Stewart Macaulay

Professor Emeritus


LL.B., Stanford Law School


Stewart Macaulay is internationally recognized as a leader of the law-in-action approach to contracts. He pioneered the study of business practices and the work of lawyers related to the questions of contract law. Yale's Grant Gilmore called him "the Lord High Executioner of the Contract is Dead Movement." Macaulay declined the honor and claimed to have said only that academic contract was dead while the real institution was alive and well. Also, he is one of the founders of the modern law and society movement. His Mitchell Lecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo paraphrased Gertrude Stein and asked, "Law and the Behavioral Sciences: Is There Any There There?" He cautioned both against dismissing the enterprise and claiming too much.

Professor Macaulay has written extensively on subjects ranging from lawyers and consumer law to private government and legal pluralism. He has been published in such places as the Wisconsin Law Review, Law & Society Review, and Law & Policy. He authored Law and the Balance of Power: The Automobile Manufacturers and Their Dealers, and co-authored Law in Action:  A Socio-Legal Reader with Lawrence Friedman and Elizabeth Mertz, and Contracts: Law in Action, with John Kidwell, Bill Whitford and Marc Galanter. In 1996, he published Organic Transactions: Contract, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Johnson Building. In this study of the performance of a contract, Macaulay drew upon, among other things, correspondence between his father-in-law who was the General Manager of S.C. Johnson & Co. and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Johnson company and Wright had many disputes, but they did not attempt to resolve them by asserting contract rights as they are taught traditionally in law schools.

Professor Macaulay, who teaches Contracts I & II and Sociology of Law, was President of the Law and Society Association from 1985 to 1987. In 1995, he won LSA's Harry Kalven Prize. He was the Director of the Chile Law Program of the International Legal Center in Santiago during 1970 and 1971. He was a member of the Board of Advisors to the Reporter for the Restatement (Second) Contracts of the American Law Institute. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He was married to Attorney Jacqueline Macaulay, who held a Ph.D. and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She died in January of 2000.  Now and then tales from her practice reminded him of the realities of the law in action. The Macaulays have four children: Monica, John, Philip and Laura. Laura graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in the class of 1996 that had to cope with the remodeling of the building for two years. In his spare time, Macaulay listens to his very large collection of Duke Ellington compact disks. He enjoys reading mysteries and spy stories, and he is suspected of pushing this habit onto his colleagues at every opportunity. His Presidential Address to the Law and Society Association was called: "Images of Law in Everyday Life: The Lessons of School, Entertainment, and Spectator Sports." He argued "we must study the symbols related to law found in American culture." He concluded: "Perhaps, best of all, I no longer need feel guilty as I watch the Badgers, Bucks, Brewers, and Packers struggle with so little success. It's not wasting time. It's research." Since this was written, at least some of his teams have found great success. Nonetheless, he insists that research opportunities remain as the sports pages more and more become law reviews.

Scholarship & Publications


Law Repository


  • Elizabeth Mertz co-wrote “Law in Reality, Law in Context: On the Work and Influence of Stewart Macaulay” with Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Friedman. Their essay appears in the book, "Stewart Macaulay: Selected Works," published in 2020.

  • Stewart Macaulay has been chosen as the Distinguished Annual Lecturer for 2009-10 by the J. Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University, based on a life of achievements in law. Macaulay’s lecture, presented on October 1, 2009, was titled "A Contracts Crisis? It Ain’t Necessarily So."

  • William Whitford and Stewart Macaulay posted their co-authored paper, “Hoffman v. Red Owl Stores: The Rest of the Story,” on SSRN (the Social Science Research Network) as a working paper.

Teaching Areas

  • Contracts
  • Law & Society
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