Fixing Law Reviews

By Friedman, Barry | Duke Law Journal, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Fixing Law Reviews


Friedman, Barry, Duke Law Journal


ABSTRACT

Very few people are happy at present with the law review publishing process, from article submission and selection to editing. Complaints are longstanding; similar ones emerge from faculty and students alike. Yet, change has not occurred. We remain locked in a process in which neither faculty nor students are happy.

This Article recommends wholesale changes to the submission and editing process. The first part details the dysfunctions of the current system, including everything from lack of student capacity to evaluate faculty scholarship--particularly under the gun of the expedite process--to faculty submitting subpar work in light of rigid submission cycles. It then turns to a perverse defense of the current system. In light of technological change, law reviews play a very different function at present than even twenty years ago. Most faculty publish their work on electronic databases prior to submission to law reviews. Law reviews serve as the final resting place of those articles for archival purposes, while ostensibly providing students with a sound pedagogical experience. Even so, the system has huge and unacceptable costs; student editors scramble over one another to accept manuscripts, often wasting time on rejected submissions, while faculty labor with student overediting, all in the service of articles that for the most part are rarely or never cited.

It is time to change the present system, to produce better published scholarship, at lower cost to faculty and students. This ought to include blind submission, elimination of submitting articles to one's own school, and some form of peer review. Authors should be required to limit submissions, or to accept the first offer they receive. And the editing process should be simplified, as the present system is far too elaborate, and fails to make scholarship the best it can be.

Introduction

I. The Woes of Reviews

      A. Submission and Selection

         1. A Word on Baseline
         2. Widespread Concern About Student Selection
         3. Further Structural Impediments
         4. Selection Criteria
         5. Rewriting After Acceptance

      B. Editing

         1. Garbage In, Garbage Out
         2. Training, Incentives, and Process
         3. The Resultant Quality of Law Review Writing

      C. Market Failure

         1. The Flood of Publication
         2. Law Review Subsidization
         3. The Costs of Production
         4. The Value of Law Reviews

II. A Perverse Defense of Law Reviews

      A. The Changes Technology Hath Wrought

         1. Two Technological Difficulties
         2. Technology's Promise

      B. The Perverse Defense

         1. The Selection System Is Just Fine
         2. The Editing Is Alright
         3. "A Machine That Would Go of Itself"
         4. Fair Labor

III. The Costs of the System

      A. Externalizing Article Selection
      B. Editing Despair
      C. Dubious Pedagogy
      D. Institutional Costs

IV. Solutions

      A. Front-End Fixes

         1. Don't Accept for Publication Work That Is Not Near
            Ready To Be Published
         2. Publish Less
         3. The End of Law Review Submission "Cycles"
         4. Own the Journal, Not the Volume

      B. Changing the Selection Process (Peer Review Aside)

         1. Move to Blind Review
         2. Put An End to In-School Nepotism
         3. Limit Submissions; Require Acceptance of Offers

      C. Adding in Peer Review

         1. Editors (and Faculty) Want More Input from Peers
         2. Peer Review Is Possible

      D. Editing Can Be Win-Win

         1. The Goal
         2. Deference Means Not Changing Things in the First
            Place
         3. Fewer Chefs in the Kitchen; Only One Lead Editor
            Throughout the Process
         4. Fewer Trips Back to the Kitchen; Fewer Editing
            Rounds

      E. Some Final Notes

         1. Using Dropbox or Its Ilk for Cite-Checking
         2. … 

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