Jonathan Lipson’s principal research focus is business failure:  how does–and should–the legal system respond when firms can’t (or don’t) pay their bills? 

He has written scores of articles and book chapters considering this question from a variety of perspectives, focusing in particular on issues of governance (who gets to make decisions for the troubled firm?) and information (who knows what, when, and how about the problem?).  He has published in many of the nation’s top law reviews, including those of the UCLABoston UniversityNotre Dame, and Southern California law schools.  His work is frequently cited, including by leading business courts, such as the Delaware Supreme Court, the Delaware Chancery Court and the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

An occasional empiricist, Lipson recently published the first study of the use of “examiners” in large chapter 11 bankruptcies.  He also developed and published the first empirical study of lawyers’ practice of writing closing opinions in large and complex transactions.  This paper was selected for presentation at the Yale/Stanford Junior Faculty forum in 2005.  His qualitative empirical study of distress investors, The Shadow Bankruptcy Systemwas recently excerpted in a leading collection on the current financial crisis. Some of his other major published work can be found here.

Lipson is a member of the American Law Institute and the American College of Commercial Finance Lawyers, and is active with the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association, where he is currently the Section Content Officer.  He was a member of the Section Council (2010-11) and, from 2004-2010 a member (and during 2008-2010 the Chair) of the Section’s Publications Board. He is also a past Chair of the Business Law Education Committee and the Uniform Commercial Code Task Force on Forms under Revised Article 9 of the UCC.  During 2003-2004, he was the Chair of the Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law of the Association of American Law Schools.  He has also served as an expert in complex reorganizations, including that of Enron Corp.   

Lipson is also an occasional blogger.  His shorter works have appeared on, among others, The Huffington PostConcurring Opinions and Credit Slips.  He also writes op-eds for the National Law Journal.

Lipson teaches Contracts, a Transactional Skills workshop in the fall, and Bankruptcy in the spring.

Prior to teaching, Lipson was a lawyer.  From 1995-1999, he practiced corporate and commercial law in Boston, with the firm of Hill & Barlow.  From 1992 to 1995, he practiced bankruptcy and commercial law in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis.  From 1990-1992, he practiced with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.  While in practice, he was involved in several large and complex chapter 11 cases, including those of Healthco, Thinking Machines Corporation, and CIS Corporation.

He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, B.A., with honors (1986) & J.D. (1990), where he was a note editor of the Wisconsin Law Review.


J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School
B.A. (cum laude), University of Wisconsin

Research & Teaching Areas

Areas of Expertise

Selected Publications

Publications and Media Appearances SSRN


  • American Bar Association: Vice Chair, Publications Board ($2.2 million publications program), 2004-present
  • American Bar Association: Co-Chair, Business Law Education Committee. 2003-2007
  • American Bar Association: Co-Chair, Law School Initiative, 2003-present
  • American Bar Association: Chair, Task Force on Forms Under Revised Article 9 of the UCC, 2001-2004
  • American Law Institute: Member, elected 2005
  • Association of American Law Schools: Chair, Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law, 2003-2004