Professor Robert Scott

Robert Scott

  • Alfred McCormack Professor of Law

S.J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1973
J.D., William & Mary Law School, 1968
B.A., Oberlin College, 1965

Areas of Specialty

Contract Law and Theory

The director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Contract and Economic Organization, Robert Scott is an internationally recognized scholar and teacher in the fields of contracts, commercial transactions, and bankruptcy. He has co-authored six books on contracts and commercial transactions, including, most recently, The 3½ Minute Transaction: Boilerplate and the Limits of Contract Design (with Mitu Gulati). His many articles in leading law journals include six co-authored with Charles Goetz that set the standard for the economic analysis of contract law.

Scott served as the Justin W. D’Atri Visiting Professor of Law, Business, and Society at Columbia Law School from 2001 to 2006 and joined the Columbia Law School faculty full-time in 2006. In 2014, he assumed the role of interim dean of the Law School. Before joining Columbia, Scott was a member of the University of Virginia School of Law faculty from 1974 to 2006 and served as the school’s dean from 1991 to 2001. During his deanship, the School of Law embarked on a landmark capital campaign that raised more money at the time than any other law school in history; he oversaw a $50 million renovation of the law school’s grounds, developed innovative ways of promoting faculty scholarship and instituted several curricular enhancements.

Scott is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a life fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and a member of the American Law Institute. He was president of the American Law Deans Association from 1999 to 2001 and president of the American Law & Economics Association from 2014 to 2015. He has chaired the Association of American Law Schools’ Sections on Contract Law, Law and Economics, and Commercial and Consumer Law. As a J.D. student, he was editor in chief of the William & Mary Law Review, and from 2008 to 2016, he served on William & Mary’s governing board, after being appointed to the role by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.


  • Can Restitution Save Spiderless Networks?, 8 Harvard Business Law Review 1 (2018) (with Ariel Porat)
  • Variation in Boilerplate: Rational Design or Random Mutation?, 20 American Law & Economics Review 1 (2018) (with Mitu Gulati & Stephen Choi)
  • The Black Hole Problem in Commercial Boilerplate,” (with Stephen Choi & Mitu Gulati), 67 Duke Law Journal 1 (2017)
  • "The Common Law of Contract and the Default Rule Project," (with Alan Schwartz), 102 Virginia Law Review 1523 (2016)
  • From Contract to Status: Collaboration and the Evolution of Novel Family Forms,” (with Elizabeth S. Scott), 115 Columbia Law Review 293, 2015
  • Text and Context: Contract Interpretation as Contract Design,” (with Ronald J. Gilson and Charles F. Sabel), 100 Cornell Law Review 23, 2014
  • The 3 ½ Minute Transaction: Boilerplate and the Limits of Contact Design, (with Mitu Gulati), University of Chicago Press, 2013
  • Contract Law and Theory, (with Jody S. Kraus), LexisNexis, 2013, (5th edition)
  • Contract and Innovation: The Limited Role of Generalist Courts in the Evolution of Novel Contractual Forms,” 88 New York University Law Review 170, 2013
  • Rethinking the Laws of Good Faith Purchase,” (with Alan Schwartz), 111 Columbia Law Review 1332, 2011 
  • Foundations of Commercial Law, (with George G. Triantis), Foundation Press, 2010
  • Braiding: The Interaction of Formal and Informal Contracting in Theory, Practice, and Doctrine,” (with Ronald Gilson and Charles Sabel), 110 Columbia Law Review 1377, 2010
  • Contract Interpretation Redux,” (with Alan Schwartz), 119 Yale Law Journal 926, 2010
  • Contracting for Innovation: Vertical Disintegration and Interfirm Collaboration,” (with Ronald Gilson and Charles Sabel), 109 Columbia Law Review 431, 2009
  • Market Damages, Efficient Contracting, and the Economic Waste Fallacy,” (with Alan Schwartz), 108 Columbia Law Review 1610, 2008
  • Payment Systems and Credit Instruments, (with Clayton P. Gillette and Alan Schwartz), Foundation Press, 2007, (2nd edition)
  • Precontractual Liability and Preliminary Agreements,” (with Alan Schwartz), 120 Harvard Law Review 661, 2007
  • The Limits of Leviathan—Contact Theory and the Enforcement of International Law, (with Paul B. Stephan), Cambridge University Press, 2006
  • Anticipating Litigation in Contract Design,” (with George G. Triantis), 115 Yale Law Journal 814 (2006)

View an extended list of Robert E. Scott’s publications.