How the Institute Works

Not familiar with ALI’s work and how it comes to fruition? Below is an overview of how projects are developed. For more information, view our style manual.

What are ALI Projects?
The Institute’s mission is “to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its better adaptation to social needs, to secure the better administration of justice, and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal work.” It achieves this goal through the development of Institute projects, which are categorized as Restatements, Codes, or Principles.

Restatements are primarily addressed to courts and aim at clear formulations of common law and its statutory elements, and reflect the law as it presently stands or might appropriately be stated by a court. Although Restatements aspire toward the precision of statutory language, they are also intended to reflect the flexibility and capacity for development and growth of the common law. That is why they are phrased in the descriptive terms of a judge announcing the law to be applied in a given case rather than in the mandatory terms of a statute.

Principles are primarily addressed to legislatures, administrative agencies, or private actors. They can, however, be addressed to courts when an area is so new that there is little established law.

Codes (model or uniform) are addressed to legislatures with a view toward legislative enactment. They are written in prescriptive statutory language.

How are ALI Projects selected?

  1. Project ideas are generated by the Director and the Projects Committee; suggestions from members are considered.
  2. The Director investigates a potential project and develops a project proposal, which usually includes a prospectus from a proposed Reporter or Reporters.
  3. The project proposal is presented to the Projects Committee for its advice and recommendation to Council, which approves the project and the Reporter(s).
  4. An invitational conference may be held, before or after the Council approves the project, to discuss the scope of the project and to assist in the identification of potential Advisers.

Who works on ALI Projects?

Reporters structure the project, prepare drafts, and present drafts to Advisers and MCGs for discussion. Most Reporters are law professors.

Reporter Ward Farnsworth (Economic Harm Torts) shares what it’s like to be an ALI Reporter and what advice he would give to future Reporters.

Advisers are recommended to Council by the Reporter(s), Director, and Deputy Director. This diverse group of subject matter experts makes a commitment to review the Drafts and provide input to Reporters. Input may be provided at project meetings or by email to the Reporters. Email comments usually are shared with other participants.

Members Consultative Group (MCG) participants are ALI members who volunteer to join project discussions at any stage of a project’s life cycle. MCGs members are not necessarily experts in the project’s area of law, but provide a vital perspective, as they read the drafts the way the project’s intended audience would read the drafts. MCG participants may provide input by attending project meetings and/or submitting email comments.

How does an ALI Project become ALI’s official position?

  1. Reporters prepare a Preliminary Draft of a substantial segment of the project for meeting of project participants who provide comments at a project meeting or in writing. Participant comments are considered and incorporated into future drafts.
  2. When a Preliminary Draft is ready for consideration by the Council, the Reporter prepares a Council Draft. This Council Draft is also sent to the project participants for their review and comments.
  3. If the Council approves the draft: The Reporter prepares a Tentative Draft, incorporating any revisions directed by the Council, for review and approval by the membership at an Annual Meeting.
    The Reporter prepares a Discussion Draft of revised material if the Council concludes that a draft is not ready for vote by the membership but would benefit from discussion at an Annual Meeting. The Discussion Draft eventually is revised and resubmitted as a Tentative Draft.

ALI projects typically contain black letter, comments, illustrations and Reporters’ notes. Comments explain the black letter. Reporters’ Notes discuss the legal and other sources relied upon by the Reporter in formulating the black letter and Comments, and enable the reader better to evaluate these formulations; they also provide avenues for additional research. Reporter’s Notes are not voted on by Council or members and are not necessarily the official opinion of the Institute.

If the approval of Tentative Drafts was subject to extensive or structural changes, the Reporters may be asked to prepare a Proposed Final Draft of the entire work for review and approval by the Council and membership.

The steps above continue until each segment of the project has been approved by both the Council and the membership.

After the entire work is approved by the Council and the membership, the Reporters, subject to the Director’s oversight, prepares the Institute’s official text for publication.

Once a draft or section is approved by the membership at an Annual Meeting and Council, it is a statement of the Institute’s position on the subject. The ALI website has guidance on approval status and on proper citation.

Drafts may be cited in opinions or briefs before the official text is published.