I expect you are reading this because you knew Ray Nimmer, or met him, or heard him speak, or read something he wrote, or knew of his reputation. When I decided in 2001 that I wanted my niche as a scholar to revolve around law as it applies to software and the business of software, I traveled this progression backwards. After learning about Ray’s books and treatises on computer and information law, I started reading what he wrote. Fortune intervened with my appointment to the law faculty at the University of Houston Law Center in 2002, and I progressed to hearing Ray speak, meeting him, and getting to know him as a faculty colleague and friend. Along the way, however, I never stopped reading what Ray wrote, and I don’t expect that I ever will.
I tell law students: “when you hear someone say, she’s a great lawyer, think: she’s a great writer (and then please strive to become a great writer).” Of the many characteristics I might relate about Ray, this one, for me, dominates.
Ray was a great writer. Ray was charming, yet could be stern if his role called for it. He was inquisitive and enjoyed a frolic, but stayed on track with his obligations. He partook in the good life, but worked impressive hours and gave back to the institutions that sheltered him. But through all this, Ray wrote, and wrote, and wrote. He had all the characteristics I encourage students to develop in themselves as writers. He wrote every day. He wrote with care and quality when the situation demanded it. He wrote quickly when needed. He wrote as an academic; he wrote as a practicing attorney. And I soon learned in my first few years of knowing Ray that I read Ray in only one of several major areas where he wrote. Earlier in his career, before I knew Ray, his writing covered the fields of bankruptcy, commercial law, and contracts; long before he became an icon in computer and information law, the area where I read Ray.
Beyond his published works, I was impressed by Ray’s writing in many organizational settings. He was unsurpassed at creating an email to diffuse or clarify a faculty‑wide discussion or discourse on the edge of devolution. His committee work was diligent and typically accompanied by a written report whose quality was self‑evident, even if one disagreed with its analysis. He shared with me models for student recommendation letters, scholarship review letters, and later in my career, administrative proclamations that now occasionally are mine to write in my recently acquired role as the Law Center’s associate dean.
Ray is gone from our world, and there is sadness and loss in that. But through his writings, some of his essence remains. His writings and his legacy teach striving and excellence. Ray continued to strive for new accomplishments and new writing. The illness that took him was unexpected and sudden. As a result, some of Ray’s many writing projects will go unfinished or find completion with his collaborators.
I knew Ray for sixteen years as a writer, a colleague and a friend. Many who knew Ray from hearing him speak did so as his students though his courses at the Law Center and in many other settings around the world where he occasionally taught. I also know Ray through his students. The common theme from Ray’s students is the search for excellence. He challenged his students with this goal for their careers, not merely during law school. He exemplified the challenge with his accomplishments as a writer, lawyer, law professor, and law school dean. Ray’s students, and all who, like me, know Ray and read Ray, were greatly enriched from his many decades on our faculty and his time as a leader at the Law Center.
Greg Vetter: Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, HIPLA Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center (UHLC); Co‑Director, Institute for Intellectual Property and Information Law (IPIL). My background includes a Master’s degree in Computer Science and nine years full‑time work experience in the software industry before law school. Full biography available at: www.gregvetter.org.