Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Allan Hutchinson

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

“Five Questions with … ” is a brand new feature at I-CONnect. We will periodically invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

This edition features Allan Hutchinson, Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School. His full bio follows below:

A member of Osgoode’s faculty since 1982, Professor Allan Hutchinson served as Associate Dean from 1994 to 1996 and later, in 2003, he was named Associate Dean (Research, Graduate Studies and External Relations). Professor Hutchinson is a legal theorist with an international reputation for his original and provocative writings. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2004 and named a Distinguished Research Professor by York University in 2006.  His research interests are law and politics; legal theory; the legal profession; constitutional law; torts; jurisprudence; civil procedure; and racism and law. As well as publishing in most of the common-law world’s leading law journals, he has written or edited many books. Much of his work has been devoted to examining the failure of law to live up to its democratic promise. His latest publications are Evolution and the Common Law (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and The Companies We Keep: Corporate Governance for a Democratic Society (Irwin Law, 2006). In 2007, he received the University-wide Teaching Award and was a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School.

1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

I am pulling together essays–old, new and revised–as part of a project entitled “Too Late to Stop Now: Life, Law and Lore.”  It is an effort to see the connecting threads, if any, in my work. I want to take seriously my own challenge to others to look “where they stand” and to examine the link between (auto)biography and scholarship.

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

Whenever I get the chance. No routine really other than me, my laptop and the music of Van Morrison.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

I suppose it has to be Richard Posner–he is never less than provocative in all the right ways. I try to keep up with new twists and turns in legal theory.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

No question, it was by “What is History?” by Edward Hallet Carr. I was given it by a high school teacher and its theme that what you see depends on why you look and where you stand has influenced and shaped my approach to law, teaching and scholarship. There is no “view from nowhere” and any claim to appropriate that is misleading and often self-serving.

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

Why do we keep asking “what is law?”? Trying to understand that project and why it has such a tenacious hold on the jurisprudential imagination remains top of the list. It is much better to generate and answer a very different set of practical questions about law, justice and their workings–legal theory is simply another form of situated practice.

BONUS Question

6. Do you have any advice to share with younger scholars in public law, say a doctoral candidate or a junior faculty member?

Avoid perfectionism, know that your views will change, treat writing as a daily practice, and never read one more piece simply to put off writing.


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