Roscoe Pound, legendary legal scholar and longtime dean of the Harvard Law School, contributed significantly to the education of many of America’s leading members of the legal profession. Born in Lincoln on October 27, 1870, Nathan Roscoe Pound was considered a child prodigy who possessed a phenomenal memory. He entered the University of Nebraska at age thirteen and received his doctorate degree in botany while still in his teens. He studied law at Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts, only one year and returned to Lincoln in 1890, passed the bar exams, and established a law practice. Still interested in botany he directed the Botanical Survey of Nebraska from 1892 to 1903.
Beginning in 1899, Pound taught law at the university and from 1903 to 1907 served as the dean of its law department. In 1901 he also became secretary of the Nebraska State Bar Association and commissioner of appeals of the Nebraska Supreme Court. In 1904 he served as Nebraska commissioner of uniform state laws. He left Nebraska to teach at Northwestern University, followed by a position at the University of Chicago. He returned to Harvard in 1910 as a law professor. In 1916 he began his long and distinguished career as dean of the law school, an honored position he held for two decades. After his retirement in 1936, Pound continued with a “roving professorship” and taught a variety of law subjects until 1947.
An innovative educator, Pound introduced the case system of teaching law, a method that emphasized the analysis of selected representative cases rather than depending wholly on textbooks. He profoundly influenced large numbers of American lawyers. He died in Boston on July 2, 1964. He was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1976.