lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Icon
Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Why Law Reviews Don’t Go Gently Into That Good Night

In a strange, to some infuriating, subversion of the typical law school social order (student is to prof as pawn is to queen) the venerable academic publication of any law school, the law review, is almost entirely student run. In this horrifying academic bizarro-world it’s a gaggle of toe-headed 2Ls who pass judgment on whether or not the esteemed professor will fill their journal with his or her intelligence and (*gasp!*) may even ask for revisions.

In Now Professors Get Their Star Rankings, Too, the NY Times Noam Cohen delves into the Web 2.0 version of scholarly publication, SSRN (Social Science Research Network) which presumably obviates the point of law reviews, allowing academics to self-publish to comparatively huge audiences… and yet law reviews lives on.

Sam Kamin ponders this inscrutable development in NYT Discovers SSRN — DEVELOPING!:

You post on SSRN before (often long, long before) your article sees print, but aren’t most people still seeking placements for their articles in old-fashioned journals? If so, why? I understand that untenured faculty still need the stamp of approval that comes with law journal acceptance. For those of us with tenure, though, what makes us continue to seek such acceptance?

to which Lawrence Solum offers several explanations in Kamin Asks Why SSRN Hasn’t Displaced Law Reviews all of which dwell on comparative advantage of law reviews as a platform.

I’ll hazard my own explanation as someone on the receiving end – the secret to law review’s longevity is simply the comparative advantage of conscripted labor. In return for the prestige of the activity, law students put in untold hours editing these works, some of which come in as, let’s put it diplomatically, diamonds in the rough. In what peer-reviewed journal’s office would a footnote that says the equivalent of “find something that says this” pass for substantiation? Students do the work in the mines, below the line, for free – work that would be prohibitively expensive to acquire on the market.

There are alternatives that try to take this into account, see Anthony Ciolli’s proposal Law Review Innovation: The Peer-Assist System, and the Criminal Law Conversations project at Penn, but until substantially similar leverage is found, law reviews will continue to be the primary avenue of publication.

Houston Law Review, Spring 2008, Vol. 45 No. 1

The Twelfth Annual Frankel Lecture
Foreward

Article

Commentary

Comments

Note

Houston Law Review Latest Issue (Fall 2007)

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the latest publication of the Houston Law Review. I found Patel’s MySpace or Yours: The Abridgment of the Blogosphere at the Hands of At-Will Employment fascinating for more than intellectual curiosities sake. I’ll be unpacking some of these in future posts.

New Forms and Directions for Law Review Websites

Doug Hass at This is where the cowboy blogs away… notes that not only are the Hoosiers good shots (see my previous post here), but they just rolled out a fantastic update to their Law Review’s website – the Indiana Law Journal Supplement.

In design and function, the Indiana Law Journal Supplement represents the best implementation I’ve seen of the rapidly converging worlds of law reviews and blog technology. (For another excellent implementation along similar lines, see the Yale Law Journal Pocket Part) Houston, we have some catching up to do.

Postscript

I’ve mentioned the law review write on here, here and here, and am happy to report that my attempt was successful. The casenote concerned Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 127 S. Ct. 2162 (2007). I’m quite sick of thinking about this case, to be honest, but it occurred to me today that being a Supreme Court plaintiff must be a bit like having a fantastically rare disease – you’re interesting to people for all the wrong reasons. Your plight is rehashed a thousand times over by people less interested in your welfare than in the legal consequences you stand for and nine of the most powerful people in the nation just decided your fate for reasons that are barely comprehensible to the average person. So it was kind of nice to hear from Lilly Ledbetter herself. (thanks for the link, Ko!)

Blawgraphy: Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Categories