Jeffrey O'Connell earned his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and his legal degree from Harvard Law School. After several years in private practice in Boston, he joined the law faculty at University of Iowa College of Law in 1959. He served as a professor at Iowa until 1963.
In his long career, he taught law at University of Illinois, Oxford University, and University of Virginia. He also served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. His work focused on insurance, and he helped devise the "no-fault" automobile insurance system. He died in 2013.