Baker installed as Kirsch Professor

Scott Baker makes a presentation during the ceremony installing him as the inaugural William F. and Jessica L. Kirsch Professor.

Scott Baker has been installed as the inaugural William F. and Jessica L. Kirsch Professor at Washington University in St. Louis. A lecture and reception to mark the occasion were held Feb. 20 in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom and Crowder Courtyard in Anheuser-Busch Hall.

A prolific and widely respected law and economics scholar, Baker’s research interests lie at the intersection of law, economics and game theory. His expertise spans a wide range of topics from judicial performance to the structure of law firms to problems in patent law.

Baker’s endowed position is the first to be established through a planned gift from Mary Elizabeth Brenneisen, the late daughter of William F. and Jessica L. Kirsch, in honor of her parents. William Kirsch was a member of the Washington University School of Law’s Class of 1909, graduating first in his class and receiving the prestigious Order of the Coif. He went on to practice law for nearly 60 years with the Arkansas firm Goodman Moore PLLC.

“We are most grateful to the Kirsch family for its strong commitment to Washington University,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “By establishing the Kirsch Professorships in her parents’ names, Mary Elizabeth Brenneisen left a wonderful and lasting tribute to their memory, as well as her own. Given her father’s academic record, it only seems fitting that his name should be associated with the highest caliber of legal scholarship, a connection that will live on in perpetuity thanks to her foresight.”

“Scott Baker is among the very best in his field,” said Nancy Staudt, dean of the law school and the Howard and Caroline Cayne Professor of Law. “It seems extremely appropriate to me that he should be the first scholar to hold this endowed position, named in honor of one of the School of Law’s most esteemed alumni. I am so thankful that the Kirsch family made it possible to recognize an outstanding member of our faculty in this way.”

Baker’s co-authored works appear in such scholarly publications as the Journal of Political Economy; Journal of Legal Studies; Journal of Law and Economics; Journal of Law, Economics and Organization; and the Journal of Legal Analysis, as well as numerous law reviews. He earned his law degree from the University of Chicago, where he served in fall 2012 as a Becker-Friedman fellow. He also is the recipient of a Tilburg University grant for studies in the law and economics of innovation.

Before joining the Washington University faculty in 2009, Baker was a professor of law and economics at the University of North Carolina, where he served as associate dean for faculty affairs and received the McCall Award for Law School Teacher of the Year. In addition to his law degree, he also earned a doctorate in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

About William F. and Jessica L. Kirsch

William Kirsch’s legal practice focused on real estate title law, and he organized and represented some of the drainage districts that still operate in northeastern Arkansas. He also served as a board member, officer and president of the National Bank of Commerce. He was renowned as an eloquent orator and often was the featured speaker for civic celebrations.

The Kirsches had two children, Mary Elizabeth “Lee” Brenneisen and William Kirsch Jr., who practiced briefly with his father’s firm before moving to Memphis. He became a partner in one of the city’s most prominent law firms and continued to practice law until his death in 1989.

Brenneisen was born in Arkansas in 1920 and earned a doctorate in English from Stanford University. Her relationship with Washington University began when she established a trust in memory of her parents more than 20 years ago. She died in 2015, leaving a legacy that continues to benefit future generations of law students and faculty.

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