Peter Rofes

Professor of Law
(414) 288-5361
Professional Memberships: 
State Bar of Wisconsin, District of Columbia Bar
Other Courses Taught: 
Constitutional Law; Constitutional Law 2: Speech & Equality; Contracts; The Law Governing Lawyers; The First Amendment; Workshop: Lawyers & Life


B.A., summa cum laude, Brandeis University

A.M., Harvard University

J.D., Columbia University School of Law

A devoted practitioner of social distancing since the Eighties, Rofes finds himself well into his fourth decade as a member of the Marquette Law School faculty.    This latter fact represents a source of regret to some associated with the Law School.  Both as faculty member and administrator, Rofes has undertaken a stunning array of institutional tasks with repeatedly lackluster results.

In 1997, when Marquette sought to establish a program for part-time law students, Rofes's prior demonstrations of professional mischief prompted Dean Howard Eisenberg to appoint him Director of Part-time Legal Education. Rofes took the lead in building the infrastructure necessary to operate a successful evening division, including (a) hiring personnel committed to the mission of ensuring that part-time students not be treated as second-class institutional citizens; (b) leading the effort to obtain accreditation for that program; then (c) turning the focus to academic advising, counseling, fiscal planning, security, advertising and marketing, the delivery of student services, and the allocation of scholarship funds. Rofes served as Director of Part-time Legal Education for thirteen years, during which time the program earned the designation as one of the top twenty-five such programs in the nation.

In 2004, after serving yet another delightful tour of duty as chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, Rofes became the Law School's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Over the course of six years serving in that position Rofes devoted his energies to a host of challenging matters, among them (a) strengthening the relationship and bonds of trust between faculty and the administration and between students and the administration; (b) leading the Law School's spanking new Assessment efforts; (c) hiring and inculcating into the institutional culture members of the adjunct and visiting faculty; (d) conducting individual orientations with new members of the full-time faculty, maximizing the prospects that such new faculty quickly grew comfortable with institutional practices and procedures; (e) coordinating all aspects of the Law School's reaccreditation, including the drafting of the Self Study; (e) leading the wholesale revision, and re-promulgation, of the Law School's Academic Regulations; (f) working with the Law School's legal writing instructors so as to enhance both the delivery of writing skills and the institutional status of legal writing colleagues; (g) working with the Law School's teaching librarians to enhance the delivery of the legal research program; (h) identifying gaps in the curriculum and working with the Curriculum Committee to fill such gaps so as to better prepare students for the range of challenges new twenty-first century lawyers confront; (i) counseling students and enhancing the Law School's counseling program; (j) superintending and recreating the Academic Support Program; (k) crafting faculty teaching packages in a collaborative manner that reconciled the aspirations, preferences, and talents of faculty with the needs of the Law School and its students; (l) restructuring the delivery of 1L Orientation; (m) working with the University's Office of General Counsel in connection with a relentless stream of academic and administrative issues; (n) introducing to the Law School, and monitoring the operation of, Street Law; (o) simplifying the faculty's submission of law review articles by introducing ExpressO to the Law School; (p) modernizing the examination process by enabling students to take in-the-classroom examinations on their laptops for the first time; (q) working with building planners to ensure that the new facility would meet the academic needs (current and anticipated) of all constituencies and thus enable the school to continue to advance its mission; and (r) obtaining water coolers for the faculty lounge and library.

Prior to joining the Marquette Law School faculty in 1987, Rofes (a) spent the summer after finishing law school hanging out in the offices of Cravath Swaine & Moore, (b) served as law clerk to the Honorable Max Rosenn of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit -- where, while working for three months on a case concerning longshoremen, he won a bet with his co-clerk by managing to successfully get the phrase "on the waterfront" past the judge and into the Federal Reporter 2nd; and, (c) not surprisingly, crashed and burned during three years as an associate with the Washington, D.C. office of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.

Insofar as the classroom is concerned, Rofes currently endeavors to teach

(1) Constitutional Law, a required 1L course;

(2) Contracts, a required 1L course;

(3) Constitutional Law 2: Speech & Equality, which meets the upper-level public law requirement;

(4) The Law Governing Lawyers, required of all students;

(5) The First Amendment, a course devoted to the free expression and religious liberty guarantees that likewise meets the upper-level public law requirement; and

(6)  Lawyers & Life, a workshop that seeks to inculcate in students a range of skills, habits, and approaches essential to professional success but too often neglected in the conventional law school curriculum, among such skills and habits as (a) crafting a personal vision of professional success, (b) identifying both one's professional strengths and weaknesses and the values one seeks in a professional environment, (c) charting a course for a career that maximizes the prospects that a student will find her / his / their niche in the increasingly challenging landscape of the twenty-first century legal profession, (d) emotional intelligence, (e) listening, (f) humility, (g) resilience, and (h) burnout -- coping with it and seeking to stave it off. 

As for scholarship, his writings devoted to the law governing lawyers, American constitutional law, and American legal education have appeared in a wide variety of mediocre professional and scholarly journals, among them Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Wisconsin Law Review, Washington University Law Quarterly, Utah Law Review, and the Journal of Law & Education. His monograph, The Religion Guarantees (Greenwood/Praeger 2005), represents a meticulous yet ultimately unsuccessful effort to unpack American anti-establishment and free exercise jurisprudence in a way that would enable more than merely a handful of law professors to grasp and form reasoned judgments about such jurisprudence.

In January 2011, the Student Services section of the Association of American Law Schools honored Rofes with the Peter N. Kutulakis Award.  That award gets bestowed annually on a law school, law school administrator, or law faculty member for outstanding contributions to the provision of services to law students. In accepting the award, Rofes steered clear of mentioning the annual poker game he formerly hosted for students who submit the highest bid at the Law School's annual Public Interest Law Society auction. Deep down, however, Rofes suspected at the time that the game played a pivotal role in the decision by the AALS to tap Rofes as the tenth recipient of the Kutulakis Award.

In addition to his work inside the Law School, Rofes maintains strong connections with the practicing bar and judiciary.  For some reason he gets engaged frequently by law firms, corporations and other business entities, insurance companies, municipalities, judges, and other individuals and entities to perform a range of services across the professional spectrum in areas that include

the law governing lawyers and the professional conduct of lawyers;

judicial ethics, misconduct, and intra-court tangling;

state and federal constitutional law;

appellate practice;

media relations;

law office management;


effective written communication;


the professional development of new and not-so-new lawyers.

In this connection, he has been engaged on dozens of occasions as an expert in a host of fascinating, quasi-fascinating, and considerably-less-than-fascinating matters.  Some of these matters featured as among their central contested issues whether the conduct of particular lawyers met the standard of professional care required of lawyers who reside in a specific zip code in Wisconsin or elsewhere in the nation.  Some others concerned battles over the constitutionality under state or federal law of municipal ordinances directing that particular groups in the body politic be seen but not heard.  

Since 1993, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court began requiring the lawyers it licenses to earn continuing legal education credits in matters of ethics and professional responsibility, Rofes has delivered too many presentations to law firms, in-house counsel, government lawyers, and a variety of other general and specialized organizations of lawyers in Wisconsin and throughout the nation on topics ranging from conflicts of interests, client identity, confidentiality and privilege, and international legal ethics to advertising and solicitation, appellate ethics, candor and deception, and the duty to report professional and judicial misconduct.  Reliable sources report that at least one audience member has fallen asleep during each of Rofes's CLE presentations and more than a few others directed their attention principally to crossword puzzles and ongoing Words With Friends contests.

For no good reason, in 2006 the State Bar of Wisconsin bestowed the President [no typo] Award upon Rofes -- somewhat ironically, for Rofes's pro bono work for the Board of Governors in a matter about which, due to the constraints of confidentiality, Rofes ought not be boasting.

While at Marquette Rofes also has served (a) as an advisor to Senator Herb Kohl and the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate on the nominations of David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Harriet Miers (ahhh: memories), Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court of the United States and (b) as both a member and chair of a state-wide commission appointed by Wisconsin's United States Senators to evaluate and recommend candidates for federal judicial vacancies. Rofes serves frequently -- too frequently, many lament -- as a commentator for local, national, and intergalactic media regarding a wide swath of issues relating to matters of state and federal constitutional law, judicial selection, appellate court wrestling, the activities of the highest courts of both Wisconsin and the United States, the conduct of lawyers and judges, and the legal profession. Invariably these interviews elicit calls for Marquette to encourage Rofes to consider alternative employment.

Rofes is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Many years ago, however, he lost his key.

When not engaged in the rich variety of irresponsible professional activities set forth above, Rofes looks for a bridge game -- in-person or virtual -- wherever and whenever he can find one (and, alas, at many times and places he cannot manage to scrounge one up). This obsessive quest has led him to danger, thrills, and despair, as well as to the Deck 7 card room of a Seabourn cruise liner chugging through the inside passage of Alaska.  Notwithstanding the fact that age, leftover pizza, and diet soda have contributed to the dimming of Rofes's memory -- hence the gradual transition to Sparkling Ice and Crystal Light (neither the time nor the place to explore favorite flavors) -- exceedingly rare is the challenger who can pose an obstacle to Rofes prevailing in a trivia contest devoted to the 251 episodes of M*A*S*H, the music and lyrics of the 60s and 70s, or the movies of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, and Allen Konigsberg. Quite simply, you want him on your trivia team, provided YOU can bring to the table knowledge of The New Testament, Opera, and whatever it is that accounts for Monet and Manet allegedly being two different individuals.   

Rumor has it that Rofes would have died quite content at the end of calendar year 2000, having experienced being a patron at Augusta National, sitting center court at Wimbledon, and attending a World Series game at Shea within a six-month stretch of middle-age joy.

More recently:  In Summer 2019 Rofes became among the last individuals in any hemisphere or galaxy to learn that Tommy Carcetti had been elected Mayor of Baltimore.  On multiple occasions during the pandemic, moreover, Rofes called Saul; as of yet not a single one of of those calls has been returned. 

To steal a notion from one of his favorite authors, Rofes's most persistent regret in life is that he is not someone else.