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.