About IJ- IJ Way

IJ Way 

By Chip Mellor,
President & General Counsel

People who visit our offices sense something special. The energy and enthusiasm for what we do and who we represent is immediately evident. Our esprit de corps is tangible. Even the architecture of our office reflects how we operate: contemporary and open; inviting interaction. Visit the Institute for Justice and you’ll recognize an efficient sense of purpose animating the organization.

While so many factors contribute to our success—the talents of the people involved, the commitment of our donors, and the pursuit of a strategic litigation plan—nothing is more central to our success than the culture of IJ, which determines the way we do business. We call this the “IJ Way” and I’d like to describe the five characteristics that compose this culture and are manifest in everything we do.


We are entrepreneurial in creating and seizing opportunities, pursuing our goals with focused tenacity. We make things happen rather than simply waiting to react to the agenda of the other side. For instance, our attorneys travel across the country into new communities to investigate potential cases, meet prospective clients, and then launch strategic lawsuits. Throughout our litigation, we strive to maintain momentum and press for speedy resolution of our cases.

The Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School is another great example of how we created an opportunity, and, in remarkably short order, produced a highly acclaimed, very successful program at a world-class institution. Launched in the fall of 1998 as a fully staffed, fully funded clinic only nine months after its conception, the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship each year has a waiting list of over 100 students eager to be part of this dynamic program.

Occasionally, unanticipated opportunities do arise and when that occurs, we have proven that in the midst of everything else, we can maximize those opportunities as well.

So regardless of the task, you can expect us to be entrepreneurial risk-takers, always setting the pace.


We achieve results in the real world. While ideas and philosophy undergird our work, we translate that into action. Such action has far-reaching ramifications. We change not only the lives of our clients, but over the long run, the jurisprudence of America.

On a practical scale, we make a difference between whether or not Hector Ricketts can employ dozens of people in his commuter van service in New York City. On a grander scale, we establish whether or not other aspiring entrepreneurs around the country face a rule of law that is hopelessly stacked against them or one that offers them a real chance to achieve their dreams.

Sometimes, the real world results take a while, but the wait is worth it. After more than a decade of litigation, today thousands of school children can obtain, for the first time in their lives, a safe and high-quality education as a result of our successful defense of school choice. That’s not the end of it, though. We won’t stop until choice in education is a reality for all children in America.

Real world accomplishments demonstrate IJ’s success and provide compelling testimony to the fact that tyrannical government can be defeated.


We approach every task with a positive attitude focused on solutions, not problems. Indeed our ability to see the glass as half-full has been central to our ability to develop creative strategies, persevere, and ultimately prevail against what to others may seem like hopeless odds. Living this philosophy, we happily stand toe to toe against some of the nation’s most powerful interests, like the teachers’ unions, the New York Transit Workers Union, powerful developers, and others who think nothing of using government coercion to achieve their self-interested goals. This approach builds an esprit de corps that takes work very seriously, but still finds time to laugh even in the midst of pressure-packed litigation.

We operate in an open and straight-forward way with everyone: the courts, the media, donors and clients. There is no hidden agenda or pretense. We are who we are.


We are principled and adhere unfailingly to those principles whether in litigation, public debate, or internal discussion. Indeed some of the most interesting and lively discussions we have occur at staff meetings and board meetings when we wrestle with how a proposed course of action reconciles with our core principles. The complex nature of Constitutional litigation means we have to build precedent incrementally. We will rarely get the 100 percent victory that completely resolves an issue in a single case. That is why adherence to principle must be consistent year in, year out.

Over time, you can see this adherence to principles clearly manifest in our actions and accomplishments.


The nature of public-interest law means that we will often lose battles along the way, but when that happens, we are resilient. It’s never easy to lose, particularly when the lives of people like our clients are at stake. But, even in the face of the greatest adversity, we won’t cut and run. We recover quickly from any setbacks, immediately setting in motion strategies to overcome whatever defeat we may have suffered and moving ahead aggressively. Our recent launch of the Hands Off My Home campaign after the Kelo decision exemplifies this approach. This carries over from litigation into all of our work.

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