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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Friedman: Fixing Law Reviews

Harvard Law ReviewBarry Friedman (NYU), Fixing Law Reviews, 67 Duke L.J. 1297 (2018):

Very few people are happy at present with the law review publishing process, from article submission and selection to editing. Complaints are longstanding, and similar ones emerge from faculty and students alike. Yet, heretofore, change has not occurred. Instead, we are locked in our ugly world of submit and expedite, stepping on the toes of numerous student editors in the process. And the editing process falls far short of ideal.

This Article recommends wholesale change to the submission and editing process.

The first part details the dysfunctions of the current system, including everything from lack of student capacity to evaluate faculty scholarship — particularly under the gun of the expedite process — to faculty submitting subpar work in light of rigid submission cycles. It then turns to making a perverse defense of the current system. In light of technological change, law reviews play a very different function at present than even twenty years ago. Most faculty publish their work on electronic databases even prior to submission to law reviews. Law reviews serve as the final resting place of those articles for archival purposes, while ostensibly providing students with a sound pedagogical experience. Part three undercuts the perverse defense by pointing to the huge and unacceptable costs of the present system, in which student editors scramble over one another to accept manuscripts, often wasting time on rejected submissions, while faculty labor with student-overediting, all in the service of articles that for the most part are rarely or never cited.

The final part of this article is a raft of suggestions to change the present system to produce better published scholarship, at lower cost to faculty and students, including blind submission, elimination of submitting articles to one’s own school, some form of peer review, and limiting submissions or requiring authors to accept the offer they receive. The suggestions extend to the editing process, which — at present — is out of control, and does little to make scholarship the best it can be.

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