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The Growth of Interdisciplinary Research and the Industrial Structure of the Production of Legal Ideas: A Reply to Judge Edwards, 91 Mich. L. Rev. 1929 (1993)


Judge Edwards' lively essay declaims what he regards as the increasing disjunction between the substance of modem legal education and scholarship and the needs and interests of the judiciary and the practicing bar. According to Judge Edwards, law schools and law firms are moving in opposite directions. Law schools have increasingly abandoned real world legal problems in favor of abstract interdisciplinary theory, with a consequent diminution in their contribution toward solving problems faced by the judiciary. At the same time, law firms are becoming increasingly profit oriented, without regard to pursuing broader social interests. To combat these developments, Judge Edwards proposes that legal education be substantially reformed: he proposes greater production of "practical"—by which he means more purely doctrinal and noninterdisciplinary—scholarship, greater credit to practical scholars, more explicitly doctrinal teaching, and greater attention to the teaching of legal ethics, defined not simply as mastery of the canons, but as the understanding of the law as an instrument to promote the public interest.

Judge Edwards views me as a particularly pernicious advocate of the developments he seeks to reverse. In talks given some years ago, I described the increasing influence upon legal scholarship and teaching of interdisciplinary research in the social sciences and humanistic studies—philosophy and interpretation. I described the modem law school as itself coming to resemble a university, with a curriculum consisting of minigraduate courses in applied economics, social theory, and political science. To me, these developments implied, first, a challenge to the distinctive significance of law as a subject of study and, second, an increasing division between the academy and the bar. Unlike Judge Edwards, however, I applauded the trend.

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