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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Online-only law reviews

It’s well into May, y’all, and well beyond the time that I should bring my April Prawfs guesting stint to a conclusion. For my final post, I thought I’d share my experience doing something new with respect to publication: publishing in an online-only law journal (I'm using the term online-only because many, even most, print journals also publish their articles online--I'm referring to law reviews that don't have a print analog). (The piece, to further conclude my guest stint in the spirit of shameless self-promotion, is “Market Harm, Market Help, and Fair Use,” 17 Stan. Tech. L. Rev. 359 (2014)).

I didn’t have any strong sense that publishing in print journals was the only way to go, it’s just that until recently the alternative had never occurred to me. But the experience was almost exactly the same as it was with print journals in terms of editing schedules and process. And there are a lot of upsides: the article got out there in its final form much sooner, since there was no need to wait for the analog printing process, and there are related green upsides if that’s something you’re into.

I am hard-pressed to think of much in the way of a downside, honestly. The student editing was outstanding, right in the same league as the print journals I’ve worked with. I suppose the most obvious drawback is that there’s no physical circulation for the journal, so your article won’t get into the hands of mail subscribers and libraries (but it is online and on Westlaw and Lexis, which I think is far more important).

One could imagine an argument that people won’t take a publication seriously unless it’s also in print form, but that one just seems implausible to me in this increasingly digital age. The vast majority of articles I read are from digital sources, so I suspect any skepticism about the online-only format will soon be a thing of the past. Having reprints is neat, of course, but that’s a luxury that’s not clearly justified given its costs.

And I guess online-only journals may direct more traffic to their site, and away from SSRN, decreasing the author's downloads, but again--that seems pretty marginal. The important thing is that the work is good and that people read it; SSRN downloads are only a proxy for those much more important considerations.

So having said all of this, and to polemically recast this post as a question to the Prawfs readership, is there any reason to prefer print law review articles? (Archives? Etc.?) Discuss! (And see you all sometime in the guest-blogging future.)

Posted by Dave_Fagundes on May 13, 2014 at 12:50 PM in Law Review Review | Permalink


I published a piece in the Berkeley Business Law Journal. All online. No problems with Westlaw or Lexis. Editing just fine. Saved a lot of paper.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | May 14, 2014 3:47:32 PM

How is it that an online journal gets their articles onto Westlaw and Lexis? And also, how did you get your article picked up by Stan Tech L.Rev.?

Posted by: Chris | May 13, 2014 4:32:10 PM

At this point, I think it's the last vestige of some prestige concerns. If given the choice between an online-only and a print journal, all else being roughly equal, that concern (especially for pre-tenure scholars) will push towards the latter. The fact that the journal you published with carries the Stanford name, even as a secondary/specialty journal, alleviates some of those concerns.

We have been exploring taking FIU Law Review to all-online. Since that is an all-symposium format (adopting Randy Barnett's old advice), the choice/prestige concerns vanish. Someone either will or will not participate in the symposium; that the journal is on-line likely will not affect anyone's decision on that.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | May 13, 2014 4:02:09 PM

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