Gordon Doerfer graduated from Amherst College, cum laude, in 1961. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1966. Justice Doerfer began his legal career as a law clerk to Justice Jacob Spiegel of the Supreme Judicial Court. He then joined the law firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish, later becoming junior partner, until his appointment in 1973 to the Municipal Court for the city of Boston. He was appointed to the Superior Court in 1977. Justice Doerfer then returned to private practice in 1981, joining, and later becoming partner to, the law firm of Palmer & Dodge. He was again appointed to the Superior Court in 1990, where he served as chair of the Superior Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee.
In 2001 Justice Doerfer was appointed to the Appeals Court by Governor Paul Cellucci and served until his retirement in 2007.