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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Article Length Limits: Further Results

Last year I posted an early analysis of the effects of the new law review article length limits.   These limits had been implemented in early 2005 following a joint policy statement by eleven of the top law reviews.  The statement made a commitment to "moderating the length of articles," and many of the reviews subsequently adopted formal policies about preferences or hard limitations on article length, based on pages or word count.  (The MacMillan Law Library at Emory has helpfully composed a list of such policies.)

My initial study last year found that, under the new policy, law review articles at a sample of the reviews had indeed gotten shorter.  Looking at 230 articles published in seven of the signatories (Columbia, Harvard, Penn, Stanford, Texas, Virginia, and Yale), I compared those published after the policy to those published in the two editorial cycles before it.  For those articles published in the 2005-2006 editorial season, the average length was 67 pages; in contrast, those articles published during the 2003-2005 seasons averaged 88 pages.

Has the trend toward shorter articles continued?

Yes.  In this year's analysis, I kept the focus on the same seven journals, but I extended the included articles both forward and backward in time.  Overall, I looked at a pool of 591 articles from 2000 up though the summer of 2007.  Here are the results:

  • For the 168 articles published either in or after the 2005-2006 season (the "post-statement" period), the average length was 67 pages.  The median was also 67 pages (up from last year's 64 pages).
  • Interestingly, for the 423 articles published between 2000 and 2005 (the "pre-statement" period), the average length was 83 pages.  This is five pages shorter than the 2003-2005 average of 88 pages.  Breaking the data down further, for the 240 articles published between 2000 and the 2002-2003 season, the average length was 82 pages.  In addition, if the 428-page article by Steven Shavell and Lewis Kaplow is removed from the sample, the articles published in 2000 and 2001 averaged 77 pages in length.  Thus, at these seven reviews it appears that the average size of the articles was increasing from 2000 to 2005.

In addition, eleven articles at these seven journals cracked the 100-page-barrier in the post-statement period.  Here is some data on these articles:

  • The eleven articles represent only 6.5% of articles published during that time (11 out of 168).  In contrast, 23% of articles published in the pre-statement period (98 out of 423) were 100 pages or more.
  • In the post-statement period,Yale Law Journal published four articles over 100 pages; Stanford Law Review published three; Texas Law Review published two; and Columbia Law Review and Virginia Law Review each published one.  Harvard Law Review's longest article has been 84 pages.
  • Constitutional law was most strongly represented, with six of the articles touching on con law subjects.  Three of the articles touched on corporate law topics; two on criminal law; and one each on administrative law, property, immigration, and torts.  (I categorized four of the articles as having more than one subject.)
  • Six of the eleven articles had an author that shared an institutional affiliation with the law review.

Thus, it appears that the trend towards shorter articles is continuing.  In addition, it appears that articles had been trending longer from 2000 to 2005.  I hope to do more follow-up studies in the future, with a focus on the relationship between subject matter and length.  I also hope to expand the study to include more reviews, including non-signatories.  If anyone has suggestions or further avenues of inquiry, please let me know.

A note on methodology: These seven reviews were initially chosen out of the eleven statement signatories because of their web resources.  The data set should include only at articles, not essays or book reviews.  Regarding the date of the law reviews, five of the seven reviews date their volumes by academic year (e.g., 2005-2006).  Two of the reviews -- Columbia and Virginia -- date their volumes by calendar year.  For these two reviews, I counted 2005 as a "pre-statement" year.  For the other reviews, I counted the 2005-2006 volume as "post-statement".

Posted by Matt Bodie on October 10, 2007 at 01:32 PM in Article Spotlight, Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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