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September 25, 2009


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Mary Dudziak

Al, thanks for this post and for following this issue. One area of academic publishing that seems to be immune to this trend is law journals. Law journals have proliferated over the past decade or more, with schools now hosting multiple journals, and the majority of students at some schools participating in journals. Have law journals been affected by library subscription cutbacks? Have any ceased print publication? If the economic downturn nudged some secondary journals out of existence, would that be a bad thing -- or might it instead lead more students to spend their time doing clinical work or other valuable activities?


Thanks for posting, Mary. Really interesting observation.

I was thinking about law reviews as I was writing this -- and wondering when we'd see this trend towards e-publishing in law reviews. I think law reviews -- even more than "regular" (I was tempted to say normal, but that's too judgmental) scholarly journals -- are concerned with prestige. So they're even more wedded to print than other scholarly journals, I fear. Law schools have until recently also had more money than a lot of other departments, so they're somewhat better able to support luxuries like print journals.

But to borrow a phrase from Dan Filler, when major journals shift to e-publishing, the stigma of the change may disappear (maybe it's already disappeared?) And then I'd expect budget-conscious administrations to shift to e-publishing.

One other thought: I haven't heard of a lot of new law journals starting recently. Seems like the market may be saturated. I'm not sure. Then again, I haven't heard of any secondary journals closing shop in the last five years, either.

Mary Dudziak

Hi, Al. One of the differences is that law reviews are funded differently than journals in other fields. In history, for example, a department doesn't host a journal, and organization (e.g. Org of Amer Historians) does. A university, where the editor is based, often supports a journal, but it isn't as tied to an academic program as law journals.

Maybe this bodes well for the continuing health of law journals, if law schools view their reputations as tied to the maintenance of their journals?

Another interesting comparison is the move to open access, and the creation of web supplements. Some law reviews (Duke) are open access. Most journals (law and history) are not, as far as I can tell, though some are partial open access. (Law & History Review has been open access, but unfortunately that is going away with a shift to Cambridge Univ. Press.)

Among law reviews, there is now interesting shorter commentary in web supplements. The J. of Amer. History has gone another route, with web supplements related to using particular articles in teaching, with links to teaching resources. That has been a fabulous development. More info on that is here:

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