Robert S. Summers

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Robert Samuel Summers is the former William G. McRoberts Research Professor in the Administration of the Law at the Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY. Summers retired in 2011.


Robert Summers was born in Halfway, Oregon in 1933. Summers attended the University of Oregon and Harvard Law School.

Summers has won international acclaim for his work in contracts, commercial law, jurisprudence, and legal theory. Since he came to Cornell Law School from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1969, Summers has authored and co-authored multiple works on various legal topics with a focus on contracts and commercial law. His treatise on the Uniform Commercial Code, co-authored with Professor James J. White, is the most widely cited on the subject. His other influential works include texts on legal realism, form and substance in the law, and on statutory interpretation. Summers has served as official advisor both to the Drafting Commission for the Russian Civil Code and to the Drafting Commission for the Egyptian Civil Code. Professor Summers was recently named principal co-drafter of a new code of contract law for Rwanda. Summers lectures annually on jurisprudence and legal theory in Britain, Scandinavia, and Europe.

Summers taught contracts and American legal theory with his class mascot, "the particularistic contract snail," and last completed a book on the varieties of legal form and their importance in law, which is titled Form and Function in a Legal System: A General Study, published by Cambridge University Press.

He is well known among Cornell Law School students for his inquisitive, spirited use of the Socratic method in instruction.


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