Paul L. Caron

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Should the University of Louisville Law Review Close its Doors?

LawReview2Alex C. Davis (J.D. 2012, Louisville), The University of Louisville Law Review at Fifty: A Brief Look Back, and a Hard Look at the Future, 50 U. Louisville L. Rev. ___ (2012):

As the University of Louisville Law Review publishes its fiftieth volume of scholarly writing in 2011, it faces many of the issues that plague other legal journals at American law schools. The law review loses thousands of dollars each year, its print circulation is in a decade-long nosedive, and its articles and notes — which can take up to a year to publish — are rarely cited by judges, legislators, or anyone else outside of academia. Given these troubles, should the journal continue at all?

Some would say the answer is no, at least not in the journal’s present form. Law review critics contend that the student-edited publications are plagued by high turnover and poor editing, and should be abandoned in favor of faculty-supervised scholarship. They claim that, no matter who is steering the ship, law reviews too often publish work that is irrelevant and unnecessarily long, and that decisions about publication are made based on the prestige of the author’s law school, not the quality of the author’s writing.

But there are reasons why law reviews should continue, and these reasons ultimately outweigh the arguments in favor of extinction. As the outside world moves from typewriters to Twitter, law reviews continue to provide an invaluable experience to law students. They publish tens of thousands of pages of legal writing, providing ideas and information to attorneys, scholars, and other decision-makers. The journal offers some editors their first experience as a leader and manager of other people.

Law reviews in general, and Louisville's in particular, can be improved. Greater involvement from faculty members could address concerns about training for inexperienced student members, and arguably make the finished product more professional. Louisville's flagship journal also should expand its online distribution and seek to publish a wider variety of legal writing. This should not be difficult, especially with numerous other journals publishing innovative new types of scholarship online. But as the University of Louisville Law Review passes its semi-centennial anniversary and begins its next fifty years, it should focus first and foremost on its greatest purpose: educating the lawyers of tomorrow.

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NO- they should be e-journals to lower the cost. They are good training for writing, editing, briefing and displaying the knowledge of the university-But-think "E"!

Posted by: Nick Paleveda MBA J.D LL.M | Dec 19, 2011 9:42:47 AM

The answer is an unequivocal "yes." According to Mr. Davis, law reviews and journals "publish tens of thousands of pages of legal writing, providing ideas and information to attorneys, scholars, and other decision-makers." Law reviews and journals may provide ideas to legal scholars, a function of dubious social utility. The great majority most assuredly do not provide ideas or information to lawyers, judges, or "other decision-makers." (And, as Walter Sobchak suggests above, it is much more likely that a "lower tier" publication will publish something useful.) I am a litigator who practices in trial and appellate courts, both state and federal, in a fairly sophisticated field--taxation. I cannot remember a time in the last 33 years when I cited a law review article, although I am pretty sure I once did so.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 19, 2011 8:08:26 AM

The bulk of the law review experience at our school (a US News top 20) consisted of the privilege of spending 100 hours or more a semester checking the blue book formatting of prospective articles. That would have contributed next to nothing to my legal education, so I went for faculty-supervised writing credits. There's also the notion that the prestige of law review comes from its traditional exclusivity, but my school long ago changed that to allow anyone to join, further eviscerating it's benefits.

Posted by: Banzel | Dec 18, 2011 5:36:36 AM

The most useless are Yale and Harvard. I'll wager that Louisville is not nearly as useless as those two. Shutting them all down would be blessing for the nations forests and landfills.

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Dec 17, 2011 8:38:57 PM

I think it's a better strategy to publish online--and perhaps to focus on a few symposia or similar issues for each year--than simply to shut one's doors. Also, how will we know which Louisville students were the best, without the law review to tell us?

Posted by: mike livingston | Dec 17, 2011 2:24:33 PM