Ronald K.L. Collins, On Legal Scholarship: Questions for Judge Harry T. Edwards, 65 J. Legal Educ. 637 (2016), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/53
Journal of Legal Education
The life of Judge Harry T. Edwards is one very much steeped in writing. His passion dates back at least to his years at Uniondale High School when he was the editor of the school newspaper. In the legal realm, that passion traces back to 1964 and his days on the Michigan Law Review when he published two student Notes. In the half-century since then, Judge Edwards has authored six books and more than 90 scholarly articles or essays. As a lawyer, educator, administrator, arbitrator, and now jurist, Harry Edwards has put his ideas into print concerning an array of subjects. For example, he has written on administrative law, affirmative action, arbitration, civil rights, federal courts, empiricism, federalism, forensic science, higher education law, judging, labor law, lawyering, legal education, racial justice, and sex discrimination, among other topics.
Important as his contributions to the law have been in those areas, what sparked the most attention with law professors, judges, and lawyers was his 1992 law review article titled The Growing Disjunction Between Legal Education and the Legal Profession. That article is said to be one of the most-cited law review articles of all time; and was the subject of an entire symposium issue in the Michigan Law Review. Since then, the Judge has continued to write in this field, most recently in a 2014 piece in the Virginia Law Review. Not surprisingly, Judge Edwards' latest round of arguments continues to draw praise in some quarters and critical attention in others.
However one values the Edwards line of argument on law and legal scholarship, his thoughts have become, and remain, essential reading in the dialogue and debate over the principles and purposes of modern scholarship in the legal academy. In one form or another, they have found a sympathetic ear among the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Second Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs, among others. Even so, others are much less sympathetic, while still others both agree and disagree with him in part. The upshot? Judge his views as you will; term them too fixed or too fluid; or commend or condemn them. It is, nonetheless, a fact: Judge Edwards' article "certainly hit a nerve."
If works such as Holmes' The Path of the Law have taught those of us in the legal academy anything, it is this: Provocative propositions and unsettling arguments should, when thoughtfully advanced, prompt us to pause and rethink how we size up life and law. After all, one does not have to be a convert to an argument to feel the sting of its truth. By that measure, and for that reason, among others, I invited Judge Edwards to reply to a set of questions-some autobiographical, others analytical-about legal scholarship. He graciously agreed, and his responses to most of them are set out below.