Emily Kadens

Professor of Law


Professor Kadens joined the Northwestern faculty in 2013.  Prior to coming to Northwestern, she taught at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was the Baker and Botts Professor in Law.  Kadens specializes in pre-modern European legal history. Her current research focuses on the historical problem of how custom functioned as law, the history of bankruptcy, and early modern commercial law. Her article on the history of judicial education in England won the 2010 Sutherland Prize from the American Society of Legal Historians for the best paper in English legal history, and her article on an early eighteenth-century bankruptcy scam won the 2011 Editors' Prize from the American Bankruptcy Law Journal.  In 2012, Kadens was a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress doing research on medieval theories of custom and for the Spring Semester of 2013 she received the Richard & Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant at George Washington University Law School.  She teaches contracts, sales, Roman law, and legal history. Prior to beginning her teaching career, Kadens clerked for the Honorable Danny J. Boggs, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Areas of Expertise

  • Contracts
  • Sales
  • European Legal History

Selected Publications

  • Myth of the Customary Law Merchant, 90 Texas Law Review 1153 (2012).
  • The Pitkin Affair: A Study of Fraud in Early English Bankruptcy, 84 American Bankruptcy Law Journal 483 (2010) (awarded ABLJ 2011 Editors’ Prize).
  • The Last Bankrupt Hanged: Balancing Incentives in the Development of Bankruptcy Law, 59 Duke Law Journal 1229 (2010).
  • The Puzzle of Judicial Education: The Case of Chief Justice William de Grey, 75 Brooklyn Law Review 143 (2009) (awarded 2010 Sutherland Prize).
  • Justice Blackstone’s Common Law Orthodoxy, 103 Northwestern Law Review 1553 (2009).

View All Publications


  • JD, University of Chicago
  • PhD, Princeton University
  • MA, Princeton University
  • Diplôme, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • MA, University of Chicago
  • BA, University of Chicago

Prior Appointments

  • William G. and Virginia K. Karnes Research Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
  • Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
  • Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University
  • Baker and Botts Professor in Law, University of Texas
  • Assistant Professor of Law, University of Texas

Back to Faculty