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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Journals, still more

I appreciate all the responses to my earlier post on law reviews and peer review. But I confess I am still not clear what the role law reviews play in the legal academy. Judging from the responses to the peer review post, it seems to me that law reviews perform one main function: they provide credentials for students on law review, for those who publish in them, and, I guess, for law schools that publish them. Is that a fair assessment? Is there some other purpose? Do law professors read law review articles to prepare to teach new courses? To revisit the courses they teach? My recollection of the time when I practiced law (concededly quite a few years ago now), is that practitioners did not typically keep up with law reviews in general, though there were some specialized practice magazines and journals that I did follow with some regularity.

I guess what I’m trying to figure out is whether the role of law reviews is simply to provide an opportunity for publication, or if there was a consistent audience for them (other than other authors reading law reviews as part of writing their own articles).

Posted by Elizabeth Dale on May 30, 2012 at 09:09 AM | Permalink

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I am much less of a skeptic on law revs, or perhaps better said, more of a skeptic about the well discussed differences between law revs and peer revs:
http://madisonian.net/2008/04/11/because-things-are-not-so-bad-the-way-they-are%E2%80%A6on-the-law-review-front/

Posted by: orly lobel | Jun 1, 2012 11:35:04 PM

A certain kind of cynic might say the function of a law school is not but to "provide credentials for students" full stop, and rightly likewise for their journals. Loans go in, "creds" come out in differing measure. Bah humbug.

Like minds on professorial perches might trade in "opportunities for publication" like Law Wonk's wampum, redeemable only by your local tenure committee. Citations persist? They cannot resist! What does he write? Still better if nobody around can tell!

But all of that's Atkins in Rome. Consider the meatier stuff: Education, a known side effect of journal service; Scholarship, esoteric by choice and all the more precious for getting away with it, thank you very much. There is even the occasional (don't say!) Non-Sciences Student Who Reads Professors' Work. In the wild, I tell you! Scores of them!

Perfect it ain't, so fix it, if you can. But all that makes us more like The Proper Academy does not perforce make us better; we've much that they don't, a broader community and a big-P Profession to start.

Flamebait?

Posted by: Ed Bored | May 30, 2012 9:37:26 PM

As a former antitrust practitioner, I can confirm Jarod's assessment that many lawyers in the field do read the Antitrust Law Journal, though I suspect few continue to read the general law reviews (other than, perhaps, through a continuing subscription to their own alma mater's journal). This really just reinforces James' comment that journals would probably be read more (by both professors and practitioners) if they were specialized. I certainly spend much more attention to the specialty legal history journals (which I regularly go through to see what new and interesting has come out) than I do to the general law reviews, which I tend to consult only when researching specific issues or when I've seen a particularly compelling article written up somewhere. Were I not in a subfield with its own high quality specialty journals, though, I might spend much more time going through current issues of the major law reviews.

Posted by: Charles Paul Hoffman | May 30, 2012 12:05:02 PM

I read law reviews extensively. Through our library, I subscribe to most of the journals in the first and second tiers. On any given week in the year, I find two or three (and sometimes many more) articles that are either pertinent to my area of expertise or just interesting and helpful. I learn a tremendous amount from many of the articles I read, which helps me both with scholarship and teaching. Judicial citations to articles indicates that practitioners and judges also benefit from their publication. In classes, I often tell students about academic developments related to the cases I assign. Some authors use the editorial help they received from law review editors to bundle past articles into books.Of course the law reviews help students with credentialing, but the suggestion that is their "one main function" is inaccurate.

Posted by: AnonProf | May 30, 2012 11:53:26 AM

I believe that law reviews serve the same function that humanities and social science journals provide for those fields.

I frequently get info from law journals that help with class discussions, topics, etc.

Posted by: Jasmine McNealy | May 30, 2012 11:00:02 AM

I am a practicing lawyer that regularly reads law review articles. Most of the articles I read relate to my practice area of competition law, but I read other articles if they strike me as interesting. I have a strong academic interest in law, however, so I may be an outlier.

Competition law itself may present a somewhat different case than other fields as the academic world has a close relationship to the practicing world. Indeed, the Antitrust Law Journal, produced by the ABA Antitrust Section, is full of academic/economic articles, and is distributed widely to practicing attorneys. I doubt I am the only practicing lawyer reading these articles.

Posted by: Jarod Bona | May 30, 2012 10:39:21 AM

I read law reviews heavily to understand developments in the fields I teach about, write in, and comment on. I read outside my fields, though less heavily, to get a sense of what's happening throughout the law. When I clerked, I read them for context and for additional perspectives on the parties' arguments.

It doesn't make sense for practitioners to keep up with law reviews "in general" because they're not specialized. If we had far fewer general law reviews and a much deeper system of specialty law reviews, not only would peer review suddenly seem much more feasible, but there would also be a much stronger case for practitioners to read the ones in their field.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | May 30, 2012 9:32:47 AM

I frequently learn stuff from law review articles, in my field and otherwise - and not just to write my own articles. Of course, I could do that on SSRN.

Despite grumblings of every law professor (including me), I think journal editors provide a useful editing service (to the author, and to poor readers). I frequently use poor grammar because I write in a very conversational style that does not work in formal print. I'm happy to have someone check that for me. I'm also happy to have someone check all my cites and challenge me when I'm stretching what someone said to fit my purposes.

Posted by: Michael Risch | May 30, 2012 9:18:53 AM

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