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Arthur Linton Corbin


Arthur Linton Corbin

Arthur Linton Corbin (1874–1967) was a professor at Yale Law School and a scholar of contract law. He helped to develop the philosophy of law known as legal realism, and wrote one of the most celebrated legal treatises of the Twentieth century, Corbin on Contracts.

Early life

Corbin was born in Linn County, Kansas, on October 17, 1874. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1894 and briefly taught high school in Augusta, Kansas and Lawrence, Kansas. He earned his law degree from Yale Law School in 1899, graduating magna cum laude. Following graduation from Yale, he practised law in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Corbin returned to Yale Law School in 1903 to serve as an instructor in contract law.

Career at Yale

Corbin became a full professor at Yale Law School in 1909, a position he would hold until his retirement from teaching in 1943. During his time at Yale, he was strongly influential in turning the law school into the center of legal scholarship it is known for today. He convinced the administration to hire more full-time professors and enact more selective admission criteria, and helped to implement and popularize the casebook method of legal study created by Christopher Columbus Langdell at Harvard Law School.

Scholarship and writings

Corbin wrote extensively in the field of contract law. His most famous work was the treatise Corbin on Contracts, the original version of which was eight volumes long (though it has since been expanded). This treatise is still used today in American law schools and cited in law journals and judicial opinions.

Corbin subscribed to the philosophy of legal realism, the idea that law was the product of human efforts and society. He believed that in resolving contract disputes, judges should examine not just the "four corners" of the legal document itself, but the intention of the parties, as evidenced by the course of dealing and course of performance between the parties, as well as the customs of the trade and business community. Corbin felt that the main purpose of a contract was to protect the reasonable expectations of each party.

Corbin's views are frequently contrasted with those of fellow contracts scholar Samuel Williston, who was more of a formalist in his thinking. Williston served as the reporter for the First Restatement of Contracts, but Corbin's contributions were more evident in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts, which he worked on until his retirement from legal study at age 90, due to failing eyesight. Corbin died at age 93, in 1967.

Corbin's scholarship heavily influenced the drafters of the Uniform Commercial Code, particularly the work of Karl Llewellyn, who had previously studied under Corbin.

Works by Corbin

External links

  • Entry on Corbin from Thompson-Gale legal encyclopedia, courtesy of Jrank
  • Arthur Linton Corbin: A Giant in the Law with Tenth Circuit Roots from the Tenth Judicial Circuit Historical Society

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