Law Review Articles Need A Makeover, Study Finds

, The National Law Journal

   | 3 Comments

Judges, law professors, practicing attorneys and student editors alike believe that the current law review model needs reform, according to a new article based on an extensive survey of how those in the legal community view legal journals.

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What's being said

  • Burt

    I completely disagree with the notion that there is a problem that needs to be solved here. Rather, I think that we should continue to provide students in the legal field with the aforementioned opportunities while respecting one anothers vanity.

  • TC

    Blind peer reviewing doesn't do a whole lot to improve articles -- it just mucks up the process. Look at law journals outside of the USA and one will see that process is more inefficient (hard to believe, I know) and the product is generally weaker. Why? Peer review panels are three-headed monsters that often given contradictory and even completely incompatible assessments. I've seen them reject research because they disagree with its results (not because its poor research) and accept research that is garbage because a big name is attached to it (the reviews aren't always as blind as they purport to be). As an American law professor who has published in peer reviewed journals abroad and student-run law reviews in the USA, I can tell you that I generally get better communication from the students than I do from other arrogant gas-bags (professors) who think they know so much but really know so little. Studies have been done showing that peer review is not a great quality control. I do agree with one big problem raised about US law reviews: back when I was an editor at my top tier law school, we would often take "articles" from well known scholars and the articles were crap: We would re-write them and publish them for the so-called scholars while we'd reject much better articles from unknowns. Names should be stripped off of articles and resumes should never be submitted with them. All submissions should come through a blind submission process and all communications should be carried out via blind email -- that way the article would stand on its own. This resume/CV/name issue is not just something that student-run American law reviews face but I've seen big names (of professors or their schools) get articles published in European and Asian peer-reviewed law journals (the editors pick the easiest reviewers and let articles slide through -- there is always a way to work any system).

  • aka something else

    I held a graduate degree in sociology and taught social science statistics prior to entering law school. Yet when I edited an article (for an admittedly minor law review) while I was in law school, and found it contained serious errors in its analysis and presentation of the data on which it was based, I was told by the Editor in Chief and Managing Editor that the author was very well known and highly regarded and that if we criticized that author's work or even sent a letter with questions to clarify the issues, we would be unlikely to get anything by "anyone of that reputation in the future."

    Peer review must be fearless, and before an article passes into student hands for editing, all information that might identify the author should be stripped out to ensure that those editing it can do so without concern regarding future consequences for the review in question.

    Law students can be naive, but bring important skill sets to the table. To be told that these skills are unimportant and that what matters is an author's reputation produces neither good lawyers nor good scholarship. It merely dresses emperors in allegedly ever-finer new clothing.

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