Thursday, May 19, 2011

A New Twist on the Academic Law Review

The academic law review is like the weather--everyone complains about it, but no one knows how to fix it. The iconoclasts over at The Green Bag have an idea, which is discussed in an enlightening article in today's Inside Higher Ed. The Green Bag, founded in 1997, seeks "to make short, topical legal writing both cool and tenure-able." Moreover, it "has spawned progeny serious (collections of 'in chamber' opinions by Supreme Court justices), lighthearted (bobblehead dolls and trading cards ... ), and controversial (its own law school rankings)." Its latest initiative is The Journal of Law, which is actually not one new journal, but three, all very different in tone and substance. The first journal is The Congressional Record, FantasyLaw Edition, student edited and meant to be a diversion. It lets readers create a team from members of Congress and then follow their activities, legislative and otherwise. The second journal is Law & Commentary which takes a new approach to peer review. It publishes articles that are unlikely to get placed in a high-profile journal but are worthy of such a placement; the journal also solicits commentary on the article from well-known senior scholars which it also publishes. To quote Professor Ross E. Davies of George Mason Law School, a founder of The Green Bag and editor of The Journal of Law:

There are two interrelated concerns motivating this version of peer review. First, there is the difficulty junior scholars – and also senior scholars working in areas outside their established specialties – sometimes have placing first-class articles in appropriate journals and generally drawing attention to their best work. Second, there is the difficulty consumers of legal scholarship can have identifying which articles – out of the many thousands published every year in the many hundreds of law reviews – most merit their attention. Articles placed in a few leading law journals (the flagship law reviews at prominent law schools and premier faculty-edited journals) will enjoy wide notice. But there are not many slots in those journals, and few of those few go to the work of relatively junior or unknown scholars.

The third journal is also an interesting twist on the typical subjects of academic legal scholarship. Pub. L. Misc. will present documents that are not produced by the courts but that do have implications for policy. According to the introduction, Pub. L. Misc. will publish selected "significant constitutional documents generated by the Article I and II branches of our government," both federal and state.

Print editions of the three journals will be sent to selected institutions (those that subscribe to The Green Bag?) as a gift, but will also be available online. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these three new journals and see if they find a niche.

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