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Law Reviews Adapt to New Era (WSJ)

This article from the Wall Street Journal, Law Reviews Adapt to New Era, is a must-read regarding the transitional stage we are now in, as older forms of legal scholarship give way to blogs and online resources. Here are a few choice quotes from the article:

For years, publishing in journals has been a prerequisite to getting tenure or to moving to a more prestigious institution. And for just as long, scholars and laypeople have criticized the stultifying style of legal academic articles, which tend to be extraordinarily long (sometimes 100 pages or more), dense, and endlessly -- even sadistically -- footnoted.

But the most recent wave of criticism has been especially costly to the legal journals. More than any other time in the past, law professors are looking beyond law reviews, moving relevant and timely commentary to the Internet and the blogosphere.


The focus of much current scholarship -- theoretical work with no real application for judges, practitioners, or policymakers -- has reduced the audience for it outside the legal academy. Hard statistics on law review readership are hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence suggests that practitioners simply don't pay much attention to them these days.


The law reviews are also turning to another strategy -- moving content to the Internet -- to boost readership. The law schools at Harvard and Yale, for instance, have both introduced special web-based supplements to their print publications.

At the same time, some newer journals have jettisoned print publication altogether and are operating purely as online publications. Much like web-based publications outside of the law, they're geared toward briefer, more timely writings.

…These days, quite often a law professor will read, criticize, and even cite drafts of an article posted on SSRN before it appears in final form in a law review. The result is that law reviews are, in the minds of some, beginning to feel like yesterday's news.

The debate about law reviews isn't simply academic. Rather, the issue puts into question the role of what professors should do when they're not teaching. "Legal scholarship is at a crossroads," says Ethan Leib, a young professor aiming for tenure at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. "The question we're asking is: Is our job to advance knowledge through contributions to academic journals, or is it to contribute to the public conversation about law?"

February 21, 2006 in Blogs and Law Reviews | Permalink


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