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October 27, 2013

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anon

The dysfunction of this process is complex and thorough, so any specific reforms are likely to look inadequate in face of the magnitude of the problem. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions:

(1) Faculty should be charged with selecting articles. Schools should premise continued institutional support of law reviews on acceding this control.

This is the most necessary reform, as well as the one that's least likely to be implemented. Students are incompetent at picking articles. The need to tailor articles to their incompetence results in bloat, which in turn presents barriers to disseminating findings to practitioners and the general public. It also rewards gimmickry and analytical laziness. Faculty service on law reviews should be expanded and institutionally rewarded.

The remainder of these proposals presume that (1) has not been implemented.

(2) Eliminate the semi-annual submission windows.

Maintaining these windows results in student editors being overwhelmed with articles. Even if (counterfactually) the student editors were competent to select articles, it would be impossible to review every submitted article. One of the many dirty secrets of this process is just how many submitted articles are not read by anyone.

(3) Commit to providing honest and universal feedback.

If an article has been submitted, it should receive some notification from a journal if it will be published. This notification should also be honest. If an article has been rejected without being reviewed, the feedback should indicate that. Providing these comments might result in some awkwardness, but it would be much better than the current system (where a sub silentio rejection provides no useful information).

(4) Eliminate expedited review

The expedited review process gives student editors an excuse not to read articles.

(5) Every law review should adopt specialized standards for considering empirical work

This is such low hanging fruit, yet only a few of the top law reviews have anything like adequate protocols. This fact is cause for dismay that common-sense reforms can arise without some sort of dictate by law schools.


There are a number of other suggestions, each of which are as unlikely to be implemented as the ones mentioned here. I think it's important to emphasize that, although student editors are incompetent (and more than a little arrogant), law faculty probably bear most of the responsibility for this morass.

Jack

These ideas are thoughtful, but I am not sure I am fully persuaded. Is there anyone who cares about such things who does not already know the information you propose to disclose in 2 and 3? As for 4, there is external peer review of the work of people being promoted, so if someone has somehow gotten a weak piece placed in a top student-edited journal, the truth will out. The first part of 1 strikes me as a violation of academic freedom--why can't I submit where I want? The second part of 1 seems sensible, but I note that it is a mark of respect to the current system, because it only makes a difference if placements are meaningful.

In a larger sense, most meaningful pieces are part of an ongoing conversation among scholars or with the courts where the claims in a paper will be tested. If a paper is never scrutinized in another paper or a judicial opinion, I'm not sure it would have been worth anyone's time to peer review it before publication. It is also not clear to me that several major audiences for legal scholarship, including policymakers, courts, and lawyers, would benefit from peer review, because they are fully capable of evaluating the utility of the arguments themselves. I wonder if the case for peer review is strongest with regard to non-legal, interdisciplinary or empirical work, and less compelling with respect to doctrinal work, or at least some categories of it.

Jack

Alfred L. Brophy

From talking with editors at journals over the years I think one thing that's really frustrating for them is the number of expedite requests. I'm wondering if imposing a modest fee for expedited requests would cut down rather dramatically on the requests and also serve to provide at least a minimal compensation to the students who're charged with this reviewing requests. While I'm usually against any more imposition of costs on the people who're submitting articles, I'm wondering if this might restore some balance to the process.

Jeff Redding

anon: I think all of your proposals are sound ones, and thank you for replying. With respect to your first proposal about institutional expectations that faculty serve on article selection committees and the like, I am particularly intrigued and have thought something of the same before. One wrinkle that deserves attention though is how to handle article review for specialty journals, for example one pertaining to international and comparative law. There may not be, from year to year, the critical mass of faculty at any particular institution to support peer-review for a specialty journal. The problem could be solved, of course, by inter-institutional collaborations, but that is obviously more complicated than doing something within one institution. But maybe, regardless of those complexities, and regardless of the reduction of specialty journals which would result, we should go in that direction… it may, interestingly, result in specialty 'secondary' journals being of higher quality than the generalist 'primary' law reviews.

Orin Kerr

Jeff, it seems like the point of these suggestions is mostly to inform readers and observers about the significance of placements. But if that's right, I wonder if most academics don't already understand these signals. For example, most people know which journals are peer-reviewed, and most know to heavily discount publications in home journals. Why require formal policies if the signals are already received?

Al, I don't think a fee would work for two reasons. First, the schools must want the expedite requests, or else they wouldn't allow them or take them so seriously. Second, such a system would only favor authors who already have faculty positions, as presumably the author's institution would pay for the expedite; I wouldn't want a system in which the outsiders are kept out because they can't foot the bill.

Jeff Redding

Jack: Thanks for weighing in. As to my first recommendation and academic freedom, I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that, presently, there is too often a quid pro quo going on between law professors and students (at any particular institution) with respect to article acceptance, and that quid pro quo has many of the exploitative features that faculty/student sexual relations can have. For that reason, I think we can regulate it.

As to my second and third recommendations—and here I want to try to respond to Orin's remarks as well—I am not very certain at all that people outside of U.S. legal academia know that most U.S. law reviews are student-edited. I interact regularly with non-legal academics in the United States, and also outside the United States, and I can't count how many times I've seen jaws drop, and eyes pop, when I explain the U.S. law review article review process. Furthermore, the information I would like to see requisite in the * footnote (for example) would perhaps encourage some student-edited law reviews to distinguish themselves by upping the amount of peer-review they put into their articles acceptance process; this information in the * footnote then would not necessarily act as a badge of shame, but could be a marker/indicator of excellence. Finally, some users of the Bluebook would insist that when citing to a student note that that information must appear in the citation… why not then make the kind of law review (e.g. student-edited v. peer-reviewed) that a cited article appears in also requisite (parenthetical) information for the Bluebook citation to that article?

BC

My understanding from some of the law reviews that outperform (in the W&L rankings) their school's USNWR ranking, is that they have their professors review any article they are seriously considering to give them an objective take on its quality. Akron Law Review is one that I know does this and it outperforms is USNWR rank by a considerable margin. I have to think this "peer-review lite" or "modified peer review" has some bearing on the overall quality (and eventual impact) of the articles it publishes. From my limited experience, the peer-review lite that Akron (at least) uses is more of a "does this article have something interesting to say, regardless of whether you agree with it" standard, rather than a substantive critique.

I have also participated in the PRSM ["Peer Reviewed Scholarship Marketplace"] submission system operated by the South Carolina Law Review with very mixed results. This was a doctrinal piece and the comments I received from the reviewers were very much in the vein of "I subjectively disagree with you, therefore your paper sucks" (accompanied by brutal ratings for everything, including the quality of the writing itself). I pulled it from PRSM and it ended up in a Top 75 law review (I am at a 4th tier school, so even top 75s are hard to come by for those like me). This particular article was recently cited in an amicus brief to SCOTUS (with which I was not involved), so it seems that it did have something interesting and potentially valuable to say to somebody.

Given the current dynamics, there is very little incentive for junior scholars to go the peer review route, even if it might be theoretically "better" than the current system.

Scott Bauries

I can't quarrel with Jeff's Proposals 1 & 2, but I want to take issue with 3 & 4 (and anon's Proposal 1) for a couple of reasons.

First, BC hits on an important issue that has received some--but not enough--attention in this useful debate. Although this is a problem not unique to law, peer review of normative scholarship easily falls prey to the internal biases of the reviewers. This can show up as a hard-headed defense of a conventional wisdom that the reviewers have themselves helped to build, or as a simple political disagreement with the conclusion to which an article's analysis leads. I can say, as a person who has both published in and served as a reviewer for peer reviewed journals, that these biases are real. And because pre-publication peer review is a blind process (double-blind in most cases), there is no way to respond to a patently unfair peer review. With post-publication peer review, a scholar at least has the opportunity (at most schools) to respond to an unfair review, knowing who offered it, what that scholar's priors are, and whether the critique addresses the scholarly merit of the piece or the alignment of the conclusions with conventional wisdom. Exacerbating this problem, along with the requirements I outline below, true peer review relies on exclusive submission. With exclusive submission, a patently unfair (or even an unreasonably slow) review can keep a good idea out of the marketplace indefinitely. With simultaneous submission, the scholar can at least hedge against the inevitable biases of student selection editors and get his or her ideas out.

I also want to add a further point. Peer review itself does not make for better journal content. To work, peer review requires a stable of dedicated reviewers who regularly work for one or more journals, and who see themselves as fiduciaries, of a sort, of the journals for whom they review. Journals for which this is not the case are constantly trying to scrape together reviewers (and constantly getting back half-assed reviews from them). Still, the scholars who publish in these outlets are able to designate their publications as "peer reviewed" on their CVs. And the non-scholarly readers of legal scholarship not only have no way of knowing which peer-reviewed journals are good or bad, but they also are more likely to be misled as to the quality of a piece based on the "peer reviewed" label. My point is that, even if the entire field of legal scholarship switches over to peer review, we, as a scholarly community, will still have to judge for ourselves which peer reviewed publications are really worth something, and which aren't. As Orin says, we already do that. And the non-scholarly legal community will still have to figure out which journals it can rely on, and to overcome the information asymmetry created by the official-sounding "peer reviewed" label in some cases.

Although I think this discussion is useful, I remain unconvinced that moving to a pre-publication peer review model, or even elevating our appreciation of peer review in a formal way, such as by privileging it in the promotion process, will necessarily be good for the legal profession. There's much more to say here, but for now let me say that legal scholarship seems particularly to be a place where we ought to let the marketplace of ideas function out in the open. Overemphasizing peer review on the front end has the potential to improve the quality of legal articles, but it also has the potential to reduce the diversity of voices in this field, and to create information asymmetries that don't exist now.

Nancy Leong

Thank you for starting this thread, Jeff.

One thing I frequently hear from law review editors is that they are frustrated with the number of articles they receive every submission cycle and that it's difficult or impossible to review them thoroughly given the sheer numbers. I think this is important because my sense is that editors tend to rely on proxies (like CV and letterhead) more when they're swamped with work. Fewer articles to review would mean more attention to the substance of each article.

I wonder whether it would be useful to limit the number of journals to which professors submit simultaneously. I can think of a number of ways we might do this. What if there were a norm among professors with more seniority and/or security (those with tenure? those who have been in academia X number of years?) to submit to no more than a certain number of journals at a time (10? 20?). My thinking is that perhaps when someone is quite junior or still in practice it's necessary to submit to many journals at once to ensure that she ends up with a placement. It seems less important for someone who's been in the academy for twenty years to blast an article out to 100 different journals at once.

Alternatively, perhaps we could create incentives for more narrowly tailored submissions. For example, authors could choose to affirmatively disclose that they were only submitting to X journals (giving editors an opportunity to prioritize articles submitted to relatively few places), or Expresso could disclose to journals how many simultaneous submissions an author made. (I have a vague recollection that the Duke Law Journal used to do something kind of like the former, where you could agree to submit to Duke and no more than X number of other journals as a way of indicating your interest in Duke. I'd be interested to hear how that went from anyone with firsthand knowledge.)

I think Scott raises excellent points about peer review, which I won't reiterate. I have two additional thoughts. First, it strikes me that pre-selection peer input might be more useful in some areas than in others -- for example, articles with a strong quantitative component, or articles for which fewer students are familiar with the subject matter (patent comes to mind). Second, there's a tendency to think of peer review as all or nothing. I see it more as a continuum ranging from evaluation entirely by students, at one end of the spectrum, to traditional double-blind peer review, at the other end. In the middle, there's a lot of room for variation in practice. Students could get input from professors on a case-by-case basis (depending on things like subject matter and methodology); students could get input from one professor at their own institution for every article; students could get input from multiple professors at different schools for every article. Some of this is happening already, and I don't see it as a bad thing that different journals might do different things. It would create different roads to publication, which would tend to facilitate the diversity of ideas Scott mentions. I note that increasing the range of selection methodologies would probably cut in favor of Jeff's second proposal, above, so that readers would know how specific articles were selected.

Peter Yu

Jeff, thanks for putting up this thread, which is both stimulating and informative. The responses are constructive and excellent as well. Here are four immediate reactions:

1. I have to echo Scott’s excellent points. Having run both a main law review and a peer-review journal, I see both strengths and weaknesses in the selection process. Some of the reviews I’ve seen on the peer-review side clearly cannot be accomplished by even the top law students unless they have prior scholarly backgrounds (e.g. a Ph.D. in another field). Unfortunately, I’ve also seen very short comments that would not have been considered acceptable work products from even the current articles editors. On top of that, I’ve seen requests to rewrite an article based solely or primarily on the fact that the article has failed to cite the reviewer’s works (thankfully not from reviewers for my journal). If we can’t trust students to handle the selection process, can we trust them to handle these reviews?

2. To the extent that we want law professors to take up responsibility in selecting articles, we already have that setup in the format of law review symposia. Some journals, such as Chicago-Kent and Loyola L.A., actually focus mostly on symposia. We could easily compare the regular law reviews against these journals or symposia to see whether the journals have greatly improved in terms of both quality and diversity. Creating an echo chamber is usually the biggest fear concerning this type of setup. Those who have been on law reviews have their fair share of experience where professors take articles down (or up) to the law review office. If we are concerned about this type of behavior, should we not be more concerned when those professors could just accept articles without even taking them down (or up) to the law review office?

3. If we assume each of the 203 ABA-approved law schools will have on average 3 journals with each journal trying to fill an average of 20 articles, we are talking about more than 12,000 articles a year. (Yes, virtually all articles from law professors will be published! There just aren’t enough law review articles to fill all the issues every year.) So, unless we manage to find a way to eliminate a large number of these journals (why my school’s but not yours?) or unless we move to an exclusive submission system, I’m unsure how the legal academia can handle 24,000 double-blinds per year just in the U.S. alone. If we’re complaining about law professors not spending enough time in the classroom, wait until that happens! Moving journals online doesn’t solve the problem either. In fact, it can exacerbate the problem by adding more online articles (and therefore possibilities of publication). If we moved to an exclusive submission model, that would help. But how would you feel if, after 9 months of waiting, you get a short paragraph stating that your article has to be rewritten because you have failed to cite the reviewer’s latest article (or because of that review, the editor now has to delay your decision for another 6 months so that another reviewer can be asked to provide more appropriate comments)? And how would you feel if you need that article for promotion or tenure purposes?

4. Are we focusing on all journals or are we just talking about the top journals? If so, are we having the same issue concerning the law firms’ complaints about law schools not training students enough (a fair complaint, I must add). Many schools that have put a lot of time, effort and energy in getting their students practice-ready couldn’t even get those complaining law firms to have OCIs on their campus. The message from some law firms basically boils down to this: we’d like the Harvards and Yales to be more practice-oriented, but we won’t even consider students from your school even if they are practice-ready. Then again, the Harvards and Yales don’t have major problems recruiting students or landing them jobs despite the current crisis. So, are we talking about the same thing regarding these journals? Put differently, would people be willing to publish with Podunk Law Review (sorry, Podunk) if its articles will be promptly reviewed by established experts? Or do the proposals focus mostly on the top journals when those journals, in fact, have limited incentives and no urgency to change? People love to note Chief Justice Roberts’ observation about law reviews publishing articles on the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria. But how often does that happen in a non-top 50 journal (not to mention that this type of comparative law articles tend to get rejected by the top 50 very quickly--imagine cite-checking all the Bulgarian sources!)? The last I look, many law review articles from the non-top 50 journals are practice-oriented. But I don’t see them being cited either, despite all the complaints from judges and practitioners. So, the problem is clearly more complicated than that.

Haskell Murray

As someone who has recently moved from teaching at a law school to teaching at a business school, I've seen many of those jaw drops and eye pops that Jeff describes. Most of my business school colleague simply cannot believe that our process works the way it does. They think that the professors at top law schools must publish in something more similar to their peer reviewed journals. I think moving away from non-blind review would be the first step.

Jeff Redding

First of all, thank you everyone for a set of very thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. This is all very interesting and helpful. I don't know if I can (or should) reply to everyone's individual comments, but here are some initial reactions to things that particularly struck me in what I've just read:

Scott: I totally hear you on the problems that peer-reviewed journals experience. What I would like to suggest is that we try to de-hierarchize peer-reviewed vs. student-edited law reviews, and try to think about them as just 'different' from each other, rather than better or worse than the other. And sometimes, for different people doing different kinds of research and writing and/or policy-making, a peer-reviewed piece will be more useful than a student-edited piece (and vice-versa). Simply knowing more about how a piece was solicited and selected, then, can help facilitate those decisions. Furthermore, I think a mature scholar, at least in the law field, should probably have both experiences publishing… hence, my suggestion of a required 'mix' in scholarship for purposes of advancement within the legal academy.

BC and Nancy: Peer-review works on a continuum, absolutely—thank you for highlighting that. And, yes, this is one of the reasons for my proposal #2 (for law reviews to indicated in authors' * footnotes how the particular article was solicited, reviewed, and selected for punishment). I may be wrong here, but I think more information here is better.

And Nancy, I am particularly intrigued by your suggestion that perhaps submissions to student-edited law reviews should be limited to junior faculty. I think there's definitely something there. Certainly, for purposes of advancement, one has to be able to signal productivity, i.e. that one can produce 'quantity' in scholarship. The large # of student-edited law reviews facilitate that signaling goal. Yet, perhaps after getting tenure, the expectation should be that one should demonstrate capacity for 'quality' in order for advancement to full professor, with a concomitant expectation that one published in peer-reviewed journals at that point. But, again, I don't want to necessarily create a hierarchy here between student-edited and peer-reviewed journals, and/or suggest that student-edited reviews never publish quality, and that peer-reviewed journals cannot perform their role expeditiously.

Matt

"When evaluating junior law faculty candidates for promotion, publications in peer-reviewed journals should be granted a weight at least as weighty as publications in student-edited law reviews."

In principle I'm all in favor of this, but I'm not sure how it works in practice, except if it just means something like, "don't discount peer reviewed journals as such." That's certainly reasonable. (It's so reasonable that it would be sad to me if it had to be said!) But, there are quite a lot of peer-reviewed journals, and a lot of variability in their standards and quality. So, while I'd personally be more impressed with a publication in _Ethics_ or _Philosophy and Public Affairs_ than I would any law review, I'd just not know how to compare, say, a publication in _Social Theory and Practice_ to most good law review placements, just by looking that the placement itself. (I say that as someone who thinks that ST&P is a quite good journal that I'd be happy to publish in, but one that's obviously not as good as Ethics or P&PA, and hard to compare to lots of law reviews.) I expect this is so with lots of peer reviewed journals.

Paul Gowder

Matt, does anyone honestly think that such fine-grained comparisons are possible even within the law review system? The "rank" of a law review is such a horrendously noisy signal that probably the best we can do is talk about very broad bands like "top 100." Surely we can compare Social Theory and Practice to law journals at that level of generality...

Matt

I'm not sure how people make these distinctions, Paul. I hear people say things that suggests that they think they can make pretty fine distinctions between law reviews, but I can't say that I'd trust my ability to do so. (Nor do I trust others- but some people seem to not find the idea odd, when talking about expedites and the like.) Rough categories of quality (on average) seem plausible to me. My worry was only that I didn't really know how to understand the bit I'd quoted.

Paul Gowder

Yeah, I see what you mean. (My suspicion, with respect to expedites and the like, is that it's really all an ideology: people who are expedite aren't looking for a reliable signal of quality, they're looking for what other people will treat as a reliable signal of quality, notwithstanding the fact that all the players know that it is no such thing...)

anon

Matt-

Here's the best way to compare law reviews to philosophy journals like ST&P.

Step 1: Take the last 20 theoretically-oriented articles published in the top 10 law reviews.

Step 2: Isolate the main philosophical arguments of each of these law review articles (which would require considerable shortening and reformatting to remove all of the bloviation required to appease student law review editors).

Step 3: Ask whether the reformatted version of the law review article would have been accepted in ST&P (or a comparably ranked journal, like Economics & Philosophy, or the Journal of Social Philosophy, or Social Philosophy & Policy).

My guess is that less than 1/2 of these articles would have been accepted under this methodology. What might be more surprising is the dearth of serious philosophical work in top law reviews. Perhaps this dearth exists because law reviews aren't set up to appreciate the kinds of methodological innovations that constitutes the bulk of really doing philosophy.


Modestinus.wordpress.com

Before commencing, I should note that I am a “legal academic outsider,” though I do have a J.D. and have published several articles in various law reviews and coauthored a legal-academic treatise for Cambridge University Press. I served on my school’s law review as an Associate Editor when I was a 3L and taught for several years at the institution from which I graduated. Take these responses to your suggestions for what you will.

1) Every U.S. law school should have a written policy disallowing their own faculty from submitting articles for consideration.

Perhaps, though what about the “good old days” when faculties could use their own school’s reviews to quickly and effectively circulate their (hopefully learned) views on some pressing legal matter? I may be getting the details wrong, but I recall a tale of Philip Areeda (the faded antitrust scholar) publishing a short piece on some antitrust matter in the Harvard Law Review while a case on that same point was being considered by the Supreme Court. The Court, apparently, took the article into account when rendering its decision. If Areeda would have had to go through “the process” to get his piece published, the Court case would have been long decided and the issue effectively dead (unless taken up during a later Court term, which is unlikely to happen for years, even decades). Perhaps in the day and age of blogs and e-publications, this is a less pressing issue today. Additionally, it doesn’t seem like the Court (or any court) pays all that much attention to legal-academic literature anymore. Still, I don’t see why it should automatically be out of bounds for a school’s journal to offer space to its own faculty. The only reasonable objection I can fathom is that professor at, say, Tier 2 School is miffed because s/he can’t get a placement at a Tier 1 School’s journal publishing its own faculty members. Unless things have radically changed in the last few years, I thought it was generally frowned upon among the “lower tiered” schools to have scholarship placed in a journal of the same or lower tier. (Some have told me that a same-tier placement is acceptable so long as the publishing school is ranked higher by U.S. News.)

2) Every U.S. law review should, at the beginning of every article published by it (e.g. in the * footnote), explain that law review’s ‘methodology’ for soliciting, reviewing, and choosing articles for publication.

What good would this do? Or, I should ask, what would this add? Most legal academics know the rules of the game, even if they don’t like them. The general methodology is that you, and the hundreds of others like you, are at the mercy of some 3L who may, or may not, be much of a hot shot when it comes to gauging which articles are “worthy” of publication. More likely than not, the higher-tiered journals are going to have more competent staffs than lower-tiered ones, but that’s not universally true. Much of it is still going to be impressionistic and colored by the ideological disposition and personal interests of a given editor. For instance, I know that at least one piece I published was selected by one of Harvard’s specialty journals on the grounds that the lead editor liked that I was apparently “optimistic” about addressing climate change at the international level. (I am not an optimist, but my piece was, I think, a bit of a turn from the usual gloom n’ doom prognostications that one finds throughout the literature.) Sure, I’d like to think that my article was taken because it was also, in some objective sense, “good” (whatever that means), but I also know that if this same editor thought climate change was boring or that there was no room for “optimism” in the debate, I would be dead in the water. No set methodology, no matter how well-crafted, can overcome the subjective criteria which makes or breaks one’s publishing hopes. The same could be said for peer reviewed journals, which can be even nastier and bitter in their selection process than any student run journal is.

3) When listing publications on their academic CVs, authors should prominently indicate, for each U.S. law review publication, whether that publication was published in a student-edited or a peer-reviewed journal.

Oh, this is definitely true, but I am not sure you need a rule. Any legal academic who has had their work placed in a peer-reviewed journal (e.g., Journal of Legal Studies) is going to advertise that fact. It’s a badge of honor—one too few in the academy wear. The closest most legal academics get to being peer reviewed (outside of the hiring and tenure process) is if they publish a book. There is no reason that most law reviews couldn’t shift to a peer-reviewed format, or a semi-peer reviewed format where professors play gatekeeper with what gets published. Similarly, most schools could easily discard their secondary journals in favor of putting more focus on their primary journal. It would raise the game of legal scholarship and cut down on the clutter of subgrade and unimaginative nonsense that floods Lexis and Westlaw (to say nothing of Google Scholar) searches.

4) When evaluating junior law faculty candidates for promotion, publications in peer-reviewed journals should be granted a weight at least as weighty as publications in student-edited law reviews.

I say give them twice the weight, unless the “peers” doing the reviewing happen to be the faculty at the YMCA’s evening law school program. But I would go a step further and say that law school faculties should dispense with tenure altogether and frequently re-review their faculties based on not only scholarly metrics, but teaching ones as well. Tenure, after all, is nothing more than dispensation from ever having to live up to another standard again. Most law school faculties are lazy, and unless a school has a set culture of achievement and learning (most don’t), there is very little incentive for tenured professors to stay academically productive during the entire course of their employment. Moreover, they set a terrible example for incoming junior faculty and visitors who long for the day not when they become respect leaders on their faculties but, rather, can phone-in a few hours of classes each week before getting back to the business of catching up on Homeland on their DVRs. That will never happen, of course. There is too much institutional inertia. But a man can dream…

Matt

"Here's the best way to compare law reviews to philosophy journals like ST&P."

Oh- that's not _my_ worry- I'm very able to judge the quality of this work, at least when it's in fields I know. (I spend way more time than I should doing peer reviewing for a fairly wide range of journals, for example.) My question is how your typical law-school faculty member, who is _not_ able to judge this work, makes these comparisons. Or, I have only a very rough idea of the pecking order for economics journals, and it doesn't take too long before I'm not able to competently judge the work myself. Something similar applies to other fields. So, if someone has a paper published in, say _Theory and Decision_, I know that's pretty good, but how good, I don't really know. (I certainly know about the lack of very serious philosophical work even in top law reviews!)

MLS

I find many of the suggestions sensible and likely to improve what is a pretty pathetic system of student-edited law reviews. But here, and on many of the other threads, I am struck at the quality of the arguments advanced in favor of student edited reviews, which have an anti-intellectual cast that confirms why so much of legal scholarship is simply dismissed outside of law. On peer review, people have expressed a concern that normative disagreements will drive judgments but I can only wonder, why would that not be true of second-year students who are working through 800 simultaneous submissions that arrive just before Spring Break every year? I remember from my law review experience many years ago how just such judgments were made by students who disagreed with the conclusions authors reached. Between qualified academics and unqualified students with little scholarly interest, I think I would go with qualified academics, despite the potential for some bias. And others have suggested that faculty may lack the expertise to evaluate specialized arguments to which I can only make the same comment -- can students plausibly do it better? One of the most revealing aspects of the current state of legal scholarship is that while legal scholars cite scholars in other disciplines, the vast majority of the work cited, I might add is from peer-reviewed journals, it is quite rare that legal scholarship is relied upon outside of law (other than people like Cass Sunstein who has managed to breach the divide but mostly as a result of his books rather than his articles I think). One reason is that the articles are just too long but the other is it is very difficult to discern quality without diving into a 70-page paper, only to discover half way through that the author is principally relying on some political philosophy he or she learned in college (that is based on an article I just read in a very tippy top journal). I think in defending student-edited law reviews, people should just fess up and admit that they like the randomness to the selection process -- that someone might be able to entice some 2nd yr student to reach into a pile of manuscripts and pull out his or hers, kind of cool when it happens I suppose but hardly a sensible selection process, and certainly not one worth defending as superior to peer review.

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