Academic journal article Northwestern University Law Review

100 Years and Counting

Academic journal article Northwestern University Law Review

100 Years and Counting

Article excerpt


The Illinois Law Review-Undoubtedly the field for law reviews of a general character is already overcrowded. Moreover, it must be conceded that such reviews, however excellent, enlist the interest of but a small minority of the practicing lawyers of Illinois. It is believed, however, that there is genuine and wide-spread need of a live periodical primarily devoted to the discussion and exposition of Illinois law, and of matters of special practical value to the Illinois bar. In that belief, and with the purpose of supplying that need, this Review is launched.1

With that brief introduction and explanation, the Northwestern University School of Law launched the Illinois Law Review-the predecessor to today's law journal-almost one hundred years ago, in May 1906.2

The "overcrowded" field of general law reviews at that time actually consisted of perhaps five: American Law Register (1852), which in several stages morphed into the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (1895, 1908, and 1945); Harvard Law Review (1887); The Yale Law Journal (1891); Columbia Law Review (1901); and University of Michigan Law Review (1902).3 Legal periodicals in a variety of forms had existed in abundance prior to the appearance of Harvard's or Northwestern's, but most of them were commercially published and designed largely for practitioners. With a few short-lived exceptions (e.g., the law reviews of Albany and Columbia Law Schools),4 they did not emanate from a law school and were not student edited-the two characteristics by which we define a law review today.

Indeed, from 1893 to 1896, Northwestern's law school was the site of an early, short-lived, student-sponsored, and student-edited law review. That journal-titled the Northwestern Law Review*-was published monthly during the school year. In its first issue, the Editorial Board, made up of students, modestly explained:

In presenting this, the first number of the Northwestern Law Review, the editors feel that some explanation of their purpose is necessary. The youth and inexperience of students compared with the maturity and wisdom of those identified with established law journals would seem to make our task a useless one, and it might be so were it not for the generous aid that has been promised us, both by the instructors and lecturers of our school and the members of the bar of this city.

Here lawyers have almost unequaled advantages in dealing with novel and interesting points of law. The influx of large corporations, the daily birth of schemes of great financial magnitude, the construction of immense buildings on syndicated capital, the giving of new franchises, all present in a striking way problems with which practitioners in other cities are less familiar. Besides these articles on new questions, our professors and others will discuss rules and theories of law from the standpoint of legal scholars. The chief work of the editors will be to treat in a careful and accurate way such new decisions as may be of interest to our readers.

With these aims we start the Review hoping that it will bring no discredit on the institution of which we are a part. Should we prove successful, in time other features may be added. In case of failure we shall at least have the satisfaction of having had respectable aims.6

Two years later the Review noted the changing of the guard of the senior board of editors, expressed encouragement at the progress of the paper, and warmly solicited the "hearty support and assistance of the school."7 In that same October 1894 issue, the Editorial Board also reminded the law school's incoming class of the journal's purpose:

With the beginning of another year, it may not be out of place, especially for the benefit of the incoming class of the law school, to define briefly the purpose of this paper.

The Law Review is primarily intended to be a medium through which students may convey the results of their research to their fellow workers. …

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