February 22, 2010
Law Review Subscriptions Down and the Job Market is Still Bad Says NLJ
The National Law Review (subscription required) has two items of interest. The first item is that law school law reviews are losing circulation. The article, Study Finds Sharp Decline in Law Review Circulation, states typical or expected reasons why physical law reviews are in less demand. The combination of online access, law school budgets and library space needs mean that fewer physical copies are needed. Moreover, the trend for law review associations is to put their content on the web for free. The information as such is essentially more important for a range of potential subscribers than the format of the source. One other reason stood out for me, however. The 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.
Two law review articles that study this point are Law Reviews and Their Relevance to Modern Legal Problems by Thomas L. Fowler, 24 Campbell L. Rev.47 (2001), and Declining Use of Legal Scholarship by Courts: An Empirical Study by Michael D. McClintock, 51 Okla. L. Rev 659 (1998). Law review articles these days tend to cover philosophical and interdisciplinary views of legal topics. Theoretical topics are of little use to practitioners, though for technical fields such as antitrust, securities regulation and other similar fields, law review articles will still have some relevance to a litigator. Practitioners will likely rely more on bar journals and each other for practical information. One judge in Fowler's article is quoted as saying:
Judges rely heavily upon the law that is cited to them by the attorneys. If the lawyers do not cite law review articles, then most judges are not likely to dig them out for themselves. I will admit that I no longer subscribe to the North Carolina Law Review, and cannot ever recall using a law review article in reaching a decision in a case. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether the decline in citation of law review articles is due to their lack of relevance, or simply due to changes in research technique.
Fowler's study covered the use of North Carolina-based law reviews and showed a tremendous decline in citation to them in reported cases of the North Carolina courts over time. I think the judge was being a bit kind when he suggested that changes in research techniques may impact citation. With much content being online and more easily findable, I think they would be cited more, not less.
The second item in the NLJ focuses on Law Schools, and particularly the quality of job prospects for the newly minted attorney. According to the report, the number 1 law school sent only 55.9% of it's 2009 graduates to the NLJ top 50 law firms. That's down from $70.5% in 2008. The 2009 figures include deferred starts, which suggests the 2010 graduates will have an even tougher time. The charts also correlate schools to firms. They suggest the lesson in A Law School Carol is right (See the LLB Post A Law School Carol: 1L Student Meets the Ghost of a Failed Career in Law). Not from a top school? Then don't expect a nice job in a top firm. Now that lesson is extending to the top schools. Yikes! [MG]
These subscriptions are considered luxury at this time of crisis. Gods knows when the economy will pick up.
Posted by: Legal Aid | Feb 24, 2010 8:05:50 PM