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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Essential law review symposium issues

Thanks to Howard for allowing me to return to Prawfs! I write on election law, and I blog at Excess of Democracy, but they'll (mostly) be background issues for my stint here at Prawfs (I hope!). I want to start with some more general items, some of which I hope to be of particular interest to more junior faculty. First up: law review symposium issues.

When researching a new topic or refreshing my recollection on something old, I've probably become the last prawf to realize how valuable law review symposium issues are (a slightly different inquiry than Professor Carissa Byrne Hessick's thoughtful post on law review articles generally). Time and again, I've found that some outstanding symposium issues are chock full of terrific pieces, a kind of one-stop-shop for research rather than plodding through Westlaw or SSRN. Because most law reviews are general (admittedly, I also rely a lot on the peer-reviewed Election Law Journal!), symposium issues serve as a convenient place to browse a number of articles on a topic, which can serve as an incredible launching point for research.

I'll name three such issues I regularly rely upon, and I'll link to their tables of contents (Hein subscription may be required). Each of these have a terrific collection of pieces.

The Law of Presidential Elections: Issues in the Wake of Florida 2000, Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 29, Issue 2 (2002)

Baker v. Carr: A Commemorative Symposium, North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 80, Issue 4 (2002)

Congress in the Twenty-First Century, Boston University Law Review, Vol. 89, Issue 2 (2009)

 (As an added bonus, I snag print copies from the library and keep them in the middle of my office coffee table for handy reference.)

A couple of questions for the comments (or for Twitter):

First, what makes for an outstanding symposium issue (and not just an outstanding symposium--although perhaps the two have some relationship)? The issues above range from the extremely timely to the the half-century-old. The article lengths and types of contributors can vary widely, too.

Second, what are some of the symposium issues you find essential in your field? For those who have been writing for many years, it can be particularly helpful to direct newer colleagues toward such resources, as diverse as our areas of interest might be. (This, I hope, might supplement the classic 2006 post from Professor Matt Bodie, "Research Canons"--very much worth reading!)

Posted by Derek Muller on April 10, 2018 at 10:10 AM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


I just posted something saying that no one other than the contributors read symposium issues! -- so this is interesting. (Weird, though, that I have contributions in two of the three symposia listed.) The problem with symposium issues, I think is that they fall into two categories. One is the symposium provoked by some then-recent development. Here the problem is that most of the contributions will become outdated rather rapidly, making it unprofitable to go back to the issue to try to identify the contributions that have some enduring value. The other category is the "anniversary" or similar symposium. Here the difficulty is that most of the interesting things to be said about the thing (case, major article, etc.) will already have been said in the intervening years. (As I mentioned in my other post, I hope to write something on symposium issues based upon a re-reading of the accumulated symposium issues in which I've had contributions.)

Posted by: Mark Victor Tushnet | Apr 11, 2018 11:02:16 AM

There were two really thick symposium issues that came out in 1996-97, about physician-assisted suicide, in anticipation of Glucksberg and Vacco. (One was Duquesne and one was Detroit-Mercy.) I've also returned often to a 2001 symposium, from Wake Forest Law Review, on "Religiously Based Morality: Its Proper Place in American Law and Public Policy."

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Apr 10, 2018 1:59:32 PM

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