Larry Ribstein, RIP

Geoffrey Manne —  24 December 2011

This morning our dear colleague, Larry Ribstein, passed away.  The intellectual life of everyone who knew him, of this blog, and of the legal academy at large is deeply diminished for his passing.

For me, as for many others, Larry was an important influence, not only intellectually but personally, as well.  Larry was the godfather of this blog, which got its start when a few of us, including Bill Sjostrom, Josh, Thom and me, pinch hit for Larry at Ideoblog in November 2005.  It took eight of us, including my dad, to fill his shoes, and still his traffic went down.  More than anyone else, Larry was instrumental in my decision to leave law teaching to work at Microsoft.  Completely unsure what to do and worried about how it would affect my ability to return to law teaching, I called Larry, who had no doubt.  He sealed the deal by pointing out that a move like that one would open some completely unanticipated, and potentially great, career paths and telling me not to worry so much about getting back to law teaching.  He was right, of course, and, thus also an important influence on the creation of the International Center for Law and Economics.  And Larry was a friend, one of those I always looked forward to seeing at ALEA and other conferences, more than once providing the necessary marginal incentive to attend.

We grieve for Ann, Sarah and Susannah and mourn his passing.

UPDATE:

The outpouring in the blogosphere from Larry’s friends, admirers, colleagues, and the like is, not surprisingly, moving.  As we find them and receive them from friends who ask us to post them here, we will continue to collect remembrances here.

Don Boudreaux

I didn’t know Larry very well, but on those four or five occasions when we were together at seminars I unfailingly learned from – and enjoyed – his contributions.  He was a scholar who wasted no words; every one – verbally from his mouth, and written from his keyboard – moved the discussion forward.

Saul Levmore

Larry’s passing is a sad and grave loss. I liked his independence of mind.

Daniel Martin Katz

This is a sad day for the American Legal Academy

Pejman Yousefzadeh

Professor Ribstein was a decent, kind man, who was also a brilliant scholar with penetrating insights. Academia in general–and legal scholarship in particular–will be poorer for his absence.

Francis Pileggi

Although I only “knew him through blogging” and via emails and cross-linking on each of our blogs, I feel a great loss and a void by his absence.

Cynthia Williams

It is hard to imagine the University of Illinois College of Law without Larry.

Champaign News-Gazette (with quotes from Andy Morriss, Nuno Garoupa, Henry Butler and Bruce Smith)

Friends and colleagues of Larry Ribstein say they’ll remember him as a first-rate legal scholar and original thinker who enjoyed debate and was an expert in business law.  They also recall him as a generous person who was a gifted photographer and an authority on movies and the law.

Washington Legal Foundation

Larry’s work, educational innovations, and always original scholarship were an inspiration to us at WLF, and we will miss him.

Federalist Society

A friend of the Federalist Society’s, Professor Ribstein was a man of great courage, intellect, and wisdom.

Alan Palmiter

We owe it to ourselves and especially to our students that Larry stay with us.

Tom Ginsburg

Larry was great colleague and friend, whose passion for ideas was simply unrivaled. we will miss him greatly.

Mark Peecher

Though invariably busy, Larry seemed to always say yes to big asks that involved substantial travel and time in order to speak with others on topical, important issues — a consummate academic citizen and scholar. Like so many of you, I shall greatly miss Larry Ribstein.

Walter Olson

Legal academia is in mourning for one of its most distinguished and multitalented figures, Larry Ribstein, a key scholar in corporate law and a provocative and rigorous exponent of law and economics thinking. Larry was an early blogger (at Ideoblog and more recently Truth on the Market), an influential critic of prosecutorial and regulatory excess, and a key voice in the debate on what law schools should do. He was also, I am grateful to say, an important friend of this site over many years.

Gordon Smith

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

Dave Hoffman

Larry Ribstein, who died earlier this week, was a galvanic force as a scholar and blogger.  I join those who’ve expressed sadness and loss at his untimely passing.

Ellen Podgor

He was an extraordinary scholar and a welcomed and strong member of the academic blogosphere

Peter Mahler

I am grateful that in this fashion I got to know Professor Larry Ribstein, who passed away unexpectedly last weekend at the peak of his prolific, dazzling career as a leading academic voice and mentor to many in diverse fields of business law and particularly in the area of unincorporated business entities.

Henry Manne

On a personal note, I have lost a delightful and valued friend, a professional and intellectual “son” who was not supposed to predecease his mentor, and my intellectual biographer . . . who taught me that I had said far more than I ever understood.  I join the others who loved Larry in sending our deepest sympathy and condolences to Ann, Sarah and Susanna.

Andy Morriss

Larry wouldn’t accept less than the best from anyone, including himself. We’re all the poorer for his untimely death; we’re all the richer for his body of work and his influence on so many. His kindness and generosity knew no bounds.  I suspect he’s already been named Associate Archangel for Research in heaven and doubled scholarly output there.

Keith Sharfman

Like everyone else, I am shaken by Larry’s untimely passing. He was a fine scholar and a truly nice person. His *generosity* is what I remember most about him, especially as relates to younger scholars.

Tom Kirkendall

Beyond his special intelligence and intellectual honesty, though, the trait that drew me most to Larry was his humanity. Although he decried how our government’s senseless criminalization of business was destroying jobs and hindering the creation of wealth, Larry cared even more deeply about the incalculable damage to executives and their families that resulted from the absurdly-long prison terms that were often the product of such dubious prosecutions. When family members of wrongfully prosecuted executives came upon Larry’s writings, many of them would reach out to Larry for support, which he generously provided to them. And I will never forget Larry’s touching note to me after he read a blog post that I wrote on the death of Bill Olis, Jamie Olis’ father.  Larry Ribstein – husband, father, lawyer, teacher, colleague, writer, counselor, friend.  A fine legacy, indeed.

Bill Sjostrom

Larry was a brilliant, prolific, and provocative scholar who will be sorely missed.

Paul Rubin

This news is devastating.  I had recently discussed his work on movies, and tried to induce him to edit a special issue for Managerial and Decision Economics.  Aside from his remarkable publishing record, his paper “Wall Street and Vine: Hollywood’s View of Business” shows that Larry had seen and remembered more movies than anyone I know.  A true tragedy.

Thom Lambert

Although I didn’t know him as well as some of my co-bloggers did, Larry very much influenced my own development as an academic. He provided excellent feedback on my own work, gave me my start as a law blogger (writing as a guest at Ideoblog), reinvigorated Truth on the Market, and continually educated, challenged, inspired, and entertained me with his prolific blogging.

J.W. Verret

When I think of what it means to be a legal scholar, in my head I will always have a picture of Larry Ribstein.

Josh Wright

The legal academy will be worse off for losing Larry’s voice as a scholar.  Larry will be greatly missed here at Truth on the Market, and as a friend.

Todd Henderson

I will miss him beyond words. I will consider it a life well lived if when I die there is at least one person left behind who feels as I do about Larry.

Larry Solum

I have fond memories of many long discussions with Ribstein.  He defended his vision of law with a tenacity and rigor that is rare, even among law professors.  Just a few days ago, Larry and I had planned to get together at the AALS meeting in Washington.  I will miss him!

Stephen Bainbridge

The first time I met Larry, I thought he would make a brilliant Mephistopheles. He was lean in body with sharp and angular facial features, ever so slightly swarthy, and somehow just a little scary. As I got to know him over many years, of course, I learned that he was a brilliant scholar with a wide array of interests, an incisive mind, a vast store of learning, and a talent for getting to the heart of the matter, but also that he was a great person and someone whose company was always a treat.

Ted Frank

But beyond the loss to legal scholarship is the loss of a good person. Larry was also a friend, but an intellectually honest one who wouldn’t hesitate to tell you when he thought you were wrong (which happened several times a year to me). But that made it all the more flattering when he demonstrated support, and he was an early supporter of mine when it was far from clear that my hare-brained quixotic scheme would accomplish anything. I’m going to miss him a lot. Condolences to his family and friends.

Kim Krawiec

Following up on Dan’s post, via Larry Solum comes the horrible, horrible news that Larry Ribstein passed away this morning.  This has shocked and devastated our household and much of the legal academy.  I’ve known Larry for many, many years.  He was a supportive senior colleague at the beginning of my career (and remained one until the end).  He was a prolific and interesting scholar with wide-ranging interests, from “uncorporations” to polygamy. He was also a good friend.  He’ll be missed by many.

Ilya Somin

No doubt there will be many analyses and appreciations of Larry’s outstanding contributions to scholarship over the coming days and weeks. My personal favorite among his many excellent works is his recent book The Law Market (coauthored with Erin O’Hara), which is perhaps the best recent book on the potential benefits of competition between state legal systems in American federalism. Larry is also well-known in the legal blogosphere for his insightful posts at Truth on the Market, where he wrote an excellent post on ABA accreditation of law schools just a few days ago.

Jeff Lipshaw

More than anything, he was alive with ideas and personality and pungent observations, whether or not you liked or agreed with them (and sometimes I didn’t).  I was proud of his praise and thanks when we finished our projects and proud that he was willing to have me as a writing partner.

Matt Bodie

I’m shocked, horrified, and saddened to hear of Larry Ribstein’s passing.  There will be time to consider his wide-ranging, innovative, and incisive scholarship in the days, months, and years to come.  For now, I offer my sympathy to his family and colleagues at Illinois.  A very sad day for legal and corporate law academia.

Nancy Rapoport

Not only was he exceptionally smart and creative, but he seemed like a very nice person.  I’ll miss reading his work, and my heart goes out to his friends and family.

Jonathan Adler

I was terribly saddened to learn that Professor Larry Ribstein suffered a stroke and died yesterday.  He was on the faculty when I studied at George Mason, though I never had the good fortune to have him as one of my professors.  I have, however, learned quite a bit from his scholarly and other writings, as well as from our occasional conversations.  He will be missed.

Erik Gerding

The label of “ideological” is often used pejoratively and casually to dismiss arguments.  But Larry was ideological in a truer sense.  He was committed to rigorously and systematically working out ideas, ideals, and their consequences.  Larry’s contribution to the academy far exceeded even his large body of scholarship.  I miss him.

C.E. Petit

Our politics did not match well, but our shared interest in the interface between individuals and their business interests led to some interesting exchanges over the years… and helped sharpen my thoughts on how authors and other creators of intellectual property should arrange their own business affairs.

Bruce Smith (Dean, University of Illinois College of Law)

Larry was a scholar of incandescent intellect, breathtaking range, and unflagging energy,” said Dean Bruce Smith. “He cared passionately about his students and about transforming legal education to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. He invested selflessly in the professional development of junior faculty members – whether at Illinois or at other institutions. He cared deeply about the College of Law and contributed incalculably to it through his ideas, his engagement, and his counsel. And he cherished his family with a love that was boundless. Larry was a towering figure and an incomparable person, and he will be dearly missed.

Stefan Padfield

Thus, while there is obviously much in terms of scholarship that Larry is worth remembering for, what I will primarily remember him for is his inspiring kindness.

Donald Clarke

So broad is Larry’s impact that it even reaches the field of Chinese law. He had been to China and was consulted on the drafting of (what else?) China’s Partnership Law.  It is truly sad that such a terrific scholar and colleague has been lost to us.

Renee Newman Knake

I met Larry just over a year ago while giving a talk at Illinois, and found him to be incredibly generous to me as a junior scholar, both in encouraging my work and offering an opportunity to participate in the recent Truth on the Market symposium Unlocking the Law: Deregulating the Legal Profession.

Geoffrey Manne

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20 responses to Larry Ribstein, RIP

  1. 

    Shocked to hear this. I met him only once in person at a conference in Lund, Sweden. Our views were very different but I found his scholarship to be unfailingly erudite and provocative. It sparked many debates in post-grad seminars. The Legal Academy will miss him. On behalf of the Law School at Queen’s University Belfast UK, I extend my sympathies to his family.

  2. 

    Prof. Ribstein was one of the few, truly great and profound law professors out there. He will be deeply missed.

  3. 

    I had been away from the blogosphere for a few days and was shocked and surprised to read this news. I did not agree with much of what Professor Ribstein wrote on deregulation of lawyers, but I admired how as an academic, he made his views so widely accessible. Over the next ten years, our profession will face many of the challenges and opportunities that Professor Ribstein addressed in his scholarship. It is so sad that we will not have the benefit of his wisdom moving forward.

  4. 

    I knew him fairly well, and respected him a great deal. His classes were no-nonsense and memorable, and fair. He was a fearless debater, and one of the most esteemed members of the GMU faculty back in the 1990s and was always available to those of us who were voraciously starved for more input in his field of study.

    Thanks for all the insight.

  5. 

    Larry was great colleague and friend, whose passion for ideas was simply unrivaled. we will miss him greatly.

  6. 

    May his memory be a blessing.

  7. 

    A fabulous colleague to so many (including me), Larry was a careful thinker who actively engaged in public debate. As he did so, he sharpened others’ thinking along the way. I was fortunate enough to visit over coffee with him several times, discussing about SOX, corporate governance, and financial statement auditing. Each time, I learned something new and valuable. Though invariably busy, Larry seemed to always say yes to big asks that involved substantial travel and time in order to speak with others on topical, important issues — a consummate academic citizen and scholar. Like so many of you, I shall greatly miss Larry Ribstein. If there is any good news here, I foresee glimmers and remembrances of Larry’s — his legacy of deep thought, quick wit and kindness will emerge again and again in the lives of his students and colleagues.

  8. 

    Although I didn’t know him as well as some of my co-bloggers did, Larry very much influenced my own development as an academic. He provided excellent feedback on my own work, gave me my start as a law blogger (writing as a guest at Ideoblog), reinvigorated Truth on the Market, and continually educated, challenged, inspired, and entertained me with his prolific blogging. Before he joined TOTM as a co-blogger, I had the privilege to review his book, The Law Market (co-authored with Erin O’Hara). The final paragraph of my review emphasized Larry’s ability to provoke thinking:

    “One of the most important metrics for evaluating the success of an academic work is the degree to which it sparks further questions. (Consider, for example, the scores of scholarly inquiries inspired by Ronald Coase’s articles The Nature of the Firm and The Problem of Social Cost.) Evaluated along this dimension, The Law Market must be deemed a smashing success. Among the many questions it inspires are: To what degree have law markets, like commodity markets, accommodated the needs and desires of niche groups? How have law markets “punished” suppliers of inferior products? By what precise mechanisms are judges, especially those who are not elected, motivated to honor parties’ choices of governing law? Can we better articulate substantive criteria for when courts should refuse to apply selected law? Inspired by The Law Market, I look forward to pondering those questions as I continue my own exploration of the law.”

    We will miss him.

  9. 

    We will certainly miss him dearly and will be impoverish by his absence. Resquiat In Pacem.

  10. 

    The world is a lonelier place without Professor Ribstein. I hope the Lord of Hosts is prepared for the challenge os some serious debate on cosmic issues.

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