Law Reviews, again

Ann’s post about having faculty members write only in their home school’s law reviews is an interesting one, although it still leaves open the question of where non-law faculty would publish (presumably anywhere?). This might continue the “placement as a proxy for the quality” of non-law faculty articles.

If we really want to eliminate the importance of placement in student law review publishing, how about removing institutional identification from law reviews completely? Each school’s journals would continue to choose articles as before, edit them, and publish them. However, the journal would not be identified as, say the “Boston College Law Review.” Instead, the journal would receive a random designation each year (e.g. “Journal A, 2009”). This would have the effect of turning all student-edited law reviews into one giant volume that could be indexed and placed on electronic databases as before. Only now, readers would have to peruse the manuscript or abstract, recognize the author, or find some other marker for quality because it would be very difficult to tell which school had produced which volume.

I don’t think for a minute that this proposal would ever be adopted, and I’m not at all sure I’d endorse it myself. But, it’s an interesting thought experiment to see how much we really disapprove of estimating quality of articles to the journals that publish them. My guess is that most faculty, despite our occasional complaints about student selection of articles, would prefer the current system to the one suggested here.

2 thoughts on “Law Reviews, again

  1. This proposal sounds a lot like SSRN…

    Is the “problem” really placement in top law reviews as a proxy for article quality, or is the problem that too many factors OTHER than quality get considered. While we may be skeptical of student ability to discern quality, I’ve talked to enough current and former editors at law schools to know that they can (for the most part) tell a good article from a bad one, but in the vast middle it is difficult to make choices about what to publish (and as a result topic selection, letterhead, expediting, etc.) becomes an issue.

    Here’s another idea that might shake things up. All law reviews move to a blind selection system. Expresso (or some other clearinghouse) would gather each submission, give it an identifying number, and all other identifying information would be stripped. From there, the selection process could either work as it currently does, or some sort of a “match” system could be developed to avoid the multiple cycles of expediting.

    It’s just a thought, but I wonder if the concerns about law review placement would be vastly alleviated in such a system.

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