Thomas Shaffer

Thomas Shaffer

Robert and Marion Short Professor Emeritus of Law

Thomas L. Shaffer, the nation’s most prolific legal author, has written more than 300 scholarly works in his varied areas of expertise including estate planning, law and religion, legal ethics, and most recently, clinical teaching and legal counseling. He earned his B.A. from the University of Albuquerque in 1958 and his J.D. cum laude from Notre Dame in 1961, where he graduated first in his class and served as editor-in-chief of the law review, Notre Dame Lawyer. In 1983, St. Mary’s University (San Antonio, Texas) honored him with an LL.D. In 2008, he received an honorary doctor of laws from Valparaiso University. 

Shaffer joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 1963 and taught primarily in the area of estate planning. From 1969 to 1971 he served as associate dean, and from 1971 to 1975 as dean. He rejoined the Notre Dame faculty in 1988 as a chaired professor. For most of his recent tenure, he has been a supervising attorney in the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic, teaching clinical ethics and guiding the legal practice of the law students who serve the low-income persons of the South Bend area.

Admitted to the Indiana Bar, Shaffer practiced law in Indianapolis with Barnes, Hickam, Pantzer & Boyd from 1961 to 1963 before beginning his teaching career. While on the faculty of Washington & Lee University Law School from 1980 to 1988, he served as the director of its Frances Lewis Law Center (1983-85) and was named the Robert E.R. Huntley Professor of Law (1987-88). His expertise has given him numerous visiting scholar opportunities including visiting professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles (1970-71), visiting professor of law at the University of Virginia (1975-76), Frances Lewis Scholar at Washington & Lee University (fall 1979), visiting professor of law at the University of Maine (summers 1982 and 1983), Richard Huber Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Boston College Law School (fall 1992), and Edward Godfrey Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Maine (fall 1998).

Shaffer's honors and awards include the Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the Journal of Law and Religion, the Cardinal O'Hara Award (2007) from the Notre Dame Alumni Association, and the Father Michael McCafferty Award (2012) from the Notre Dame Law Association, The St. Joseph County Bar Association has named its annual pro bono award the Thomas L. Shaffer Award, and Dean Newton has named the Law School's Public Interest Law Fellowships the Shaffer Fellowships (2013).

Shaffer passed away on February 26, 2019. (In Memoriam: Professor Thomas L. Shaffer '61 J.D.)


Professor Shaffer's published works span a wide range of topics, with his most recent works concentrating on legal ethics.

Selected Books

  • The Planning and Drafting of Wills, with Carol Ann Mooney & Amy Jo Boettcher (Foundation Press, 5th ed. 2007).
  • Property Law, 3d ed. (with Johnson, Salsich, & Braunstein, 2006).
  • Legal Interviewing and Counseling in a Nutshell, 4th ed. (with Elkins, Thomson/West 2005).
  • Moral Memorandua from John Howard Yoder: Conversations on Law, Ethics, and the Church between a Mennonite Theologian and a Hoosier Lawyer (Wipf & Stock 2002).
  • The Planning and Drafting of Wills and Trusts, with Carol Ann Mooney and Amy Jo Boettcher (Foundation Press, 4th ed. 2001).
  • Lawyers, Clients and Moral Responsibility, with Robert F. Cochran Jr. (West Publishing Co. 1994).
  • Property Law: Cases, Materials and Problems, with Peter W. Salsich Jr., Sandra H. Johnson and Timothy S. Jost (West Publishing Co. 1992); with Michael Braunstein (2d ed. 1992).
  • American Lawyers and Their Communities, with Mary M. Shaffer (University of Notre Dame Press 1991).
  • Faith and the Professions (Brigham Young University Press, State University of New York Press 1987).
  • Text, Readings and Discussion Topics in American Legal Ethics (Matthew Bender 1985).
  • On Being a Christian and a Lawyer: Law for the Innocent (Brigham Young University Press 1981).
  • Legal Interviewing and Counseling, with Robert S. Redmount (Matthew Bender 1980).
  • Lawyers, Law Students and People, with Robert S. Redmount (Shepard's, McGraw-Hill 1977)
  • Death, Property and Lawyers (Dunellen Press 1970) (monthly selection of Lawyers' Literary Club).

Selected Book Segments

  • The Radical Reformation and the Jurisprudence of Forgiveness, in Christian Perspectives in Legal Thought (Carmella et al. eds., Yale University Press 2001).
  • The Moral Theology of Atticus Finch (Atticus Finch is a Hero Because the Truth is an Innate Part of His Character), in To Kill a Mockingbird (Terry O'Neill ed., Greenhaven Press 2000).
  • Stories of Legal Order in American Business, in The Moral Imagination 95 (Rev. Oliver F. Williams, C.S.C., ed., University of Notre Dame Press 1998).
  • Surprised by Joy on Howard Street, in Labors from the Heart: Mission and Ministry in a Catholic University 221 (Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C., ed., University of Notre Dame Press 1996).
  • The Moral Theology of Silas Lapham, in A Virtuous Life in Business 163 (Rev. Oliver Williams, C.S.C., and John Houck eds., Rowman and Littlefield 1992).

Selected Articles

  • Business Lawyers, Baseball Players, and the Hebrew Prophets, 42 Valparaiso Univ. L. Rev. 1063-80 (2008)
  • Roman Catholic Lawyers in the United State of America, 21 Journal of Law and Religion 305-13 (2006).
  • The Democratic Virtues, Our Common Life and the Common School: Trust in Democracy: Anabaptists, Italian Americans, and Solidarity, 21 Journal of Law and Religion 413-25 (2006).
  • Symposium: Client Counseling and Moral Responsibility, with Robert F. Cochran, Jr. et al, 30 Pepperdine Law Review 591-639 (2003)
  • Lawyers and the Biblical Prophets, 17 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 521-40 (2003)
  • Lawyers as Prophets, 15 Saint Thomas Law Review 469-84 (2003)
  • The Biblical Prophets as Lawyers for the Poor, 31 Fordham Urban Law Journal 15-35 (2003)
  • Using the Pervasive Method of Teaching Legal Ethics in a Property Course, 46 Saint Louis University Law Journal 655-64 (2002)
  • The Irony of Lawyers' Justice in America, 70 Fordham International Law Journal 1857 (2002)
  • On Tending to the Ethics in Legal Ethics: Two Pedagogical Experiments, 12 Legal Education Review 11 (2001)
  • Nuclear Weapons, Lethal Injection, and American Catholics: Faith Confronting American Civil Religion, 14 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 7-23 (2000)
  • More's Skill, 9 Widener Journal of Public Law 295-304 (2000)
  • Towering Figures, Enigmas, and Responsive Communities in American Legal Ethics, 51 Maine Law Review 229-39 (1999)
  • Should a Christian Lawyer Sign Up for Simon's Practice of Justice, 51 Stanford Law Review 903-17 (1999)
  • On Teaching Legal Ethics with Stories About Clients, 39 William and Mary Law Review 421-37 (1998)
  • Faith Tends to Subvert Legal Order, 66 Fordham Law Review 1089-99 (1998)
  • Forgiveness Disrupts Legal Order, 4 Graven Images 127 (1998)
  • The Christian Jurisprudence of Robert E. Rodes, Jr., 73 Notre Dame Law Review 737-72 (1998)
  • The Jurisprudence of John Howard Yoder, 22 Legal Studies Forum 473 (1998)
  • Is This Appropriate? with Julia Meister, 46 Duke Law Journal 781 (1997).
  • On Teaching Legal Ethics in the Law Office, 71 Notre Dame Law Review 605 (1996).
  • Erastian and Sectarian Arguments in Religiously Affiliated American Law Schools, 45 Stanford Law Review 1859 (1993).
  • A Christian Theology for Roman Catholic Law Schools, Vasey Symposium Lecture, University of Dayton (Ohio), January 25, 1989; also faculty colloquia at Marquette University and the University of Notre Dame (with Robert E. Rodes Jr.); published in 14 University of Dayton Law Review 5 (1988).
  • The Legal Ethics of Radical Individualism, 65 Texas Law Review 963 (1987).
  • The Return of the Gentleman to Professional Ethics, Willis G. Cunningham Memorial Lecture in Law and Medicine, Queen's Law Journal (Canada), February 9, 1984, published in 10 Queen's University Law Review 1 (1984); also abridged in Alumni Magazine of Washington and Lee University (September 1984).
  • Jurisprudence in Light of the Hebraic Faith, 1 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 77 (1984).

Other Items

  • Footnotes for Friends: A Backyard Wordwatcher's Dictionary (1987).

Areas of Expertise

  • Elder Law
  • Law & Poverty
  • Law & Religion
  • Legal Ethics
  • Philosophical Ethics
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Property Law
  • Theology
  • Wills & Trusts