Chancellor James Kent

A Career Symbolizing the Chicago-Kent Tradition

Painting of Chancellor James KentIIT Chicago-Kent is named after Chancellor James Kent, whose professional life symbolized the main features of the Chicago-Kent tradition. Chancellor Kent was the first professor of law at Columbia College, appointed in 1793 before Columbia University instituted its law school. He also was a practitioner, having served 25 years as a state judge in New York, before he became a law professor. Chancellor Kent invented legal scholarship, presenting a series of lectures at Columbia in the 1820s, and then publishing them as the Commentaries on American Law, characterized by one recent writer as "the most influential American law book of the ante-bellum period." [Actually he had practiced law before becoming a law professor, but he became a judge after he became a law professor and pursued both careers simultaneously.]

Kent was an internationalist in that he helped rationalize the use of English precedent in the formative era of American law. He was also a pioneer in the use of information technology to shape law. He consciously and energetically steered American judges and lawyers to rely on written case reports, using the then still relatively new ink-on-paper publishing technologies as a channel for the dissemination of legal knowledge, rather than the earlier tradition of relying on personal knowledge of extemporaneous decisions delivered from the bench.

Chicago-Kent follows in each of these traditions. The law school seeks to combine legal scholarship in the production of intellectual capital with effective education of professional practitioners—the generation of human capital. It seeks to enhance understanding of new relationships between foreign and American legal institutions and traditions as the globalization process accelerates. It is a pioneer in using new information technologies to enhance the dissemination of legal information and legal education of law students, as well as the public, practitioners, and policymakers.