Last Writes?
Re-assessing the Law Review in the Age of
Version 1.2 created March 10, 1997; Version 1.0 created February 5, 1996

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II. The Critical Tradition

Criticizing the law review is a time-honored legal tradition. Almost from the outset of the institution, dissident law professors, practitioners, judges and occasionally even law students have complained about its form, its content and its operation. The precise nature of the criticisms has varied over time, largely in response to developments in American legal education and the larger American legal and social environment which have affected the needs, attitudes or expectations of the law review's constituencies. Commentators have repeatedly remarked on the law review's apparent ability to resist criticism, but in fact the institution has responded to several challenges since its inception. Its fundamental problem today is not that it has not changed, but that it has not changed enough.

[2.2] Criticisms of the law review have historically tended to come in waves, each wave larger and more powerful than the last. The first, weakest and most diffuse wave of criticism lasted roughly from 1905 to 1940, coinciding with much of the law review's initial period of development and popularization. To some extent, the first wave was a reaction against the relatively-rapid proliferation of school-sponsored legal journals in the early decades of the twentieth century. The numbers speak for themselves: in 1900 there were 7 law reviews;54 in 1928, there were 33;55 in 1937, there were 50.56 As early as 1906, the faculty editors of the new state-oriented Illinois Law Journal expressed the feeling that the "field for law reviews of a general character is already overcrowded."57 Restraint, re-orientation and specialization were said to be in order: in 1927, Illinois' Albert Kocourek even went so far as to suggest that "the Harvard Law Review might become what is consistent with its traditions, a journal of legal history; the Yale Law Journal might become a journal of jurisprudence; and the Columbia Law Review might become a journal of commercial law."58

Criticisms of the law review have historically tended to come in waves, each wave larger and more powerful than the last.

[2.3] The first wave of law review criticism was also a by-product of the gradual standardization of the law review format which had come with the growing popularity and power of the genre. After a brief period of experimentation from the late 1880s through 1900 during which the law reviews carried such "unusual" things as school news, class notes, etc., most fell into a set (and, to us, more familiar) structure: leading articles, cases notes, and book reviews. They also settled into a definable style: careful, plodding, rather heavily footnoted. These developments did not sit well with everyone in the legal professoriate; the dissatisfaction of critics only increased as the reviews appeared to become more hidebound over time. In 1936, as the fiftieth anniversary of the Harvard Law Review drew near, Yale's Fred Rodell made it plain that he had had enough. In his Virginia Law Review article "Goodbye to Law Reviews"59 (which in later years would ultimately, and perhaps ironically, become the most-cited law review article on law reviews) he declared that there were two problems with legal writing in general, and law review writing in particular: "One is its style. The other is its content".60 Armed with a rapier wit and a poison pen, Rodell decried the conservatism of editors and the stultifying sameness of the law review format they favored.61 He bewailed what he regarded as the specious and largely superfluous business of footnotes. More accurately than some of his colleagues, friends and students might have wished, he attributed these and other problems to the law review's nature as a product of the collective self interest of career-conscious professors, job-seeking students and idea-hoarding law firms.62 Rodell's disgust with the existing system was such that he doubted whether he would ever write a law review article again.63

[2.4] Student editorial control of law reviews was another early cause of concern, especially after a number of prominent law schools which had originally founded faculty-edited journals either gave up their experiments (e.g. Iowa, in 1901) or radically reduced the degree of faculty supervision (e.g. Wisconsin, during the late 1920s).64 Speaking from the bench of the United States Supreme Court in 1911, Holmes former commercial law journal editor Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. dismissed law reviews in general as "the work of boys".65 In 1927, the faculty editor of the Illinois Law Review contended that "While preparation of case notes by students is excellent training, and while the researches of law students are valuable in gathering material, in classifying the trend of decisions, and in presenting points of view...yet the bar is entitled to more than that."66 Iowa law professor Clarence Updegraff explicitly opined in 1929 that "the criticism and revision of leading articles, at least in the majority of schools, should be a faculty matter. The best of law students will scarcely be sufficiently well prepared to decide in a close case whether a submitted article should be published or not."67

Speaking from the bench of the United States Supreme Court in 1911,...Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. dismissed law reviews as "the work of boys."

[2.5] Finally, some of the criticisms made of law reviews in the 1930s in particular were directly or indirectly induced by the rise of legal realism, a broad school of jurisprudence that used social science concepts to challenge traditional doctrinal styles of legal analysis. The realist attack on "classical" legal thought became an attack on the law reviews which had been born of, and in turn had helped to nurture narrow, case-based legal theory. Fred Rodell did not phrase his 1936 critique of law reviews in expressly realist terms, but it is likely that his own realist outlook helped to shape his negative attitude. Duke's David Cavers, although not a realist himself, nonetheless reflected the impact of realism when he observed in the same year that law reviews had a restricted "range of inquiry", having confined themselves to the concerns of courts and lawyers without reference to the social context of legal problems.68

[2.6] Largely because of the somewhat spotty and disjointed nature of these early reproaches of the law reviews, not to mention the paeans, apologias and ripostes which more than counterbalanced them,69 the first wave of criticism had only slight impact on the existing law review structure. After the inauguration of the Illinois Law Review in 1906, an increasing number of state-based law reviews (e.g. the California Law Review and the Missouri Law Bulletin) began publication. In 1925, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University tried to avoid duplication of effort (not to mention product) by sharing sponsorship of single law journal (the Illinois Law Review) formerly published under the auspices of Northwestern alone.70 A couple of law reviews specializing in particular subjects appeared in the 1930s (e.g. the George Washington Law Review, specializing in federal public law; the Journal of Air Law, edited out of Northwestern University and the University of Southern California Schools of Law). In 1933, David Cavers and the Duke Law School launched the faculty-edited (if still student-staffed) Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems, an overtly-interdisciplinary publication which pioneered a "symposium" format designed to foster subject-specialization and thereby reduce redundancy across reviews.71

...the first wave of criticism had only slight impact on the existing law review structure.

[2.7] None of these reforms was particularly fundamental or successful, however. The state-based law reviews were little more than smaller versions of the general model; many of them actually evolved into general publications in later years.72 The joint editorial arrangement of the Illinois Law Review collapsed in 1932, when Northwestern law students took it over. Despite some articulate arguments made on their behalf,73 the number of specialized law reviews remained small through the 1940s, largely because of the limited scope for publicity that they afforded to their sponsoring schools. For a variety of reasons (not least of which was the legal academy's retreat from realism) the Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems found it difficult to meet its own interdisciplinary aspirations let alone inspire other reviews to adopt a similar course. The symposium format was adopted by a few law reviews,74 but was quickly recognized, even by its inventor, as being "not well suited for general use": "It compels a shifting of the field of inquiry with each issue.... [and] it...... cannot provide an always-available outlet for the writer who is working on a topic which...does not happen to coincide with the current editorial program."75

[2.8] The lack of significant or successful response to the first wave of law review criticism facilitated the build-up of a second wave. Perhaps predictably, this struck the law reviews in the 1950s and early 1960s after a brief hiatus which had lasted through the war and immediate post-war periods. Many second-wave complaints were obviously the result of ongoing frustration. In 1952, for instance, Illinois' John Cribbet complained that the law reviews were too similar to one another; he called for "experimentation in every phase of the review from the cover and format to the type of note and case comment."76 The next year, Judge Stanley Fuld of the New York Court of Appeals chided law reviews for their plethora of footnotes and their duplication of effort.77 Emory's Arthur S. Miller lamented the "monotonous uniformity" of the journals in 1955, and pointedly deplored the tendency of student note writers in different reviews to seize upon the same cases, with the result that in some instances a single case was noted nineteen or twenty times.78 In 1962, twenty-five years after his first broadside against law reviews, Fred Rodell himself returned to give them a second skewering. Asserting that "a quarter century has wrought no revolution",79 he repeated his original critique, and went on to suggest that the style of law review articles had deteriorated even beyond the sad state in which he had found it in the late 1930s.80

[2.9] Frustration with the lack of fundamental change was not, however, the only factor behind the second wave of law review criticism. By the 1950s, the American legal academy had changed in ways that presented not only new opportunities, but new problems. For one thing, there were significantly more law reviews (76 in 1951, up from 55 in 1941). 81 In this context Chicago's Alan Mewett could and did repeat the old saw about "too many law reviews",82 giving it a new spin by suggesting that the plethora of scholarly outlets made articles in any one subject area hard to find, even with the aid of the Index to Legal Periodicals.83 Mewett argued that marginal law reviews which had to solicit articles or which had difficulty in meeting deadlines deserved to be shut down; he advised authors to accelerate this process by boycotting these journals in the first place.84

Many second-wave complaints were obviously the result of ongoing frustration.

[2.10] Increased pressure to research and publish provided another reason for American law professors to focus more critical attention on law reviews in the 1950s and early 1960s. A certain pressure or at least incentive to publish had of course existed in legal academia since the inception of law reviews in the late nineteenth century, but only after 1950 did the push towards publication become generally significant. To some extent, law schools in these years caught up with other university schools and departments which in the early 1940s had fallen victim to the "publish or perish" approach to tenure and promotion.85 In part also, legal research became more important because the continued multiplication of law reviews made publication more convenient, and even made it necessary to the survival of some of the lesser reviews.86 In 1957, Wisconsin's Willard Hurst called for more financial and personal resources to support law professors' research efforts.87 In 1959, the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) went so far as to adopt a formal "Research Standard," declaring for the first time that "Faculty members have an important responsibility to advance as well as to transmit ordered knowledge."88

[2.11] Renewed criticism of the law review system was also prompted by the fact that by the 1950s and 1960s almost all the law reviews had become formally independent from law faculties. At the University of Michigan, for instance, faculty control had begun to ebb in the early 1940s; by 1952, students had taken over most editorial responsibilities, with faculty serving only in an advisory capacity.89 Developments like this led Alan Mewett to declare that law students had "no place on a law review at all".90 Columbia's Arthur Nussbaum conceded that student editing might have been a good idea in an earlier, simpler, more doctrinal time, but Student Editors, 1950"the situation has changed...Such matters as, say, labor law, taxation law, corporation and trust law, public control of business, etc. are steadily developing new and intricate problems; legal philosophy is being paid far more attention than in the past; the expanding relationship among the countries of Western civilization, and this country's leading role within that orbit, render necessary in many more cases than ever before the investigation of international and foreign law. Students may not have acquired the knowledge and maturity to handle those trends adequately as independent editors."91

Increased pressure to...publish provided another reason for American law professors to focus more critical attention on law reviews in the 1950s and early 1960s.

[2.12] Finally, at least one second-wave complaint about law reviews was prompted by a new egalitarianism which gained strength both inside and outside law schools in the 1950s and early 1960s. A number of commentators openly wondered why, if law review experience was so pedagogically and professionally valuable, it should be limited to that small section of the law school who received high first year grades. The question appears to have been raised for the first time in the mid-1940s,92 but it in the 1950s and early 1960s it was raised again. As law schools in these years adopted much more selective admissions policies,93 singling out some students over others became more problematic. Judge Stanley Fuld found it "a pity that many more students cannot share in [the law review], that some rotating system has not been devised to allow for a broader participation in review work."94 In 1956, the Dean of Northwestern, Harold Havinghurst, suggested that this could be done by allowing for law review publication of some of the better student papers being produced in new seminar-style law school courses.95

[2.13] Partly because of its greater intensity, the second wave of law review criticisms ultimately had more impact than had the first wave. Certainly law reviews still had more than their share of plaudits and unrepentant proponents through this period,96 but starting in the 1950s and continuing into the 1970s, change was in the air in law schools and law review offices across the county. Like the criticisms, some of the changes were extensions of earlier initiatives rather than entirely new departures. Symposium issues, for instance, continued to gain in popularity, as did specialist (mostly faculty-edited) journals such as the American Journal of Legal History (1957), the Journal of Law and Economics (1958), the Supreme Court Review (1960), the Journal of Urban Law (1966), 97 and the Journal of Legal Studies (1972). Other changes were more novel. In the 1960s and 1970s, law review membership was increasingly offered to students who won writing competitions in addition to those with high first year grades.98 Some law reviews also experimented with new formats: the Wisconsin Law Review, for example, launched a "Commentary" section affording authors "an opportunity to discuss and evaluate issues important to the profession which can not be dealt with comfortably in the format of a traditional leading article."99 Much to the delight of John Cribbet, the bright-colored cover even made its debut on the front of the Stanford Law Review.100

[2.14] Again, however, the changes were less than revolutionary. The numbers of law reviews continued to increase. Occasional experiments notwithstanding, the traditional structure of law review issues survived mostly intact. The practice of student-editing continued to predominate, limiting the feasibility of symposia and specialist journals which almost by definition required faculty supervision. Thanks to writing competitions, a greater number and greater range of students made law review, but an internal hierarchy soon developed which favored individuals who had "graded" on.101 For these and other reasons, discontent with law reviews continued to simmer through the early 1980s.102

[2.15] In the mid-1980s, that simmering discontent exploded into a third wave (or, perhaps more accurately, a "tsunami", i.e. tidal wave) of criticism which has not only been sustained to date but has in fact gained in size and intensity. More articles assailing law reviews, containing more pages of criticism and more vitriolic language have appeared in the last ten years than had appeared in the entire corpus of law review literature prior to 1985. A number have been written by highly-respected scholars, most notably Roger Cramton,103 Richard Posner104 and James Lindgren.105 In the last two years alone, the law review system has been the focus of two entire law review symposium issues and one extended "Exchange;" in June 1995, the growing controversy over the operation and reform of law reviews even drew the attention of America's principal academic weekly, the Chronicle of Higher Education, which devoted a cover story to it. 106

In the mid-1980s,...simmering discontent exploded into a third wave (or perhaps more accurately, a "tsunami", i.e. tidal wave) of criticism.

[2.16] Many factors have contributed to this latest critical onslaught. First and most obviously, the absolute number of law reviews has skyrocketed in the past thirty years. It is not so much that certain law schools have decided to publish a law review for the first time - rather, many schools with well-established law reviews have for reasons internal (e.g. extending student participation) and external (e.g. the development of sub-fields which "flagship" reviews were unable or unwilling to cover) begun to publish one or more supplementary journals focusing on particular subject areas.107 The "elite" law schools have inaugurated numerous new publications: in the last three decades Harvard has started 9 that survive to this day (in addition to the Harvard Law Review),108 Berkeley has started 8,109 Columbia and Georgetown have started 7,110 and Yale has started 5. Other "lesser" law schools have also been very active: Tulane, for instance, now boasts 6 law reviews, Notre Dame boasts 5, and Temple boasts 4.112 The consequences of these trends for law review publishing as a whole have been predictable. In 1966, there were 102 school-affiliated law reviews.113 In 1981, there were more than 180.114 In 1990, there were 307.115 Today, in 1995, there are (by one count) 382.116 This unprecedented proliferation of school- sponsored legal periodicals has led to renewed complaints not only about sheer volume,117 but also about the low or at best uneven quality of many law reviews. Even more significantly, it has prompted concern about the high cost to law schools and law school libraries of fueling and sustaining such an elaborate system at a time when an increasing number of universities and law schools are operating under budget constraints.118

[2.17] Second and most significantly, the pressure on legal academics to publish, to publish more and to publish more frequently has become much greater in the last ten to twenty years. We have seen that this pressure had already increased in the 1950s and early 1960s. In the mid-1970s, however, scholarship took on unprecedented importance as a measure of academic worth. As competition for good students and good professors increased,119 and as legal educators took an interdisciplinary turn (see infra) which brought them under the influence of more research- oriented arts and humanities departments, law schools increasingly required that members of their faculties produce a substantial quality of respectable written work - generally, two or three law review articles - to obtain tenure, and several more to obtain promotion. Concomitantly, the number of law professors denied tenure because of poor or inadequate legal scholarship rose dramatically: in 1968-1973, for instance, only 8 tenure denials were substantially attributable to faculty dissatisfaction with candidates' scholarship; in 1973-78, scholarship considerations played a role in 24 tenure denials.120 Since the early 1980s, scholarship has become even more central in the tenure and promotion process.121 This has meant that law review editors, acting in their capacities as primary gatekeepers and streamers of legal scholarship, have incidentally but inevitably acquired a critical degree of control over law professors' careers and reputations.

[2.18] In this predicament, law professors have understandably become more critical of law review operation in general. Many negative comments have focussed on how articles are selected for publication. The concern here is not so much that dubious and/or arbitrary student decision- making prevents any given article from being published somewhere, but that it may compromise an article's chances of getting publishing in "leading" law reviews where it is more likely to be noticed122 and appreciated.123 Professors have alleged that student editors are incompetent to judge academic contributions to an ever-more-complex field,124 and often rely on irrelevant "secondary" criteria, such as the reputation and/or background of the author,125 the prestige of his or her institution,126 or the number of prominent names the author can drop in an "acknowledgments" footnote.127 They have asserted that students are inherently conservative128 (or, alternatively, faddish129) in their publication choices, preferring the familiar to the truly original. They have alleged that students at elite law schools in particular130 are unduly biased in favor of faculty at their own institutions.131 They have expressed resentment at having more or less to beg the editors of higher-ranking reviews for "expedited reads" of an article after it has been accepted elsewhere; they have publicly chafed under the burden of the short deadlines imposed by the understandably-nervous editors of law reviews extending offers.132

Many negative comments have focused on how articles are selected for publication.

[2.19] An increasing number of professors have also complained about student editing of articles after selection.133 They have expressed concern that their manuscripts are not just reviewed for oversights but are substantively rewritten, often by rule-obsessed editors having a less-than- perfect sense of either literary style or the legal subject at hand.134 They have voiced their frustration with having to watch out for and correct the factual and grammatical errors that are frequently (if innocently) imported into their texts in this process.135 They have taken offense at how some law review editors have treated them: they have variously called the attitudes and practices of student editors "infuriating,"136 "officious,"137 and arrogant,138 and some have called for the creation of formal codes of ethics to govern editor-author relationships no longer defined by student deference and respect.139

[2.20] Some legal scholars have even lamented how long it takes for a law review article to be first accepted, and then published.140 This lamentation is not as insignificant as it might seem; in a highly competitive scholarly marketplace - not to mention a rapidly-changing legal environment - the academic and professional worth of an article may be radically diminished if for one reason or another it comes out "late",141 and especially if it comes out after a similar article in a competing journal. One prominent cause of delays (as well as other problems - see supra) has ironically been the professorial practice of making simultaneous submissions to multiple law reviews - a strategy originally adopted to ensure rapid article placement. Nowadays, a simultaneous mailing to twenty or more journals is not unusual; if the initial response is not what the author hopes, another twenty copies may be sent out, and so on. The results of such a strategy for individual reviews - especially reviews at the elite schools - have been catastrophic.142 In 1983, for instance, it was calculated that the top 10% of law reviews received over 200, and sometimes over 300 unsolicited manuscripts each per year.143 In 1995, it was estimated that the "elite journals" were swamped by as many as 1200 annual submissions.144 In this situation law professors have had to endure longer and longer waits before receiving word on the fate of their submissions. In some instances, and especially at some times of year (generally late fall or early spring) law professors wait only to be told that a law review has "filled up", which either forces the professor to go to another review or (what is worse) forces the article to be temporarily withdrawn from a generally- saturated market. Even after an article is selected and edited, publication may be postponed for weeks or even months because there is a problem with a particular law review "issue": another legal scholar has been tardy in correcting proofs, student notes and comments are late, or there are problems or delays at the printer.145 All of this inevitably adds up to frustration.

An increasing number of professors have complained about student editing of articles after selection.

[2.21] Third, the number and intensity of criticisms of law reviews have increased due to changing patterns of student-faculty interaction in contemporary American law schools. Even in those instances where students had taken over formal control of faculty-run publications, they had continued to seek advice from faculty on editorial and policy matters. 146 The tradition of student- faculty consultation had resulted in what one writer (perhaps somewhat ambitiously and nostalgically) has called "peer-review...of a sort", a practice which encouraged most (albeit certainly not all) law professors to preserve their faith in the law review as a scholarly institution.147 By the early-1980s, however, this practice had largely ceased.148 The last phase of student-faculty disengagement had begun in the later 1960s, when student editors directly or indirectly influenced by the rebellious atmosphere on many campuses became notably reluctant to defer or even consult their former faculty mentors.149 Those students still seeking editorial guidance from their professors in the 1970s and early 1980s found that in the increasingly charged academic atmosphere of the time, the latter no longer agreed on the nature or qualities of good scholarship.150 Under increasing pressure to write, many professors moreover lacked the time or the inclination to read others' submissions or give quality advice.151 In this context, the editorial process was left "in the hands of young people with little experience in evaluating legal skills, few standards by which to do so, natural naivete, and scant regard for the institutional future."152

[2.22] In the process of asserting their own independence from faculty supervision, the student editors of contemporary law reviews have become more assertive in their general dealings with faculty authors. For instance, they have increasingly refused to provide rejected law review authors with substantive written or even oral reasons for their rejection. There is little documentary evidence as to when this practice began, but anecdotes suggest that it by the late 1970s it had died out at all but a few institutions, accelerated perhaps by the aforementioned professorial strategy of multiple submissions. Students were too pressed and too stressed to provide reasons or feedback. This deprived faculty of useful input153 and unfortunately helped to create an atmosphere in which it was easy to impute improper selection motives to student editors who no longer made even a pretense of offering evidence to the contrary. Growing student assertiveness has also been manifested in the recent turn towards substantial editorial re-writing of submissions. Before the 1970s, significant student re-writes at all but the most elite law reviews were rarely contemplated, let alone attempted: as one veteran of legal scholarship put it "student editors tended to exercise substantial restraint in the editing process. Errors in grammar and usage were corrected, and suggestions for deletions, additions and reorganization made... [As a result] most faculty members actually could recognize their own work when it appeared in print...".154

[2.23] The plethora of manuscripts, the amount of work consequently demanded of today's student editors and the virtually-complete independence of those editors from law faculty have together given rise to a fourth cause of contemporary law review criticism: doubts about the traditionally- assumed pedagogical value of law review service. Predictably, many of these doubts have been articulated by law professors with other axes to grind. In 1986, for instance, Roger Cramton contended that sheparding manuscripts through a group-decision process and running writing competitions for new staffers "have few educational benefits for anyone and do not contribute in any way to publication of student notes or editing of lead articles."155 Doubts about the educational benefits of law review have, however, also been raised by law students themselves. In 1988, a recently graduated Notes editor of the Georgetown Law Journal concluded that "the law review's academic and creative value is overstated. Many students leave law review with little more to show for their two-year membership than bluebook proficiency."156 In 1990, a disaffected senior articles editor from the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics bemoaned a more general and even more pedagogically-awkward problem: "I've barely opened my casebooks because the journal takes too much time; I've skipped classes because the journal takes so much time."157 In other words, law review was actually interfering with this editor's education.

[2.24] A fifth reason why criticisms of law reviews have multiplied dramatically of late relates to law's recent "interdisciplinary turn":158 the scholarly shift towards studies of law and economics, feminist jurisprudence, law and society, critical race theory, postmodern legal studies, etc. The causes of this turn are still being debated. Changing political and ideological circumstances - the civil rights movement, the women's movement, etc. - have certainly played a role, as has the recent intellectual vigor of such specific disciplines as economics, philosophy and history, not to mention the general restlessness experienced by many members of law school faculties after a period of dominant doctrinalism. To some extent, the interdisciplinary turn has also been the product of population shifts in the legal academy - in particular, the influx of a high number of former liberal arts students who since the early 1970s have gone into the relatively-open field of law and law teaching instead of taking more economically-risky Ph.D.s and then assuming professorships in arts and humanities departments.159 Whatever its origins, the interdisciplinary turn in legal studies has prompted professorial objections to the judgments of law review editors who, for all their raw interest, have little or no graduate training in other disciplines: Richard Posner, for instance, has recently observed that "Few student editors, certainly not enough to go around, are competent to evaluate nondoctrinal scholarship."160 Indirectly, the interdisciplinary turn has stimulated criticism of the status quo by sensitizing legal academics to the scholarly practices of other fields, where student control of academic publishing is unknown and indeed, ridiculed. It is no accident that James Lindgren, whose interests run from law and sociology to legal history, has lately written that "in other parts of the academy, legal journals are considered a joke. Scholars elsewhere frequently can't believe that, for almost all our major academic journals, we let students without advanced degrees select manuscripts."161

Doubts about the educational benefits of law review have...also been raised by law students themselves.

[2.25] Sixth, law reviews have come in for more criticism as more law review writers have ceased writing about professional, doctrinal and local issues. In part, this development is a result of the just-discussed interdisciplinary turn. It is also, however, a product of the recent fall-off in the number of practitioners and judges - as opposed to law professors - writing for (or allowed to publish in) law reviews,162 and of the understandable ambitions of a variety of "lesser" law schools to raise their institutional and scholarly sights above the horizon of their own states and regions. In these circumstances, law reviews have been accused of having become increasingly irrelevant for the practicing bar and the judiciary, two of their traditional constituencies.163 Several prominent members of the American bench have openly expressed their frustration with this situation. In a recent article in the Michigan Law Review, Judge Harry Edwards of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit volunteered his opinion that "our law reviews are full of mediocre interdisciplinary articles."164 Judge Laurence Silberman of the DC Circuit has even slammed the law reviews from the bench, accusing them of being "dominated by [the] rather exotic offerings of increasingly out-of-touch faculty members...".165

[2.26] Seventh, criticisms of law reviews have multiplied because in the last fifteen years, law professors have tended to produce articles that are on average longer and more heavily-annotated than those written, say, forty years ago.166 In part, this lengthening and substantiating process has been prompted by the desire of assistant and associate law professors to demonstrate their scholarly capabilities to increasingly demanding tenure and promotion committees,167 not to mention increasingly selective law review boards;168 in part, it has been driven by the need of law professors in general to differentiate their individual submissions from those of an increasingly large number of scholarly competitors;169 and in part, it has been encouraged by some professors' implicit recognition that interdisciplinary articles coming before law student editors (not to mention other law professors) often require more extended explanation and documentation than they would coming into the hands of academics in the arts, humanities and social sciences.170 It has also been suggested that student editors have actively contributed to the problems of length and extended footnoting through an overenthusiastic adherence to Bluebook form and a concomitant desire to impress their editorial board colleagues by displays of footnote finesse. Unfortunately, the presence of longer and more heavily documented articles in law reviews has attracted the ire of many impatient and/or aesthetically-displeased readers from both inside and outside the professoriate.171 In 1983, the desire for more concise, more visually-attractive and more lively articles was a major factor prompting Professor Richard Stewart of the Harvard law faculty to author an internal memorandum recommending the creation of a faculty-edited law journal.172

[2.27] Finally, law reviews have become more controversial as law students' social attitudes and writing abilities have changed. Egalitarianism has continued to work its magic on law review boards, an increasing number of whose members have lost faith in both "grading on" and "writing on" as impartial arbiters of merit.173 By the late 1970s, the Stanford and Yale law reviews had opened themselves up to student volunteers.174 In the 1980s, many student-edited legal journals formally or informally embraced affirmative action as a way of extending the benefit of law review participation to more women, minorities and other persons from disadvantaged backgrounds (including the poor, the disabled, and gays and lesbians). This trend began with a controversial policy decision at the Harvard Law Review in 1981;175 by 1983, eight law reviews had formally followed suit.176 Also since the early 1980s, more and more students have become involved in the law review editing process via the multiplication of specialty journals. At least some academic commentators have alleged that these developments have significantly "watered down" the already-dubious editorial quality of the law reviews.177 This accusation has become even more serious in light of what most law professors regard as a general decline in the writing abilities of today's law students. This decline has allegedly been reflected in both the poor quality of many editorial re-writes and editors' increasingly slavish devotion (presumably born of uncertainty and inexperience) to the technical standards of the Bluebook or some other style manual.178

...the interdisciplinary turn has stimulated criticism of the status quo by sensitizing legal academics to the scholarly practices of other fields, where student control of academic publishing is unknown and indeed ridiculed.

[2.28] Even in the face of all these developments and the (sometimes severe) criticisms they have encouraged, certain law professors, legal practitioners and an increasing number of law students have insisted on coming to the law review's defense one more time.179 These defenses have not, however, precluded significant attempts to further reform the law review system.180 One reform has entailed the formal or informal adoption of editorial policies more explicitly deferential to faculty authors: in 1994, for instance, the articles editors of the University of Chicago Law Review publicly promised to show "substantial deference", by which they meant that they would respect the author's "voice" and would give the author final say on whether suggested changes would be made.181 A second reform, recently inaugurated in the offices of the Yale Law Journal, has substituted "blind" article selection for the traditional "full disclosure" variety in an effort to avoid the appearance of bias.182 A third reform has involved a greater tolerance of (and in some instances, even a formal encouragement of) non-traditional styles of scholarship and academic writing, especially those favoring brevity. In 1985, for instance, the University of Michigan Law Review inaugurated a "Correspondence" section allowing its readers an opportunity to formally react to articles appearing in its pages.183 Later the same year, the Harvard Law Review started a "Commentary" section featuring brief comments by legal scholars on topical issues,184 while Yale launched "Essay" and "Dialogue" sections that offered legal scholars new ways to present and respond to ideas. More recently, a number of journals have published fictionalized or actual dialogues, playscripts, and even poetry185 in an effort to expand their stylistic range. A fourth, somewhat-more traditional reform has resulted in an increasing number of student-edited law reviews adopting a symposium format in the hopes of making their contents more appealing (and more noticeable) to well-defined academic and professional constituencies.186 A fifth reform has been entrepreneurial in orientation: recognizing their precarious position in both a saturated academic community and an austerity-ridden institutional environment, "spin off" law reviews such as the Yale Journal of Law & Regulation have consciously undertaken to market themselves to a broader buying and subscribing public.187 This initiative has inevitably made their substance and style more colloquial.188 A sixth reform has been even more radical: the inauguration of an increasing number of faculty-edited law journals (mostly specialized or symposium-based) pointedly providing peer review, feedback, the guidance of experienced editors, stylistic flexibility, timely publication and/or other advantages not generally offered by student-edited law reviews.189 Some of these publications - such as the University of Minnesota Law School's Constitutional Commentary and the University of Florida's Florida Tax Review - are brand new. Others - such as the University of San Diego's Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues and the Chicago-Kent Law Review190 - have come into being after complete or partial faculty "take-overs" of studentedited publications.191

[2.29] The latest reforms of the law review system may be improvements, but for all the hope and hype attending them it is unlikely that they will prove all that effective in the long run. "Editorial deference" is a notoriously vague concept that (judging by anecdotal evidence) is more often the exception rather than the norm. Notwithstanding its apparent success at Yale,192 the "blind read" selection strategy is time-consuming and hardly fool-proof insofar as authors can reveal themselves and their schools in multiple ways;193 besides, although blind reading removes a temptation, it does nothing to positively raise the standards of the student selection process. Dialogues, poems, essays and letters are marginal formats which to date have instilled little enthusiasm in tenure and promotion committees. The symposium format, while a standard "fix" for certain law review problems, also has equally-standard problems.194 Making law reviews into profit-seeking institutions runs the risk, over time, of undermining their primarily academic mission. However attractive faculty-edited journals might be in the abstract, few law professors have the time or the inclination (without substantial economic or professional reward) to do quality editing or prompt refereeing when they might be writing articles or books themselves;195 it is not irrelevant in this connection that despite the proliferation of faculty-edited reviews in the last decade, two very high-profile experiments in faculty editing announced in the mid-1980s (one at Harvard, and the other under the auspices of the AALS)196 failed ignominiously before they even began.197 Judging from experiences outside legal academia, and even from reported experiences inside it, it must also be admitted that faculty journals have editorial weaknesses of their own: they can easily become hidebound, they can be "captured" by particular viewpoints or schools of thought, and their editors can select articles on scholastically-illegitimate or arbitrary grounds.198 The putative ascendency of faculty-edited journals might even compromise law professors' ability to get their work placed: in all likelihood, a faculty-dominated law review system would mean that fewer outlets would be available for the same amount of scholarly output.199

The latest reforms of the law review system may be improvements, but for all the hope and hype attending them it is unlikely that they will prove all that effective in the long run.

[2.30] More important for present purposes, the efficacy of all these reforms is ultimately limited by most of them having been attempted within the physical and intellectual confines of traditional print technology. Having lost sight of how technology contributed to the creation and development of law reviews in the first place, all but a few would-be reformers have to this point failed to consider how new technologies - in particular, computer-mediated communication technologies - might be deployed to break the impasses of the current law review system.

[2.31] In fact, of course, computer-mediated communications technologies are already at work in the legal academy. Not only are they subtlely changing how law reviews are used, but they are (for the most part) increasing the latters' scholarly and professional value. They are even meeting some of the criticisms lately articulated by the law review's detractors. In the next section of this article, I will explore the development of two manifestations of these computer technologies - on- line databases (LEXIS/WESTLAW) and Internet electronic journals - with a view to demonstrating both their impact and their limitations as new forms of scholarly communication in law.

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