Mitu Gulati
Professor of Law

Mitu Gulati is a prolific scholar who writes in several fields, including contract law, sovereign debt, judicial behavior, law firm dynamics, and the study of race and gender disparities. His work uses a range of research techniques (qualitative, quantitative and historical). Gulati’s work on contract law asks the fundamental question of whether the terms of contracts among sophisticated parties come anywhere close to the model of fully informed and sophisticated contract drafting that judges and lawyers often assume exists. In particular, he has extensively studied the topic of “contract stickiness,” where contract terms continue to be used from contract to contract even when they are not the terms the parties would choose if starting from scratch. Gulati has addressed complex and technical issues regarding the sovereign debt pricing and restructuring, as well as questions concerning whether countries should pay for the debts of former despotic leaders after the despots have been overthrown. His work in this area with Lee Buchheit has on occasion been relevant in the design of recent sovereign debt restructurings, including Ecuador, Uruguay, and Barbados.  A third area asks how the relative performances of judges can be measured and ranked, so as to possibly improve judicial promotion processes.  Fourth, Gulati has also long been interested in h theoretical and empirical analyses of race and gender disparities in the legal workplace, including questioning standard assumptions about the causes of the gender and racial gaps in employment.

Gulati is the author of several books and hundreds of articles in law, finance and economics.  His book The Three-and-a-Half Minute Transaction: Boilerplate and the Limits of Contract Design (University of Chicago Press, 2013) (with Robert E. Scott) employed a dataset of more than one thousand sovereign debt contracts and interviews with hundreds of practitioners to posit that the problem of contract stickiness lies in the nature of the modern corporate law firm. The authors show that the financial pressures on large firms to maintain a high volume of transactions results in a remarkable level of resistance to innovation in contract terms. In Acting White?: Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America (Oxford University Press, 1st ed. 2013, 2nd ed. 2015) (with Devon W. Carbado), Gulati and his co-author argue that racial minorities are often judged on how well they “perform” their race — through clothing, hairstyles, institutional affiliations, politics, neighborhood, speaking style, mannerisms, and choice of friends and choice of spouse or partners — and use case law to provide key examples. Recent sovereign debt work includes “Hidden Holdouts” (with Stephen Choi & Robert Scott), “Why Did Belgium Pay King Leopold’s Debts?” (with Joseph Blocher and Kim Oosterlinck), “How to Restructure Venezuelan Debt?” (with Lee Buchheit), and “Restructuring Italian Debt: The Options” (with Theresa Arnold and Ugo Panizza).  In addition to his academic writing, he is a frequent blog contributor on https://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/.

Prior to joining the Duke Law faculty in 2005, Gulati was a faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center and at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. He has a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A. from Yale University, and an A.B. from the University of Chicago.  Between law school and entering teaching, he worked at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb in New York and clerked for federal judges Sandra Lynch and Samuel Alito.

Mitu Gulati portrait