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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ABA Journal on The Future of Law Reviews in the Internet Age

Caron_cropInteresting article in this month's ABA Journal:  Revising Law Review:  Journals Struggle for Relevancy in a Field Redefined by the Internet, by Terry Carter.  Here is the opening:

On a Sunday night at the end of February, Paul L. Caron, who teaches tax at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, got an e-mail from the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. Caron happened to publish the TaxProf Blog, a heavily hit online source for news, updates, and informative articles on tax policy and legislation. And it happened that in a few days the U.S. Supreme Court would be hearing oral arguments in a big tax case. Yale Law Journal editor Curtis J. Mahoney asked if Caron would put a link on his Web log to the journal's new online publication, The Pocket Part, for an article on the case. The link was to an op-ed-style version, with comments from others, of a full-length article yet to be published in the more traditional way.

Caron, whose institution earned a respectable enough No. 53 in the most recent U.S. News & World Report law school rankings that pegged Yale No. 1, obliged. "The Yale Law Journal is as big a cheese as there is in the law review business," Caron says. "For them this was a way of making law reviews more relevant--trying to protect the franchise. In the old days, that article wouldn't have been available till after it was in print. Now it has real-time access, and it makes scholarship more current and influential."

While this anecdote may not illustrate a complete reversal of fortune, it does indicate a fast melting in what has been a glacial habitat for law reviews and scholars--with the intermediate intellectualism of the Internet heating things up.

Here's more from the article:

"The whole point of legal scholarship is to have it read, and technology is making that easier," says Caron, the TaxProf blogger. "With SSRN, now people all over the world are reading articles, and that's far removed from the old days when the Harvard Law Review would be available in law libraries and the big law firms, with no easy access for the average person." Caron and another law professor experimented last year with yet another way to rank law schools--getting counts of articles posted and downloaded via SSRN. [Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance, 81 Ind. L.J. 83 (2006)]  He found that the best professors from the best schools tend to dominate. "It turns out the proof is in the pudding," he says. "You come up with the people you would expect to do well by those measures."...

Still other, newer forces might be at work, too. Blogs add to the buzz for certain articles, and the better-known blogs tend to belong to the better-read academics. "There's no evidence yet that bloggers are all hat and no cattle," says Caron, who recently conducted a symposium, Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship, at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "One reason they're popular is that they're good scholars, and people take what they say on blogs seriously."

Vol. 92, ABA Journal, July 2006, pp. 20-21.  Copyright American Bar Association.  Reprinted by Permission.

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