Bernard Hibbitts

Professor of Law


Bernard Hibbitts is Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of JURIST, the law student-powered legal news service he created at the Law School in 1996 that has since won multiple awards and accolades, including a 2006 Webby. Trained as a legal historian, his teaching and scholarship focus on the history of lawyering in the West (from ancient times to the present day) and the multiple roles lawyers have played in American culture. He is especially interested in how shifting communication techniques and technologies – e.g. speech, writing, print and electronic media – have shaped legal practice, education and thought, and he has published several articles on the legal significance of performance, orality, visuality and the senses.

His current research agenda includes the following topics:

  • correspondence law schools and the history of technological innovation in American legal education;
  • cross-border migrations of lawyers from and into the United States (e.g. the emigration of Loyalist lawyers during and after the American Revolution; the emigration and return of Confederate lawyers after the Civil War; the immigration of Canadian lawyers to the US in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries); 
  • the role of lawyers in the development of American militarism; 
  • the relationship between legal professionalization, social protest and poetry in 14th century England; 
  • lawyers as revolutionaries.

Professor Hibbitts attended law school at England's Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar after taking undergraduate and graduate degrees in Canada in political science and international relations. He later obtained additional law degrees at Dalhousie Law School in his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the University of Toronto (specializing in Canadian legal history), and finally Harvard Law School (specializing in American legal history), where he was Associate Editor of the Harvard International Law Journal. Selected in 1983 as a law clerk for Chief Justice Bora Laskin of the Supreme Court of Canada, Hibbitts clerked for incoming Justice Gerald Le Dain after Laskin’s death in office.

Hibbitts' innovative use of multimedia presentations, role-playing, and other creative teaching techniques has earned him the Pitt law students' Excellence-in-Teaching Award, and the University-wide Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award. From 1996-2000 he was Pitt Law's Associate Dean for Communications and Information Technology.

Hibbitts has addressed multiple academic and professional audiences in the United States and Canada. His scholarship has been published in Law and History Review, New York University Law Review, University of Pittsburgh Law Review, University of Toronto Law Journal, McGill Law Journal, Law Library Journal, Serials Review, Wired magazine and elsewhere, and is widely available on the Internet. Two of his articles on the historical connections between American and Canadian lawyers and legal cultures have been included in volumes published by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. He has also written for the National Law Journal, First Monday and other news and opinion journals. In 1996, he became the first law professor to personally publish a full-length scholarly article online before submitting it to a traditional law review. That article, Last Writes?: Re-assessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace, recommended that to expedite publication, broaden distribution of their ideas and achieve greater editorial and creative control over their own work, legal scholars should post their scholarship directly to online archives or websites. Last Writes became the subject of a special law review symposium and remains controversial, despite the growing dominance of SSRN as a first-instance scholarly publication platform, not to mention the development of scholarly legal blogs.

Key/Recent Publications


  • JURIST Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, 1996-present. From the website: “JURIST is a Web-based legal news and real-time legal research service powered by a mostly-volunteer team of over 30 part-time law student reporters, editors and Web developers led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.”


  • Review of Hawke, Jason, Writing Authority: Elite Competition and Written Law in Early Greece. H-Law, H-Net Reviews (Feb. 2012).

  • The Technology of Law, 102 Law Library Journal 101-115 (2010).
  • Her Majesty's Yankees: The Use of American Authorities in the Courts of Victorian Nova Scotia, The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia: 250th Anniversary Commemoration, (Jim Phillips & Philip Girard ed., University of Toronto Press, 2004).
  • 'Our Arctic Brethren': Canadian Law and Lawyers as Portrayed in American Legal Periodicals, 1829-1911, Essays in Canadian Law, Vol. VIII: In Honour of Richard Risk, (Blaine Baker & Jim Philips, eds., University of Toronto Press, 1999).
  • Legal History Meets the World Wide Web, 17 Law & History Review 385 (1999).
  • Yesterday Once More: Skeptics, Scribes and the Demise of Law Reviews, 30 Akron Law Review 277-320 (1996).
  • Last Writes? Re-assessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace, 71 New York University Law Review 615-688 (1996).
  • Senses of Difference: A Sociology of Metaphor in American Legal Discourse, Law and the Senses, (Lionel Bentley and Leo Flynn [King's College, London] eds., 1996: Pluto Press).
  • Making Motions: The Embodiment of Law in Gesture, 6 Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 51-81 (1995).
  • Making Sense of Metaphors: Visuality, Aurality and the Reconfiguration of American Legal Discourse, 16 Cardozo Law Review 229-356 (1994).
  • The Politics of Principle: Albert Venn Dicey and the Rule of Law, 23 Anglo-American Law Review 1-31 (1994).
  • 'Coming to Our Senses': Communication and Legal Expression in Performance Cultures, 41 Emory Law Journal 873-960 (1992).
  • A Change of Mind: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Board of Railway Commissioners, 1903 1929, 40 University of Toronto Law Journal 60-113 (1991).
  • Progress and Principle: The Legal Thought of Sir John Beverley Robinson, 34 McGill Law Journal 454-529 (1989).
  • A Bridle for Leviathan: The Supreme Court and the Board of Commerce, 21 Ottawa Law Review 65-117 (1989).
  • ILJ Survey: Curricula, Extracurricular Activities and Placement Programs in International Law, 29 Harvard International Law Journal 299-316 (1988) [with Robert Johnson, Teresa Burke and Perpetua Tranlong; unsigned].
  • The Impact of the Iran-Iraq Cases on the Law of Frustration of Charterparties, 16 Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce 441-466 (1985).

Selected Presentations:

  • Presenter, “Who Do We Think We Are? (Re-)Discovering the History of Lawyers,” Western Pennsylvania Law Librarians Association, (Jan. 2012).


JURIST - Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

Other Activities

  • Co-Director, University of Pittsburgh Center for National Preparedness, 2004-06
  • Board of Directors, Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), 1999-2004
  • Editorial Board, H-Net (American Society of Legal History legal and constitutional history listserv and website), 1998-99
  • Organizer, Speakers/ Contributors for the Univ. of Pittsburgh Law Review symposium on the history of the Pittsburgh legal profession (”The Steel Bar”).
  • JURIST Publisher & Editor-in-Chief.
  • Recruiter, Represented Pitt Law at Canadian law student recruitment fair.
  • Moderator, Conference: Assessing the Contributions and Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to Africa and International Criminal Justice.