Thursday, July 05, 2012

Law Reviews: Rest in Peace?

Walter Olson, the always provocative legal commentator, has struck again with an article in The Atlantic.  Entitled "Abolish the Law Reviews!", the article uses the Harvard Law Review to illustrate the plummeting circulation and stunning irrelevance of even the most prestigious of the academic law reviews in the twenty-first century.  Olson touches on the arguments for law reviews moving away from print and becoming digital publications--cost savings plus publishing articles as soon as they are ready to be published--but his real "question is whether the law review model of content--with its long lead time to publication, editing by students, and format that's resistant to after-publication editing--yields enough scholarly gems to deserve surviving in its present form even online."  Olson answers this question in the negative, stating that "the page volume of law reviews has proliferated beyond reason with no corresponding rise in compelling content."   He makes the point that "talented legal academics are headed ... to blogs and other short-form online publications."    The reason for the shift is obvious according to Olson; such publications are distinguished by their "clarity, concision, relevant, and wit, and [avoid] pedantry and mystification."  Commentators can "get their arguments gefore an intelligent audience in hours rather than weeks or month," thereby giving them a voice in ongoing policy discussions.

Before he relocated, Walter Olson was a regular user of the Pace Law Library.  He is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, the well-known conservative think tank.  He blogs at Overlawyered, and he is the author of The Litigation Explosion and Schools for Misrule:  Legal Academic and an Overlawyered America.  A quick glance at the latter book will tell you Olson is no fan of American legal education! 

1 comment:

Jim Rose said...

“[L]aw reviews are to law what masturbation is to sex”. Thomas E. Baker, Tyrannous Lex, 82 Iowa L. Rev. 689, 712 (1997)