Re: What’s the mission of the law reviews?

Susan Crawford shares an interesting story about a talk about the value of making law review articles available to a wider audience, mainly via the web.

“But I’m not sure that the current system of innumerable student-reviewed law journals is sustainable.”

Why not? I’m not a lawyer, so maybe I’m not understanding the law review system. But it seems to me that there are thousands of laws on the books that could be written about. The Supreme Court hears dozens of cases a year, lower courts must hear thousands (millions?) of cases a year. If law schools are intent on turning hundreds (thousands?) of new lawyers out on the streets of America each year, surely there are enough laws and legal theories that can be discussed in law reviews.

According to the American Bar Association, in 2005-2006 there were 42,673 J.D. or LL.B. degrees awarded. Does every law student have to write or collaborate on an article for their school’s law review? Maybe they should.

On The Legal Theory Blog, Lawrence Solum says in Should Academics Have an Ethical Obligation to Publish in Open Access Venues?:

In particular, legal academics (who have special “early awareness” of the issue) can begin to foster a professional norm against publication in closed-access, proprietary rights venues.”

This is exactly right. Both the authors and readers need to stop supporting closed publication systems. But until even publications with wider audiences, such as the Chronicle of Higher Education stop keeping their articles behind a closed door, we really can’t expect publications with narrower audiences to open up. Salon Magazine got grief with their decision to post a commercial before you can read a complete article, but at least the article is available easily. Law school reviews could readily make their articles available.