More reactions to “Abolish the Law Reviews!”

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2012

My Atlantic piece touched off a lot of discussion, much of it quite constructive, of where law reviews fall short and how best to fix or replace them. Unless you’ve caught up with it already, you’ll want to check out Friday’s post rounding up more than a dozen reactions (and updated a couple of times over the weekend to include more content). On Monday, along with new reactions at legal blogs, the piece took off on Twitter as well.

Joe Hodnicki, Law Librarian Blog:

… eventually, reader expectations will push the long-form law article into the 21st century of e-publishing.

In the process one can only hope that law journals and enhanced regularly updated serial law eBooks will also eliminate the print era version of date-stamping by ceasing publication of “issues” for journals and, for serial eBooks, scheduled “supplements” or “editions.” As soon as the text has completed the editorial process, just e-publish the damn thing immediately.

Old publishing habits die hard, but it is time to create new ones by eliminating print era legacies.

Mark Giangrande, also of Law Librarian Blog, by email, following up on our previous excerpt:

One thing not in my Law Librarian Blog post was a quick check on Westlaw to see what quantity of law review cites appeared in Supreme Court opinions in the last term. A quick count showed at least 56. What surprised me was some of the citations went back to the 1960s. I’ve often criticized law reviews for publishing philosophical pieces that tend to show faculty writing to impress their friends and win promotions, little of which contribute to the bench and bar (per CJ Roberts’ point). The Court still uses them, but generally those which actually discuss the law as the law.

The full list of 56 last-term SCOTUS law review cites, of which the most satisfying is probably “Note, Regulation of Comic Books, 68 Harv. L. Rev. 489, 490 (1955),” is too long to be included here, but those interested can drop him a line.

Adam Kusovitsky and colleagues, Pace International Law Review:

Havighurst is correct to point out that law reviews are published in order that they may be written, but that fact should not rouse a sneer or scoff. …Law reviews provide thousands of students an apparatus to develop unrivaled editing, writing and researching skills, which ultimately makes them better attorneys and more effective writers in general.

Meanwhile, Vitruvian Design spies similar signs of sclerosis in humanities and classics journals. There’s even a Reddit thread (hipsterparalegal). And the article has gotten no end of pick-up on Twitter, including Lawyerist, Corby Kummer, Boston Bar (“must reading”), Cleveland-Marshall Dean Craig Boise, and Bryan Cave Library, to name a few. And:

And this rather cruel exchange:

{ 3 comments }

1 John Steele 07.10.12 at 10:47 am

I wanted to add one point that may have already been made in response to your article: by and large, the older partners and judges still believe that being on a law review signifies a high class rank. A few years back, one of my students did a poll to see who in the legal profession knows how law review memberships work these days. The older the lawyer or judge, the more inaccurate the response. So being on law review still confers something of a benefit to the students (i.e., a presumption of top class rank), if only because of continued ignorance.

2 Ron Miller 07.10.12 at 1:04 pm

John, I don’t now that being on law review is a benefit only out of continued ignorance. I don’t think hiring lawyers or judges would want to put a ton of emphasis on it. But, look, if you were to line up all of the lawyers who are on law review and those who were not, I think the ones on law review statistically are better lawyers. So it is some indication of a good student although I agree, it is hardly the be all end all.

3 Chris Zorn 07.14.12 at 2:12 pm

Actually, we’ve done that comparison. While it varies a bit by firm, on average lawyers (or, at least, associates) who were on law review are NOT better attorneys than those that are not.

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