Rollin Perkins held a bachelor's degree from University of Kansas and legal degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He joined the faculty of University of Iowa College of Law in 1917, serving as a professor until 1946. He also served in the U.S. Army during World War I.
After leaving Iowa, he taught at Vanderbilt University, U.C.L.A. and University of California-Hastings. His work focused on criminal law and procedure. He died in 1993.