Here’s an interesting post from the Adjunct Law Prof Blog:
Has the ready availability of digital law review collections on LexisNexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline and law review websites eliminated the need for subscribing to law reviews?
And then there is the irrelevance factor. Maybe law review articles simply are not as relevant to members of the bench and bar as they once were…
The author concludes with an interesting prediction:
Judges just don’t use [law review articles] any more. My own view is that in todays world there is a waste of emphasis on legal theory which no one, other than other law review writers, find helpful. Law reviews also take too long to publish. My last two article each took well over a year to get published!
I believe online short law review journals are the waive of the future together with blogs which provide immediate commentary on developing issues.
Oh, really? I can only express a cautious and guarded optimism in the thought that online media is becoming a new source of legal treatising, commentary and theory; however, I firmly believe law review articles have a very special place in the legal world.
A law review article can expound with more information, more insight, more analysis and more stimulation than a blog article could ever hope to contain. And believe me, I love blogging but let’s face it, this just ain’t the way to go about things.
If law review articles are in decline – and what I’m about to say is highly speculative and subjective – it’s because:
- Like the blog author noted, WestLaw and LexisNexis provide online access to hundreds of law review articles, all of which can be accessed via term, connections and keyword searches. This quick and easy feature of online databases puts mail-based subscriptions on the back burner.
- Perhaps the quality of writing and analysis turns away those who are looking for insightful commentary on a legal issue. Analagogous to this particular notion comes from my experience as a former senior editor of a peer-reviewed, graduate level history journal – not a law review by any stretch of the imagination but both were graduate level publications, each required close scrutiny to citation of pertinent and relevant sources, each required that its authors had some basic concept of fact analysis, and lastly, you had to be able to put a sentence together in a readable fashion. Much of the entries I reviewed were either bad or catastrophically bad, you wouldn’t have been able to tell these were graduate students. Fortunately, the articles we accepted for publication were awesome but just thinking about the reject pile makes me shiver over the quality (or lack thereof) of graduate level writing. I do not find it hard to imagine a similar situation occurring in law review editors’ rooms across the nation.
- We live in a culture of immediacy – everything has to happen now, now now; attention spans last all of 20 nanoseconds and if we can’t have the information we want then we move on to somewhere else. Who wants to read a 50 page law review article? Even 20 is cutting it close. There is some justification to Mitchell Rubinstein’s prediction that online media like blogs are better for up-to-the-minute commentary and analysis. Why skim the rows of the law review section of the library when you have google?
Despite this, however, I believe in declines as much as I believe in renaissances. Sooner or later people are going to realize that the informational quick fix is nothing like the mature, well-written, engrossing and longer law review article.