Robert Vischer

Dean and Mengler Chair in Law

(651) 962-4838
(800) 328-6819, Ext. 2-4838

1000 LaSalle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Office Location: MSL 412

J.D., Harvard Law School

B.A., University of New Orleans

Rob Vischer serves as the Dean of the School of Law. His scholarship explores the intersection of law, religion, and public policy, with a particular focus on the religious and moral dimensions of professional identity.  His recent book from Cambridge University Press, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice: Lessons in Love and Justice pushes back against the individualist premises underlying our modern conception of the lawyer’s role by exploring Dr. King’s vision of “the beloved community.”  In an earlier book, Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010), Dean Vischer defines and defends the relational dimension of conscience and identifies ways in which our legal system can better maintain the communal venues in which the dictates of conscience are shaped, articulated, and lived out.  His scholarship has appeared in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Illinois Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Florida Law Review, Indiana Law Review, Stanford Journal of Law & Policy, Washington University Law Review, Journal of Law & Religion, Legal Ethics, Journal of Catholic Social Thought, and Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, among others. He also writes for the magazine Commonweal and blogs regularly at Mirror of Justice and Legal Ethics Forum.  Professor Vischer teaches Professional Responsibility, Torts, Family Law, Foundations of Justice, and The Religious Lawyer.  He was voted Professor of the Year by the graduating class in 2008 and 2011, and he received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2007. 

Professor Vischer came to St. Thomas from St. John's University Law School, where he was an Assistant Professor of Law and Fellow of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society. While at St. John's, Professor Vischer received the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching and was voted Professor of the Year by the student body.  Previously, Professor Vischer was associated with Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, where he practiced corporate litigation.  He clerked for three federal judges: Judge David Ebel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Joan Gottschall of the Northern District of Illinois, and Judge John Wiese of the Court of Federal Claims. He received his B.A. degree, summa cum laude, from the University of New Orleans, and his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.



Courses Taught

Number Title Credits
640 Foundations of Justice 1
641 Foundations of Justice 1
932 LLM Mentor Externship 0
950 Supervised Resrch & Writing .5

Areas of Academic Expertise:

Legal Ethics/Legal Profession
Rights of Conscience, Law, Religion and Public Policy

From the article "Grand Ideas: Faculty members describe the best ideas from their scholarship" St. Thomas Lawyer Magazine Fall 2011

My scholarship begins from a commitment to the social nature of the human person and builds out from there. Much of our law reflects an unrealistically individualized conception of the person, and I have tried to bring a more relational view to our understanding of law, particularly in the areas of religious liberty and the legal profession. For example, in my book, Conscience and the Common Good, I argue that defending individual autonomy is not the same as defending the liberty of conscience because, although conscience is inescapably personal, it is also inescapably relational. Conscience is formed, articulated and lived out through relationships, and its viability depends on the law’s willingness to protect the associations and venues through which individual consciences can flourish. Put simply, the law needs to defend the liberty of groups, not just the liberty of individuals.

Upcoming: I am writing a book exploring the relational dimension of Dr. Martin Luther King’s worldview and its potential impact on lawyers’ tendency to see themselves as mere technicians.

Contributions and mentions in the media


"Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice: Lessons in Love and Justice"

Robert K. Vischer, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice: Lessons in Love and Justice (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

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Robert K. Vischer, Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010).


Robert K. Vischer, The Best Interests of the Child: Modern Lessons from the Christian Traditionsin The Vocation of the Child (J. Witte & P. Brennan eds., 2008).

Robert K. Vischer, Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and the Consumerist Impetus of American Law, in Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law (M. Scaperlanda & T. Collett eds., Cath. Univ. of America Press 2007).


Graduate degrees in compliance: Training the next generation

Robert K. Vischer, Training the Next Generation of Compliance Professionals, Compliance & Ethics Professional (May 2014).

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Robert K. Vischer, The Uneasy (and Changing) Relationship of Health Care and Religion in Our Legal System, J. Theoretical Med. & Bioethics (2012).

Robert K. Vischer, How Do Lawyers Serve Human Dignity, U. St. Thomas L.J. (forthcoming 2012).

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Robert K. Vischer, Big Law and the Marginalization of Trust, 25 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 165 (2012).

Robert K.Vischer, How Necessary is the Right of Assembly?, Wash. Univ. L. Rev., U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-11 (forthcoming 2012).

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Robert K. Vischer, Trust and the Global Law Firm, 19 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol'y & L. 1095 (2011).

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Robert K. Vischer, Whom Should a Catholic Law School Honor?: If Confusion is the Concern, Context Matters, 49 J. Cath. Legal Stud. 243 (2011).

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Robert K. Vischer, Conscience and the Common Good: An Introduction, 49 J. Cath. Legal Stud. 293 (2011) (opening essay for symposium dedicated to Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State).

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Robert K. Vischer, Individual Rights vs. Institutional Identity: The Relational Dimension of Conscience in Health Care, 9 Ave Maria L. Rev. 67 (2010).

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Robert K. Vischer, When is a Catholic Doing Legal Theory Doing “Catholic Legal Theory?”, 40 Seton Hall L. Rev. 845 (2010).

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Robert K. Vischer, Trust and the Global Law Firm: Are Relationships of Trust Still Central to the Corporate Legal Services Market? U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-19 (2010). 

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Robert K. Vischer, Professionalizing Moral Engagement, 104 Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy 33 (2009).

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Robert K. Vischer, How We Talk About Marriage (and Why It Matters), 42 Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 114 (2009).

Robert K. Vischer, Corporate Identity and Moral Pluralism: Reclaiming the Relational Dimension of Conscience, 5 J. Cath. Soc. Thought 323 (2008).

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Robert K. Vischer, Moral Engagement Without the “Moral Law:” A Post-Canons View of Attorneys’ Moral Accountability, 2008 Prof. Law. 213 (2008).

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Robert K. Vischer, Legal Advice as Moral Perspective, 19 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 225 (2006).

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Robert K. Vischer, Conscience in Context: Pharmacist Rights and the Eroding Moral Marketplace, 17 Stan. Law & Pol’y Rev. 83 (2006).

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Robert K. Vischer, Professional Identity and the Contours of Prudence, 4 U. St. Thomas L.J.  46 (2006).

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Robert K. Vischer, The Sanctity of Conscience in an Age of School Choice: Grounds for Skepticism, 6 U. Md. L.J. Race, Religion, Gender & Class 81 (2006).

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Robert K. Vischer, Pluralism and Professionalism: The Question of Authority, 8 Legal Ethics 35 (2005).

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Robert K. Vischer, Subsidiarity and Subversion: Local Power, Legal Norms, and the Liberal State, 2 J. Cath. Soc. Thought 277 (2005).

Robert K. Vischer, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Rethinking the Value of Associations, 79 Notre Dame L. Rev. 949 (2004).

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Robert K. Vischer, Heretics in the Temple of Law: The Promise and Peril of the Religious Lawyering Movement, 19 J.L. & Religion 427 (2004).

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Robert K. Vischer, Catholic Social Thought and the Ethical Formation of Lawyers: A Call for Community, 1 J. Cath. Soc. Thought 417 (2004).

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Robert K. Vischer, Racial Segregation in American Churches and Its Implications for School Vouchers, 53 Fla. L. Rev.  193 (2001).

Robert K. Vischer, Subsidiarity as a Principle of Governance: Beyond Devolution, 35 Ind. L. Rev. 103 (2001).

Robert K. Vischer, Note, The Evidentiary Use of the Ethics Codes in Legal Malpractice: Erasing a Double Standard, 109 Harv. L. Rev. 1102 (1996).

Short Pieces

Robert K. Vischer, The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws, 221 First Things 26 (2012).

Robert K. Vischer, The Progressive Case for Conscience Protection, The Public Discourse, March 9, 2011.

Robert K. Vischer, Cathy Kaveny, Billable Hours in Ordinary Time: A Theological Critique of the Instrumentation of Time in Professional Life, Loyola L.J. (2001), 1 J. Christian Legal Thought 37 (2011).

Robert K. Vischer, Political, Not Partisan: The Church in the Public Square, 137 Commonweal, Dec. 3, 2010, at 17.

Robert K. Vischer, Prop 8 & the Rule of Facts: How Not To Settle the Gay Marriage Question, 137 Commonweal, Sept. 10, 2010, at 7.

Robert K. Vischer, Diversity and Discrimination in the Case of the Christian Legal Society, The Public Discourse, July 9, 2010.

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Robert K. Vischer, Discrimination: How Dirty a Word?, 137 Commonweal, May 21, 2010, at 9.

Robert K. Vischer, Bad Faith: Blaming Religion for Proposition 8, 136 Commonweal, Jan. 16, 2009, at 10. 

Robert K. Vischer, Subsidiarity and Suffering: The View from New Orleans, 45 J. Cath. Legal Stud. 183 (2006).

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Robert K. Vischer, Introduction: Religious Education and the Liberal State, 44 J. Cath. Legal Stud . 57 (2005). 

Robert K. Vischer, Faith, Pluralism, and the Practice of Law, 43 Cath. Law. 17 (2004).

Encyclopedia Entries

Robert K. Vischer, Catholics and Religious Libertyin Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (Routledge 2006).

Book Reviews

Robert K. Vischer, Beyond Boundaries: Expanding the Law and Religion Conversation, 27 J.L. & Religion 225 (2012) (reviewing Howard Lesnick, Religion in Legal Thought and Practice (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010)).

Robert K. Vischer, Legal Hurdles, 206 America, Mar. 5, 2012, at 33 (reviewing Richard Thompson Ford, Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality (2011)).

Rober K. Vischer, We Hold Which Truths?, 138 Commonweal, Sept. 23, 2011, at 29 (reviewing Paul Horwitz, The Agnostic Age (2011)).

Robert K. Vischer, Public Reason Disease, 137 Commonweal, March 12, 2010, at 29 (reviewing Steven H. Shiffin, Public Reason Discourse, in The Religious Left and Church-State Relations (2009)).

Robert K. Vischer, Incompatible Freedoms?, 136 Commonweal, Oct. 9. 2009, at 20 (reviewing Douglas Laycock, et al., eds., Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (2008)).

Robert K. Vischer, From Principle to Policy, 135 Commonweal, Aug. 15, 2008, at 28 (reviewing The Option for the Poor, in Christian Theology (Daniel G. Groody ed., (2007) and Thomas J. Massaro, United States Welfare Policy: A Catholic Response  (2007)).

Robert K. Vischer, A Delicate Relationship, 199 America, Aug. 4, 2008, at 32 (reviewing Frank Lambert, Religion in American Politics: A Short History (2008)).

Robert K. Vischer, Book Review, 88 J. Religion  119 (2008) (reviewing John Witte, Jr., God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition  (2006)).

Robert K. Vischer, The Knot, 134 Commonweal, Dec. 21, 2007, at 18 (reviewing Don Browning,Equality and the Family: A Fundamental, Practical Theology of Children, Mothers and Fathers (2007)).

Robert K. Vischer, All in the Family: When Should the State Intervene?, 134 Commonweal, March 23, 2007, at 8 (reviewing James Dwyer, The Relationship Rights of Children (2006)).

Robert K. Vischer, What’s Best for the Social Order?, 196 America, Feb. 26, 2007, at 27 (reviewing Lew Daly, God and the Welfare State (2006)).

Robert K. Vischer, Higher Learning, 196 America, Jan. 15, 2007, at 36 (reviewing D. Henry & M. Beatty eds., Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community(2006)).

Robert K. Vischer, All That We Can Be, 133 Commonweal, May 5, 2006, at 26 (reviewing Robert Wuthnow, American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short(2006)).

Robert K. Vischer, Public Opinion and the Culture Wars: The Case of School Vouchers, 2002 U. Ill. L. Rev . 477 (2002) (reviewing Terry Moe, Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public (Brookings Inst. Press 2002)).

Robert K. Vischer, Book Note, Religion and Roe: The Politics of Exclusion, 108 Harv. L. Rev. 495 (1994) (reviewing Alan Mensch & Elizabeth Freeman, The Politics of Virtue: Is Abortion Debatable? (Duke Univ. Press 1993)).