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Monday, February 25, 2008

Online Journal Supplements -- Fizz or Fizzle?

The advent of online journal supplements has led to some uncertainty in their value.  For those who are unfamiliar with them, they are "extensions" of the print law reviews that enable publication of shorter essay or op-ed style pieces with more immediacy.  The supplements take several forms.  Some allow only commentary on the print articles (e.g., Harvard Law Review Forum), some allow stand-alone pieces (e.g., Virginia Law Review In Brief), some allow only online symposia (e.g., Michigan Law Review First Impressions), and some allow a variety of genres (e.g., Yale Law Journal Pocket Part).

I have written both a stand-alone piece and a response-and-reply series in supplements.  In the former, I wrote an essay on the big pleading case of last term, Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, for Virginia Law Review In Brief.  In the latter, I wrote an essay on a jurisdictional case from last term, Bowles v. Russell, in Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy.  Three others responded to my Colloquy piece: Professor Perry Dane, Professor Beth Burch, and Mr. King Poor, Esq.  The final installment, my reply to their responses, was just posted today.  I thought that format was both satisfying and effective.

In both cases, I thought the medium provided a wonderful opportunity to reach academics, practitioners, and judges, and thereby to enhance the relevance of the academy to those actually in the trenches.  But that could party be because of the particular topics I picked.

What are the thoughts of others out there?  Are these online supplements valuable?  If so, which formats are most effective?  What are their future, and what should they do to make the most of it?

Posted by Scott Dodson on February 25, 2008 at 10:46 PM | Permalink

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Professor Scott Dobson wrote an interesting Feb. 25, 2008 posting on PrawfsBlawg entitled Online Journal Supplements -- Fizz or Fizzle? where he questions the value of online law review supplements, such as Yale Law Reviews Pocket Part. Turning to his [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 26, 2008 12:11:54 AM

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A great use of the on-line supplement is the Yale L.J. Pocket Part issue posting selected archival documents relied on in a recent article by Jenny Martinez. It's here:
http://yalelawjournal.org/2008/02/25/martinez.html
and briefly blogged about here: http://legalhistoryblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/martinez-archival-documents-posted-by.html

As many researchers now make digital images of documents during research, rather than photocopying, this can be easy to do. I expect readers will greatly appreciate being able to see the original sources that would otherwise only be available in the archives.

Posted by: Mary Dudziak | Feb 26, 2008 10:46:45 AM

Having published one thing in a supplement and written another with a supplement in mind (although I put it elsewhere), I thought it was a great experience. It is a cut above an op-ed or FindLaw/Jurist column. Because there is more space and you are writing for a primarily legal audience, there is opportunity to elaborate on legal and theoretical ideas--not to the degree you would in a full article, but somewhat. And the timeliness and wider distribution both help. Plus, with full articles shrinking in size, the gap between them may not be as great. I definitely would write something with these fora in mind again.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Feb 26, 2008 10:44:21 PM

One person who wishes to remain anonymous has told me that he would like to see the online supplements do a better job of putting the publications on WestLaw and LEXIS/NEXIS.

Posted by: Scott Dodson | Feb 27, 2008 9:30:04 AM

The Harvard Law Review Forum is available on WestLaw and LEXIS and has been for about a year. I wasn't involved in making that happen, but I heard through the grapevine that it took a lot of arm twisting to get the databases to post.

Posted by: DM | Mar 6, 2008 3:05:34 PM

From a law student perspective, I think online supplements have pedagogical value if they extend a print journal's opportunities for student involvement both in terms of research assistants to professors who now have more venues in which to publish and law journal staff who can get greater exposure to scholarly writing.

What would really be the kicker is if supplements also provide greater opportunities for students to get articles/notes/case comments published under their own name as well. I know from experience on a journal that there are only so many pages available in any given book. Also, sometimes editors of specialty journals demand significant changes to a note that is otherwise publishable as-is because it does not quite "fit." I think an online supplement could give voice to these otherwise overlooked papers.

Posted by: W | Mar 21, 2008 9:57:28 PM

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