New York Times: Law Scholarship’s Lackluster Reviews, by Adam Liptak:
“Would you want The New England Journal of Medicine to be edited by medical students?” asked Richard A. Wise, who teaches psychology at the University of North Dakota.
Of course not. Then why are law reviews, the primary repositories of legal scholarship, edited by law students?
These student editors are mostly bright and work hard, but they are young, part-time amateurs who know little about the law or about editing prose. Yet they are in charge of picking the best articles from among many hundreds of submissions written by professors with authentic expertise in fields the students may never have studied. ...
Law reviews are such a target-rich environment for ridicule that it is barely sporting to make fun of them. ... About 43% of law review articles have never been cited in another article or in a judicial decision.
Law reviews are not really meant to be read. They mostly exist as a way
for law schools to evaluate law professors for promotion and tenure, based partly on what they have to say and partly on their success in placing articles in prestigious law reviews.
The judge, lawyer or ordinary reader looking for accessible and timely
accounts or critiques of legal developments is much better off turning
to the many excellent law blogs. ...
Professor Wise ... and several colleagues have just published the results of a survey of the legal community’s views on law reviews in The Loyola Law Review, compiling responses from about 2,000 law professors, lawyers, judges and student editors [Do Law Reviews Need Reform? A Survey of Law Professors, Student Editors, Attorneys, and Judges, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 1 (2013)]. ...
The students also favor professors from their own schools, according to a second new study, this one from Albert H. Yoon, a law professor at the University of Toronto [Editorial Bias in Legal Academia, 5 J. Legal Analysis ___ (2013)]. This bias makes sense as a matter of self-interest, as the student editors are probably wise to accommodate people who have power over their futures.
But such home-school favoritism hurts the quality of what is published, Professor Yoon found. Articles by professors at the law review’s own school, he found, are cited less often than ones from outsiders. Law professors seem to know they can dump their lesser work onto their own school’s students, Professor Yoon wrote, so they “systematically publish their lesser-cited articles in their own journal relative to outside journals.” ...
The leading Supreme Court advocates know that law review articles carry almost no weight with the justices. “Only a true naïf,” Seth P. Waxman, a former solicitor general said in 2002, “would blunder to mention one at oral argument.”
(Hat Tip: Greg McNeal.)