Burke Woods Shartel was a member of the University of Michigan Law School faculty for thirty-eight years. Though he was born in Sedan, Kansas in 1889, he spent his childhood years in Oklahoma City. He studied literature and law as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1911 and graduating from the law school in 1913. For four years he practiced law in Oklahoma City, then served in the Navy Intelligence Service during World War 1. In 1919, he earned a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Harvard University.
He became assistant professor of law at the University of Illinois in 1919-1920, then left to join the law faculty at the University of Michigan. He was the youngest full professor on the law school faculty of that time. In 1931, he became editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review .
Shartel's interests included jurisprudence, constitutional law, and personal-property law. In the 1947-1948 academic year, he gave one of the first Thomas M. Cooley Lectures on the topic of "Our Legal System and How It Operates." His publications include the books, The Law of Medical Practice (1959; with Marcus L. Plant) and Readings in Legal Method (1959 and 1962; with B. J. George).
In the early 1940s Shartel's research interests included the functions of German civil law under the National Socialist Government. In 1951 the Department of State appointed him to lecture to members of the German bar on the American legal system. He served three times as guest lecturer at the University of Heidelberg, which conferred an honorary Juris Doctor degree on him in 1953.
In 1958, at the age of seventy, he retired from the law school faculty, becoming professor emeritus of law, and accepted a Robert Merton guest professorship at the law school of the University of Munich. When he returned to the United States in 1959, he became professor at California Western University College of Law in San Diego. He died in California in 1967.