Our bound copies of all the issues we worked on at the Houston Law Review arrived today. Although I still love to hit the stacks in the library, I cannot remember the last time I went down there for a journal article. Grabbing it off of HeinOnline and SSRN are just too easy, searchable PDFs of the same pages far too convenient.
The paid circulation for Law Reviews has been going the way of the newspaper, dropping 50-70% amongst even the most prestigious journals, as noted by Ross Davies in the Green Bag. See Documenting the Decline of (Print) Law Reviews.
Adding to that is a recent call by the directors of law libraries across the country for law reviews to end print publication and switch to “stable, open, digital formats,” whatever that might mean. From the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship:
On 7 November 2008, the directors of the law libraries at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, New York University, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, the University of Texas, and Yale University met in Durham, North Carolina at the Duke Law School. That meeting resulted in the “Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship,” which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats.
Particularly now, with growing financial pressures on law school budgets, ending print publication of law journals deserves serious consideration. Very few law journals receive enough in subscription income and royalties to cover their costs of operation. The Statement anticipates both that the costs for printing and mailing can be eliminated, and that law libraries can reduce their costs for subscribing to, processing, and preserving print journals. There are additional benefits in improving access to journals that are not now published in open access formats and in reducing paper consumption.
David Post noted the odd significance of this development in PLOL, or The Slow Death of the Law Review As We Know It
It’s an important development, I believe. It’s true, of course, as those of you who have been or are currently in law school know, that law library directors do not have any direct responsibility for law review publication; as a result, the statement is only of significance as an advisory matter, and it can’t be implemented without a lot of other things happening and a lot of other people on board. Nonetheless, I think it adds an important voice to the debate about the future of the law review, and another hole in the hull of the law review ship, which has been taking on water for some time now.
I would say that it’s not just ‘advisory’ in that law libraries as a group are typically the largest consumers of the print publication of a law review. However, the Durham Statement is not a threatened boycott, a call for law libraries to stop purchasing print versions of the law reviews; rather it’s a slightly more bizarre plea – “Please stop making what we currently pay for so we won’t feel obligated to buy it.”
Post points to the Public Library of Science (PLoS) as the model that would displace the current one. Public Library of Science offers 7 different open access journals in biology and medicine. These things don’t edit themselves, however, and what Post omits is that they charge authors or research sponsors between $1300 – $2850 for each article they publish. Publishing with law reviews is free because a bevy of ambitious law students have made a deal to donate hundreds of hours of bluebooking and citechecking in exchange for the law review credential. Is there another market mechanism to marshal these editing resources? I don’t see a viable path to publication in the offing.
- Law Review Websites: most law reviews now offer PDF versions of their publication on their website for free. (Top 50 Law Review Websites profiled here)
Sasha Volokh ends Choosing Interpretive Methods: A Positive Theory of Judges and Everyone Else with this remarkable line:
I do not suggest that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but, as an economist, I suggest (less eloquently) that an unexamined consistency may be individually suboptimal.
We were fortunate enough to have Prof. Volokh at the University of Houston Law Center this past year. The rest of the paper is well worth discussion but exams loom. It’s published in the Legal Workshop, a new site that’s off to an auspicious start, featuring op-ed versions of the articles published by the member law journals.
I’ve compiled a comparison of distinguishing features of the Top 50 Law Review Websites during my tenure as Internet Publishing Editor for the Houston Law Review. When I undertook the position nearly a year ago, my main purpose was simply to see what other legal journals were doing with their websites and to formulate the best practices for my own. As the internet becomes increasingly important to the dissemination of legal research, I thought others might also benefit from a more comprehensive treatment. Hence the spreadsheet. The list was created from the most recent Washington and Lee Journal Rankings. Please feel free to e-mail me with errors or omissions. Also, feel free to reuse the data with my permission for any purpose you wish.
The Write-On Competition, an annual rite of passage for students seeking membership to academic journals at the University of Houston Law Center, begins this Saturday, July 5th. I wrote on to law review last year and consider the past year worth every agonizing minute of the competition. I’ve already given what scant advice I have to give on the subject in last years posts Law Review Write On and Law Review Write On: For those of you gearing up for the Case Note. I highly recommend Eugene Volokh’s Academic Legal Writing, and if you’d like to borrow my copy, please just e-mail me.
Information on the write on competition is available on the Houston Law Review website. A helpful reference is Prof. Tabor’s annual presentation which is available in powerpoint and video below.
Preparing a Casenote, How Complete Write-On Competition for Law Review/Journals
Direct Link to Video 1
Direct Link to Video 2
- Blawgraphy: Law Review Write On
- Blawgraphy: Law Review Write On: For those of you gearing up for the Case Note
- Volokh: Law Review Write-On Tips, Part 1 — Read the Bluebook Several Times Before the Competition
- Volokh: Law Review Write-On Tips, Part 2 — Set Up the Right Environment for the Write-On
- Volokh: Law Review Write-on Tips, Part 3 — Review Your Professors’ Comments on Your Written Work
- Volokh: Law Review Write-On Tips, Part 4 — Why Be on a Law Review?