in Larry's honor at the beginning of the AALS Business Associations Section Meeting this afternoon.  Below are my remarks.]

I will begin with a movie, which is fitting.  Larry and I often spoke about movies.

At the end of Sherlock Holmes 2:  A Game of Shadows, Dr. Watson is finishing his chronicle of his exploits with Sherlock Holmes and refers to Holmes as both the greatest champion of the law of his generation and the greatest and wisest man he had ever known.  When I watched this movie days after Larry's passing, I realized that I had lost my Sherlock Holmes.

Larry and Sherlock Holmes had a lot in common.  Both were brilliant; both were keen observers of detail.  Both had encyclopedic knowledge of a vast array of diverse topics:  law, busines, economics, science, film, art, books, and music.  Like Holmes, Larry had an amazing analytical mind and astounding deductive powers.  He was a confident champion of his own theories, but he always demanded that data and facts precede theories.  On the other hand, both men could be brusque, unfashionably frank and lovably crotchety.

As news of Larry's unexpected passing spread, many of our colleagues began to post their stories of Larry on Facebook and on various blogs, including this one.  Many of these stories, particularly from junior-ish professors, begin with some variation of "I met Larry when he told me I was wrong."  These stories usually end with "Larry was right" or at the very least "Larry made my article better."  I also have a story like that, but I have lots of other stories, too.  I was incredibly lucky to have Larry as a mentor and a faculty colleague here at the University of Illinois, but I was every more lucky to have Larry as a friend and neighbor.  I have lots of stories, and I am very sad that I will never have more than I have now.

In the months to come, no doubt academics will take the opportunity to talk and write about Larry's voluminous body of scholarship.  However, I hope that we will also take the time to talk about the project he was most excited and impassioned about:  the future of legal education and the legal profession.  This was not a hobby or an academic interest for Larry -- he was genuinely concerned about the future of the legal profession.  He believed that the law industry was changing permanently and that law schools had to adapt to that new reality.  He believed that we had to change to equip our students and make them competitive in this brave new law world.  I hope that we take up this torch for him.

At the climax of Sherlock Holmes 2, Holmes notes that if he and Watson are successful in their plan (to thwart an assassination attempt), they will avert the destruction of Western Civilization, after which he adds "No pressure."  Larry believed that we had to change our law schools in order to avert the destruction of the legal profession.  Again, no pressure.

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