An Exceptional Teacher

I have just read of Professor Chayes’s death and offer this modest contribution.

Those of us who, as his students, encountered Abe Chayes early in his teaching career still remember his astonishingly quick intelligence, which was, however, much more than just mental agility. With probing wit and equal charm, he challenged us to think in new ways. You have to belong to my generation to appreciate how apt was the sobriquet of “Shadow” Chayes, affectionately conferred on him, for in our youth, the Shadow had the advertised ability in a nightly radio program “to cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see him.”

Yet, for all his brilliance (a word he would no doubt disdain my using), I will treasure another memory of Abe Chayes. It was his understanding of the varying capacities of lawyers-to-be to absorb this rigorous instruction. In December 1957, when the members of his first-year class in civil procedure were about to depart during the holiday period for what some of them regarded as essential escape, he too decided that relief was in order. He entertained us with a highly inflected reading from Bleak House, illustrating that not all litigation was meant to be expedited. And at the end of the year, he tried to reassure the skeptical that, while grades might seem all-important, they would not be the ultimate determinants of professional success and satisfaction.

As I enter retirement some 42 years later, I pay the warmest tribute possible to an exceptional teacher of the law and of lawyers.