Out of the ranks of the jurisconsults came the great Roman law writers. The Roman jurists of the early empire were divided into two schools, originating in the teachings of two professors of law of the second century. Labeo was the founder of the school of the Proculians, named after the most distinguished pupil of the founder, instead of after Labeo himself. This school was conservative in its tendencies and strove to maintain the letter of the law. The Sabinians on the contrary fought against the formalism of the law, but the result of their views were to establish more firmly the despotism of the Emperor. This school also was named, not after its founder Capito, but after his successor Sabinius. The final victory rested with the Sabinians.

The main importance of the Roman law writers of this period lies in the fact that it was from their works that the Codes were later to be compiled. The highest place among these writers is conceded to Papinian who lived during the latter part of the second and the early part of the third centuries. The fate of this great jurist was a tragic one. Being ordered by the Emperor Caracalla to prepare a speech in defense of the former's murder of his brother Geta, he replied that it was easier to commit such an act than to defend it, and was himself murdered by the order of the tyrant. Among the other great Roman law writers may be mentioned Gaius, Paul, Ulpian, Julianus, Scaevola, and Modestine.