February 23, 2010
Are Law Schools Gaming Their Law Review Circulation Data?
Yup, law review paid subscriptions continue their death sprial but there's no need to update the charts published last year at Twenty-Five Year Decline in Law Review Subscriptions. What's interesting in George Mason law prof Ross E. Davies' second annual study is the possibility that reported law review circulation data is being gamed. He writes, "we noticed something that might be worth thinking about: the possibility that the law school combover culture has infected law reviews."
Case in point, the questions surrounding Harvard Law Review's reported circulation data. Davies writes "context might help: it suggests that the HLR’s circulation is whatever the HLR can convince you it is." From his Law Review Circulation 2009: The Combover article [SSRN]:
The HLR, like all law reviews, operates within a larger world driven in substantial part by USNews rankings and related creatures. It is a world in which some law school leaders — that is, the people in charge of teaching law review editors and other students about the law, its practice, and its values — are committed to being in the elite, to being highly ranked, even if that means also being not fully forthright about the numbers on which rankings are based. Perhaps law review editors internalize that kind of commitment, if not from their own schools, then perhaps from the law school world at large. Perhaps the propriety of fudging your way toward first place in the law is being simultaneously booted out the front door via lectures in Professional Responsibility classes and welcomed in at the back gate via role-modeling in law school administration and media coverage of it.
Oh great, now those law schools which hadn't thought about this stunt, might do so.
Why Subscribe? There's little need to subscribe to or "circulate" law reviews. Who reads what they publish? Law profs? Some perhaps, but if they do it is more likely by way of SSRN or bePress. Federal court clerks for "see generally" references, perhaps . Certainly not the typical state or federal practitioner. They turn to ABA Section journals and state bar association titles because that's where they will find doctrinal analysis and practical information. Commenting on NLJ's article, "Study Finds Sharp Decline in Law Review Circulation," Mark Giangrande wrote on LLB yesterday, "[t]he article noted the focus of law reviews has shifted to the academic audience, saying 'it takes longer for ideas they present to find their way into real-world legal practice.' I'll say." I'll add, "if ever."
Certainly there is nothing wrong with speculative thought but hopefully someday, the peer review model will be the norm in the legal academy. Until then, members of every other discipline on university campuses shake their collective head in disbelief about how law profs "earn" tenure by way of their publishing track record. "Publish or perish" whether right or wrong, is absurdly easy for law profs when they have some 200 student edited law reviews and journals to submit their work to. And still, they whine about it!
The Greening of Law Reviews. A lot of trees will be saved if the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship was implemented nationwide. In fact, it might stop this latest legal academy combover Ross Davies calls attention to. Of course, Durham Statement proponents will have to persuade law profs that SSRN download mouse clicks mean absolutely nothing. That may be an insurmountable obstacle to instant ego gratification. If not cited, at least downloaded, right? [JH]
i really don`t uderstand much of this !
Posted by: Jedineka | Sep 26, 2010 3:33:10 AM
Another reason that courts may turn to ABA publications (and journals published by ABA sections) is that subscriptions to those publications are included as part of the ABA (and section) membership fee. That's a great member benefit. When the journals are there in the office, you tend to at least look at the titles of the articles and see that many of them are highly relevant to your work.
Posted by: Mark | Feb 23, 2010 7:57:59 AM