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Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Serious Law Review Article about Law Review Articles

As the debate about the value of law review articles continues on this blog, on Twitter, and in other reaches of social media opinion-sphere, I wanted to draw attention to Barry Friedman’s new article Fixing Law Reviews that was just published in the Duke Law Journal (April 2018).  It is worth a read and will perhaps be an impetus for some needed changes.    

Posted by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson on April 29, 2018 at 09:37 AM | Permalink


As a state appeals court judge, I wish our law journals published articles that we could actually use and cite in opinions. It seems that articles today no longer want to take on pressing issues in state jurisprudence.

Posted by: KenGriffis | May 1, 2018 10:13:35 AM

And, the placement proves the point of the article. Placement is only marginally correlated with quality. The first few commentators don't seem to appreciate that, but I think this article proves the point. My comment was not meant as an attack on the article, its author, or the students at Duke.

However, I think this is very different than the analogy to the law clerk hiring plan. A well-known prof at a top law school does not have special insight into the problems with the submission process. Just the opposite, as the system clearly benefits his work. While other top law profs might be more willing to listen to him, I would think a co-author from a lower-ranked school would have made the article more balanced.

Posted by: anon | Apr 30, 2018 9:16:51 PM

It's a tiny bit ironic that a piece that complains about excessively careful student editing has a typo on its first page. Adam Levitin's name is misspelled (unless there's a law professor named Adam Levitan that google has never heard of).

Posted by: Anon | Apr 30, 2018 9:31:12 AM

And? With proposals for change, who endorses the proposal is at least as important as its content (e.g., it would make sense to me for Bob Katzmann's argument for a new law-clerk hiring plan to be published in a top law review, even if my argument of identical content would not).

Posted by: anon | Apr 30, 2018 8:27:54 AM

How on earth can anyone be shocked that this placed in a top 15 law review? Did you see who wrote it? That is the whole point, I think. If I had written this, it would have been placed at an unranked journal.

Posted by: anon | Apr 29, 2018 9:03:15 PM

The fact that an author is on the market is completely irrelevant to whether a law review should publish his or her article.

One can criticize an article for being too ambitious or not ambitious enough, too long or not long enough, poorly supported or excessively supported, etc. But the idea that an article "take[s] up real estate" is a poor critique. Publication isn't zero-sum, and the fact that article A is published in law review B takes away from other better articles only if readers pay more attention to where an article is published than to the article itself. So to complain about "Fixing Law Reviews" on this basis is itself an unintentional indictment of the current law review publication system.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Apr 29, 2018 4:49:41 PM

I can't tell if the previous two comments are sarcastic or not, but I do think it's a shame that Duke chose to publish this piece over real pieces by young law profs currently on the market. I'm not saying the fact that an author is on the market is a sufficient reason for law reviews to publish him/her, but this piece is derivative, repetitive, bloated, and may just as effectively be posted on a blog in <750 words. So not only does it take up real estate, it does little to justify doing so!

Posted by: Junior Faculty | Apr 29, 2018 2:48:41 PM

Agreed. I'm shocked Duke would publish a non-doctrinal piece that just rehashes the same old points.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 29, 2018 1:00:11 PM

I'm shocked something as intellectually-light as this piece got published in the Duke Law Journal! Someone must have called in a favor.

Posted by: AnonProf | Apr 29, 2018 10:09:13 AM

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