Foreword: Oh, the Treatise!
14 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2013 Last revised: 24 Dec 2014
Date Written: March 8, 2013
This foreword to the Michigan Law Review’s 2013 Survey of Books Related to the Law considers the history of the American legal treatise in light of the well-known criticisms of legal scholarship published by Judge Harry Edwards in 1992. As part of his critique, Edwards characterized the legal treatise as “[t]he paradigm of practical legal scholarship.” In his words, treatises “create an interpretive framework; categorize the mass of legal authorities in terms of this framework; interpret closely the various authoritative texts within each category; and thereby demonstrate for judges or practitioners what ‘the law’ requires.” Part I examines the origins of the legal treatise and its early importance to the U.S. lawyers; Part II the impact that the massive growth in published case law had on the treatise during the latter part of the nineteenth century; and Part III the implications for the treatise of shifts from print to electronic formats in the twentieth century. The Foreword concludes by speculating briefly on the continuing need for the treatise in light of Edwards’s concerns and its place in the digital legal information environment.
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