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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Law Reviews 10.3

Rosa Brooks at LawCulture is considering saying good-bye to law reviews now that she has tenure.  She cites the well-known inadequacies and frustrations of the genre and the process -- and concludes that there is no good reason to keep on writing law review articles.  Although one cannot help but see where she is coming from, I can't help wonder if her employer would be  sanguine about the decision.  In short, faculty who stop writing law review articles often come to be seen as "deadwood" within their institutions.  Even if someone is writing op-eds, blogs, newspaper articles, and an occasional book -- all things that bring a school more attention than an average law review article -- I believe most schools probably wish for their faculty to be active scholars, where scholarship is measured through articles.  It is worth noting that books need to be pitched at a high level of popularization and are not as easy to search on Lexis and Westlaw.  More, law professors who write them only very rarely radically advance a field through them (and those who do often have already made their contribution through an article).

Surely, her decision could not be a basis for a tenure revocation -- and wouldn't be all that odd in today's legal academic climate.  But it may inadvertantly and indirectly create new tenure standards that aim to sniff out those that will stop writing "real" articles.  And this will disadvantage those who enjoy writing outside of the article genre but still intend to continue doing scholarship alongside more popular media outlets.

Posted by Ethan Leib on January 18, 2006 at 01:46 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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» Whoa- books ARE scholarship, too! from LawCulture
Um, aren't they? My earlier post, Goodbye to Law Reviews, has generated a bunch of comments, and Ethan Lieb has posted some of his own thoughts at Prawfsblawg. Some of the comments seem to assume that books generally don't constitute [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 18, 2006 3:22:37 PM

» Does Scholarly Writing Have to Be Tedious? from Concurring Opinions
Over at the new and very engaging blog, LawCulture, Rosa Brooks writes: As a junior professor, I dutifully churned out law review articles to fill my tenure file. Some of those articles, I think, may even have contained a few... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 19, 2006 11:09:19 AM

» Law Reviews and the Citation Efficiency Index from Law & Society Weblog
[Jurisprudence] The discussion whether law reviews deserve cheers or raspberries continues. Dan Solove thinks that student-edited law reviews arent that bad after all, and even have their virtues. What I am particularly interested in is the rela... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 19, 2006 6:44:05 PM

» Law Reviews and the Citation Efficiency Index from Law & Society Weblog
[Jurisprudence] The discussion whether law reviews deserve cheers or raspberries continues. Dan Solove thinks that student-edited law reviews arent that bad after all, and even have their virtues. What I am particularly interested in is the rela... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 22, 2006 8:04:28 PM

» Law Reviews and the Citation Efficiency Index from Law & Society Weblog
[Jurisprudence] The discussion whether law reviews deserve cheers or raspberries continues. Dan Solove thinks that student-edited law reviews arent that bad after all, and even have their virtues. What I am particularly interested in is the rela... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 22, 2006 8:31:32 PM

Comments

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Well, I hope the personal consequences of raising the question won't be dire! But more to the point-- why do you feel that books "need to be pitched at a high level of popularization"? What about academic presses? The argument that few books says something their author has not already said in a law review article strikes me as neither here nor there: even if true (and I am not sure it is), that could presumably be just an artifact of the existing system: we're all more or less forced to write law review articles rather than books early on, so it's natural that subsequent books will draw in some measure on those articles. But that doesn't necessarily have any bearing on whether one could write an original book on a subject on which one has not previously written a law review article.


If more legal scholars rebel against the constraints of the law review genre, might that not encourage tenure committees to reconsider the forms of scholarship that are valued, rather than just inspiring them to "sniff out those that will stop writing 'real' articles"? And if legal scholars will only read what they can find on Westlaw and Lexis, that's pretty depressing.

Posted by: Rosa Brooks | Jan 18, 2006 2:13:12 PM

I'm with you normatively. I'm just thinking through the short-term consequences for someone like me. After all, that is my real subject of interest! :)

Of course I agree that one COULD write path-breaking books that have never been published before as articles. But if one had a really original and path-breaking idea, s/he would be crazy not to try to get it out as an article first. Books take much longer (unless you've got some special connections or Posner-like speed) -- and the cycle of article publishing actually helps you take ownership of an idea faster.

My sense from having a book out (which started as a law review article!) and one forthcoming this year (which didn't!) is that they do indeed require a higher level of popularization. Publishers (even academic ones) rightfully want to know that your book can reach a wider audience than an academic article. Academic presses routinely refuse to consider unedited (read: unpopularized) dissertations. This has some benefits, of course: books tend to be more readable than articles or dissertations and can often get a wider audience consequently. But it has some drawbacks if people set their tasks as only writing books, especially us law professors who like the limelight and media attention. Careful and excruciatingly researched books are relatively hard to publish and hard to get an audience for. The process may be less depressing than negotiating with students but it is still long and arduous. The worry is that even the books will be of a certain form -- something just shy of real scholarship. And I believe there is reasonable cause for concern about this.

I agree with you that if a critical mass rebel, there could be change in the long run. But we are in a conservative profession where those above us want to see us jump through the same hoops they did. You even acknowledge in your post that you wanted to fill that file with what you know you were supposed to do -- because you know what I'm saying has some validity. In the current marketplace, even blogging and writing op-eds is a risk. One I'm taking, clearly, but a gamble all the same.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Jan 18, 2006 2:39:13 PM

I agree that I'd advise junior professors to focus mainly on law review articles, since for better or worse, they're still the currency of the realm. But I think it's for worse. As for books, I hope and trust that it is possible to write books that simultaneously take scholarship seriously and strive to speak to a somewhat broader audience. Whether that is so is something I suppose I will find out!

Posted by: Rosa Brooks | Jan 18, 2006 3:25:48 PM

I don't mean to be rude in any way, but I cannot fathom how the legal academic profession can take itself seriously without peer-reviewed articles being the primary form of scholarship. I'm not saying that peer review is perfect by any means, but it seems more likely to produce quality work than the law review process. I understand that peer-reviewed journals are starting to become available to legal scholars, and I hope for the sake of legal scholarship in this country that they become the norm. :)

Posted by: billb | Jan 18, 2006 4:44:41 PM

I'm with bilb. Plus, I think books, especially academic press books, have done at least as much and sometimes more to advance more fields, including law-related fields, than articles have. At least that's true in legal history and many areas of labor and employment law.

None of that, I hasten to add, is necessarily a justification for a recently tenured person to change -- entirely and suddenly -- the entire way s/he publishes, if that change is contrary to the wishes of her school.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Jan 18, 2006 5:49:07 PM

Joseph: the whole point of tenure is to free up scholars from needing to placate their colleagues. It may be that the institution of tenure is impossible to justify. But if a person with tenure should not feel free to change his or her apporach to scholarship, and/or the venues in which s/he publishes, what's the point? Don't we want people to be free to experiment intellectually, including, if they see fit, experimenting with different venues for scholarship?

Posted by: profanon | Jan 18, 2006 7:05:53 PM

profanon:

Well, yes and no. First, let me stress that I'm not talking about this particular case. Again, in my own opinion, I think books are often much better than articles. But, in a different situation, I might come out differently.

I don't think tenure necessarily means "you can do whatever you want and call it scholarship." I think a school could have a policy that you write your Big Articles or Big Book and then, after tenure, you can write in forms more of your own choosing. But tenure could also mean, "we grant you tenure because we expect you to do at least some more of the same type of thing, because we like it when our faculty do that kind of thing.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Jan 19, 2006 3:51:56 PM

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