John S. Elson

Professor of Law Emeritus
Director, Civil Litigation Center


John S. Elson, Professor of Law Emeritus, has been a member of the Northwestern faculty since 1976. He has taught courses in clinical practice, civil rights litigation, civil procedure, and trial practice. His major areas of interest in research and litigation have been education, civil rights, and attorney-client relations.

Professor Elson has an AB from Harvard University and JD and MA degrees from the University of Chicago. He has argued three cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and through his clinic law reform litigation has expanded the rights of prisoners, students, and divorce clients.

As the result of a research grant from the National Institute of Education, he published "A Common Law Remedy for the Educational Harms Caused by Incompetent or Careless Teaching," Northwestern University Law Review. Other articles include: "If the Profession Must Publish, Must the Profession Perish? On the Case for Making Education for Professional Competence Rather Than Scholarship Production the Paramount Mission of Law School," Journal of Legal Education; "Suing to Make Schools Effective," Texas Law Review; "Balancing Costs in Constitutional Construction: the Burger Court’s Expansive New Approach," American Criminal Law Review, and "The Regulation of Legal Education and the Potential for Implementing the McCrate Report’s Recommendation for Curricular Reform," Clinical Law Review.

A frequent speaker at professional workshops and seminars on clinical legal education and the law school accreditation process, Professor Elson has served on the Association of American Law Schools’ Professional Development Committee, on the Executive Committee of the AALS Section on Clinical Education and as Chair of the AALS Teaching Methods Section. He is a member of the Accreditation Committee and Bar Admissions Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar for which he also served as Chair of the Skills Training Committee NLaw Faculty 98-99, Northwestern University Law School John Elson is a clinical faculty member who has taught skills-related courses, engaged in a wide variety of law reform efforts, and developed clinic projects to protect the rights of disabled students, prisoners, and divorce clients. Through scholarship, work in the ABA accreditation process, and consultations with other law schools, he has sought to make legal education more responsive to students’ practice needs.

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Areas of Expertise

  • Dispute Resolution
  • Trial Advocacy
  • Civil Procedure
  • Negotiation

Selected Publications

  • The Case Against Collaborative Learning in the First-Year Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis Course, 13 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research And Writing 136-144 (2005).
  • The Governmental Maintenance of the Privileges of Legal Academia: A Case Study in Classic Rent-Seeking and a Challenge to our Democratic Ideology, 15 St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary 269-294 (2001).

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  • AB, Harvard University
  • MA, University of Chicago
  • JD, University of Chicago

Prior Appointments

  • Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Harry B. Reese Teaching Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Associate Professor of Law, 1976-1979, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, 1975-1976, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Staff Attorney-Clinical Fellow, 1971-1975, Mandel Legal Clinic, University of Chicago
  • Attorney, 1970-1971, Appeals and Review Division, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago
  • Attorney, 1968-1970, Legislative Services Branch, National Institute of Mental Health

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