Skip to content

Whither Law Reviews?

Rosa Brooks recently kicked up some fine discussion at LawCulture (with this post) about writing for law reviews, contrasting it with writing for other types of publishing outlets. Her post sparked reactions at PrawfsBlawg (from Ethan Leib, Paul Horwitz, and Mark Fenster) and Concurring Opinions (from Dan Solove). And she followed up with another post a few days later. I confess to finding it all interesting, because (happily) I spend so much of my time consuming and producing scholarly writing. To what extent, and with what consequences, is the following statement true: “Law reviews exist for the sake of authors, not authors for the sake of law reviews” ?

Doug Berman, reacting to Brooks, makes a delightful link to a part of the story that has, of late, been much on my mind – namely, the ways that far cheaper distribution means (open access repositories like SSRN, combined with good search technology) may change the law reviews. As Berman says, “New technologies make it cheaper and more efficient to experiment with distinctive fora for scholarly expressions (consider, e.g., SSRN which is also now … generating blog debate). In my view, the legal academic community ought to continue to explore and embrace new forms of traditional scholarly fora (like different kinds of law journals) and also radical new scholarly fora (like blogs).” (Dan Solove’s post on shifting to electronic reprints explores a related byproduct of falling electronic distribution costs.)

I hope those who are interested in such questions will consider attending a conference we’re having at Lewis & Clark Law School on March 10. It’s entitled “Open Access Publishing and the Future of Legal Scholarship.” You can learn more about the conference here.

Also, because I’m teaching Landes & Posner’s “Economics Structure of IP Law” as the main text for a seminar, I was struck by an aside they make about one way an author’s interests may diverge from her publisher’s. I quote the paragraph below the fold.

Landes & Posner, p. 48: “Authors, especially academic ones, may prefer minimal copyright protection because it expands access to their works, which enables them to gain more income, both pecuniary and nonpecuniary, from lecture fees, academic promotion, and enhanced academic prestige than they lose in royalties from book sales. These benefits do not accrue to the publisher and so do not offset the loss of revenues that a reduction in copyright protection implies. However, the author can compensate the publisher by accepting lower royalties and advances and, in some instances, by paying the publisher to publish his work. Academic publishing is roughtly consistent with this model. Authors of journal articles, for example, are rarely paid for their contributions; in some cases they actually pay the journal, normally from grant funds, to publish their articles.”