In September of 1985, Edward J. Walters Jr. volunteered to help the Baton Rouge Bar Association create a new magazine to replace the one-page newsletter that was sent to members each month. The first issue of Around the Bar was published two months later, with the masthead listing Walters as assistant editor. Walters officially became editor of the magazine in April of the following year, and he would continue to serve in the position for more than three decades.
Shortly after wrapping up his tenure as editor at the close of 2019, Walters’ son, Ed Walters III—who is CEO of Washington, DC-based legal publishing company Fastcase and Full Court Press—began urging his dad to compile his writings into a career-spanning book. Though he was initially reluctant, the elder Walters was eventually convinced it might make for an interesting read, so he began combing through stacks of old magazines.
“It was a lot of fun to go back and read all the articles, many of which I didn’t even remember writing,” said Walters, a 1975 LSU Law graduate and member of the Walters, Papillion, Thomas, Cullens law firm in Baton Rouge. “And it was fascinating, too, because they really brought me back. As I was reading through many of the articles, I remembered so many things that were going on in our community and that I was involved in at the time when they were written.”
The result of the effort—aside from refreshing some old memories—is “Ipse Dixit: Ruminations on a Career at Law,” which was published in early April by Full Court Press. The book not only collects nearly all of Walters’ writings for Around the Bar (which is today titled The Baton Rouge Lawyer) but many of the articles he has written for the Louisiana State Bar Association’s magazine, Louisiana Bar Journal, throughout his more than 45-year legal career.
At slightly more than 300 pages, it also includes 16 interviews that Walters conducted with other prominent attorneys and judges, as well as a small sampling of his many seminar presentation papers. The selections in the book were all originally published between 1985 and 2021, and Walters has added a brief intro to some of the articles to provide updated context.
Walters said he wanted his first book “to be enjoyable for non-lawyers and lawyers alike,” and it is. That’s primarily due to the conversational and humorous tone of his pithy writing on lawyering, which leans more on insightful anecdotes than it does academic analysis, but it’s also due to the brevity of the selections. Most of the more than 75 articles, papers, and interviews included in the collection are a handful of pages or less. Additionally, the four seminar papers in the book focus on topics that will be of interest to any type of lawyer, such as tips for being organized in the courtroom, analyzing the merits of a case, and conducting oneself with professionalism the courtroom.
As LSU Law alum Vincent P. Fornias (’77), assistant editor of The Baton Rouge Lawyer, writes in the foreword of the book: “Ed and his editor have done an able job of arranging his work into logical and concise sections. They amply display the author’s humor, his devotion to a job well done, and his keen sensitivity to the matters in life that too often go overlooked in our daily practice.”
Most generously, Walters is pledging all royalties from sales of his book to the LSU Law Classroom to Courtroom Campaign, which he and fellow LSU Law alum and Adjunct Professor Frank Holthaus (’75) launched in 2019. Since then, Room 107 of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center has been renovated to add a courtroom to the existing classroom space, and a second courtroom is currently being planned for the Bruce Macmurdo Classroom. Donations can be made directly to the campaign at www.lsufoundation.org/givetolsulaw by noting “Classroom to Courtroom Campaign” in the “Gift Comments” section.
“LSU Law has had such phenomenal national success in its trial and appellate advocacy programs with just one courtroom in which to practice,” said Walters. “This campaign will give us more courtrooms in the Paul M. Hebert Law Center without eliminating any classrooms, which will be a great benefit for the advocacy programs as well as classroom instruction.”
The book ends with a brief In Memoriam section that pays tribute to two of Walters’ friends and fellow LSU Law alumni, Dennis Whalen (’62) and David Hamilton (’74), the latter of whom Walters knew since their adolescent days in New Orleans. Walters was asked to eulogize Hamilton following his sudden passing in late 2002, and he subsequently published it in Around the Bar to honor his late friend. Walters said he initially didn’t plan on including the eulogy but reconsidered after rereading it as he was putting the book together.
“I thought it ended so well that it would also be a good ending for the whole book,” he said, “and I’m very glad I decided to include it. David was a great man, a true professional, and someone that we should all aspire to be in our personal and professional lives.”
Unsurprisingly, LSU Law alumni are mentioned throughout the book, and they’re especially well represented in the section of interviews, which includes conversations with Judge E. Gordon West (’42), Calvin Hardin, Federal Court Judge Frank Polozola (’65), Judge Guy Holdridge (’78), Charles McCowan Jr. (’67), Mike Patterson (’71), Frank Fertitta (’67), Daniel R. Atkinson Sr. (’62), Cordell Haymon (’68), Louis Curet (’50), Emile Christian Rolfs III (’67), and Mary Olive Pierson (’70).
The title of Walters’ book also contains a nod to legendary LSU Law Professor George W. Pugh, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 94. Walters recalled being a student in Pugh’s class one day as the professor was peppering another student with questions about proper jurisdiction in a case. As the student fell into silence and searched for an answer, Pugh responded in his slow Southern drawl: “Well, what is it … Ipse Dixit?”
Walters didn’t know the meaning of the Latin phrase, so after class he consulted the “Black’s Law Dictionary,” which defines it as: “He himself said it; a bare assertation resting on the authority of an individual.”
“It basically means, ‘It’s so because I say it’s so.’ That always stuck with me and when I began writing articles for Around the Bar, I started using it as a kicker before my headlines,” Walters explained.
The cover of “Ipse Dixit: Ruminations on a Career at Law” pays homage to Walters’ favorite book, “The Catcher in the Rye.” Although subsequent editions of the classic novel by J.D. Salinger book usually include artwork, the original book cover bore no images but rather staid yellow typography on solid red background.
“I read this book in high school and I have it read it many, many times since. It had a big impact on me,” Walters writes in the preface of his book. “When I took the Louisiana Bar Exam in 1976, in order to preserve anonymity, we were required to use a fictitious name. Mine was Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in that book.”
Throughout his distinguished career, Walters has been among LSU Law’s most stalwart supporters and in 2015 he was honored as the LSU Law Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. He has been an instructor at the annual Trial Advocacy Program since its inception in 1995, and he has also served as an adjunct professor for 34 years, teaching a hands-on trial skills course he co-developed with Baton Rouge attorney Michael Patterson entitled “Advanced Trial and Evidence.” Walters is currently working on his second book, for which Patterson will be a co-author.
“It’s going to be a trial practice book aimed at young lawyers, similar to what we do in the course we teach at LSU Law,” Walters said. “We’re trying to finish it this year.”