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John C. O'Brien, J.D.

Professor Emeritus


J.D., Harvard Law School, 1967
B.A., Yale University, 1964

Publications and Media Placements

John O’Brien is one of the state’s leading experts on the law of evidence. He is author of the book, Missouri Law of Evidence, now in its 4th edition, and the book, Missouri Evidentiary Foundations, now in its 2nd edition. He has also co-authored the books Federal Criminal Trial Evidence and Illinois Objections at Trial.

“Evidence is both intellectually rigorous and intensely practical,” Professor O’Brien says. “People sometimes say if you don’t take any other course in law school, take evidence. It’s a keystone for any lawyer and it’s endlessly fascinating to me, both to teach and research.”

Professional Organizations and Associations

Professor O’Brien has been teaching and researching evidence law since joining the School of Law in 1975. Prior to academia, he was in practice for nearly a decade. After graduating from Harvard Law School, O’Brien was a staff attorney with the Federal Communications Commission. He then joined VISTA as a volunteer lawyer and helped develop a new legal aid program in two rural counties in West Virginia.

From 1970 to 1973, he was the managing attorney with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, he became directing attorney of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation in 1973, where he handled a number of cases, including three major utility rate proceedings and a rule-making proceeding on customer service regulations.

Professor O’Brien says he draws on his experiences to bridge the gap between theory and practice for his students. “It’s one thing to train your mind to think as a lawyer,” he says, “but it is another thing to be able to go out and practice successfully. The practitioner needs to understand how the law works on the ground, how the law is applied to serve the client. I’m the type who thinks in terms of problem solving, and evidence is predicated on finding solutions.”

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Professor O’Brien has directed the School’s clinical programs. Currently, he is a volunteer lawyer and consultant for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. While researching and writing supplements to his previous books, Professor O’Brien will do a revision of the Missouri Civil Rules Practice volume for the Missouri Practice series.