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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Is Peer-Review the Future?

My husband spends a great deal of time laughing whenever I have an article somewhere in pre-publication limbo.   As a radiologist, he just can't bend his mind around the notion that our work is selected and then edited by folks who are (essentially) our students.  I have also assumed that the advent of peer-reviewed law journals is a response to a system that seems pretty absurd.  This seems to fit with the desire to streamline scholarly output by creating rules that curb traditional academic incinations toward redundancy and excess verbiage.  These hopes went mainstream this spring when (as you all probably know) HLR imposed new page limits (although 25,000 words is not exactly a "short" article). 

In theory, this all seems fine, but I am curious about real-world experiences.  I'm just finishing up my first peer-reviewed article.  On the plus side, I received terrific and  extremely detailed feedback from two reviewers intimately familiar with the topic.   In fact, I was so impressed, that I am terribly interested in joining an editorial board myself - for the opportunity to learn from a broader cross-section of peers and use some of my accumulated knowledge to assist colleagues at other schools.   But I recognize that moving to more peer-reviewed publications means less output because production is much more time consuming (for everyone involved).  Although that in itself may be another advantage.  If anyone is working on a peer-reviewed article (either as an author, reviewer, or editor), I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Posted by Joelle Moreno on June 16, 2005 at 10:33 AM | Permalink


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Peer-reviewed journals are probably a good thing, but there might be disadvantages if they actually replaced the traditional student-edited law review. It would lead to a large reduction in the number of journals, which ... no, hear me out, there really is a downside! -- which means a reduction in the number of articles in general, and perhaps specifically a reduction in the number of "doctrinal" articles heavy on case law.

But those articles are often useful for practicing lawyers. A key difference between legal scholarship and ordinary university scholarship in the humanities or sciences is that there's a sizable market of practicing lawyers that likes well-written law review articles with lots of accurate case cites, even if they are not the kind of groundbreaking piece that appeals to an academic. When I have to put together a brief in a hurry, on a topic I know little about, one of the first things I do is look for a good law review article that I can mine for citations. There is no comparable constituency in the working world for, say, scholarly journal articles on philosophy. Perhaps this institutional difference is sufficient in itself to explain the different methods of selection used for legal academic publishing on one hand, and publishing in Ph.D.-land, on the other.

Frankly, if it weren't for all those captive 2Ls and 3Ls on law review staffs to do the cite-checking, I think the supply of useful (to practitioners) law review articles would go down.

Posted by: Plainsman | Jun 16, 2005 1:22:16 PM

As a JD/PhD who has worked in both medical and legal academia I can say without a doubt that peer-review will be a good thing! Not only will it likely improve the quality of the articles it will give them more creditability outside of the narrow world of legal academia, which, in my estimation, we badly need (how many lawyers have subscriptions to a law review?)

Posted by: newguyintown | Aug 10, 2005 3:48:01 PM

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