National Jurist - February 2008 - 23
f or years, law students have labored long studen nts ompetitions hours on write-on co competitions in hopes en they would be chose to labor even lonchosen or ger hours working fo a school law review for or journal. ese Many believe the journals help stuthese wr riting dents hone their writing skills and give p them a strong selling point on their resume. cations Student-edited public publications also allow lawoppor rtunity yers-to-be the opportunity to write, edit ection and influence the dire direction of legal scholarship. B ll journals are created equal. a But not all j journals S ii ar rgue Some critics now argue that there is an ublications, overabundance of pu publications, resulting in poor quality and little value to legal c academia. One critic has even joked that his grocery list could be published in these d desperate times. And with 505 studentm edited journals and more than 500 other de edi publications worldwid it’s no wonder ediworldwide, tors struggle to find qu quality research. “The writing in law reviews is atrocious,” said Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University Law Center, who ranks law reviews based on prominence of article authors. “The question is: Why does this institution continue even if it’s a product no one wants and no one needs?” Jarvis estimates that 80 percent of law reviews add little to legal academia, meaning only about 100 student-edited publications provide real value. But even though the other 400 publications are academically suspect, few argue that they do not provide a benefit to students. And that means they will not go away anytime soon. So, which law reviews are in the top 100 and which are glorified student services at best? Two primary studies have looked at the issue, each from a different perspective. John Doyle, associate law librarian at Washington & Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Va., has compiled a ranking of the more than 1,100 law reviews worldwide. The ratings are based on the number of times articles are cited in other publicat publications or cases. Jarvis has his own ranking that places journals in order by promine prominence of article authors. And it should be no surprise that the very firs law review is still number one — first Harvard Law Review. “It is the oldest legal periodical in the country which has allowed it to build country, a certai pedigree that in turns helps us certain attract t most interesting articles from the the nati nation’s leading legal scholars,” said Harvard Law Review President Andrew Manuel Crespo. “Also, our editors approach their wo works with a high degree of professionalism As a result, our journal always sionalism. publishe on time and has gained a reputapublishes tion for putting forth careful, thoroughly research dependable scholarship.” researched, Too man student-edited journals? many Harv Harvard Law School founded its law review in 1887 — with student editors selecting and editing the articles — and it professional journals, and they do amazingly well,” said Michael Hoffheimer, a law professor at the University of Mississippi Law School and editor of the Directory of Law Reviews. “The student editors face a unique challenge in the publishing world because there is a 100 percent turnover of management every year. Every year, a law journal must reinvent itself, and good journals both experiment with improvements and maintain continuity of institutional standards and traditions.” But Jarvis and other critics argue that there are more journals today than there are qualified editors. “Most editors really are not qualified to be on a journal,” Jarvis said. “And on these specialized journals, the editor-in-chief is really into the topic, but most of the other students are not familiar with the subject matter. They are weaker [academically] than they should be and they don’t have the interest in the subject matter.” I could publish my grocery list, some law reviews are so desperate. —Robert Jarvis, law professor at Nova Southeastern University Law Center has been the primary model for other law school publications ever since. The model, however, is unique in academia. For almost every other academic discipline, journals rely on peer reviews. That is also the case for journals outside of the U.S. “It is a historical anomaly” Doyle said. “[But] the student-edited journals are a lot cheaper to subscribe to. I am certainly an advocate of student editing.” Student-edited journals have been able to keep their costs low — around $25 to $35 for a subscription — thanks to the free labor and support from the law school. “Law reviews try hard to be top-quality “ ” The numbers seem to back up his claims. The number of law journals has exploded from 78 in the 1950s to more than 1,000 today. Today, there is one studentedited publication for every 279 law students — up from one for every 598 students in 1963. There are an average of 30 being added every year, most in specialized topics. There are 321 student-edited journals with a specialty focus, ranging from the Alaska Law Review at Duke University to the Women’s Rights Law Reporter at Rutgers School of Law — Newark. February 2008 THE NATIONAL JURIST 23
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