Saturday, August 25, 2007
I spent a part of this morning welcoming the new editors of the Alabama Law Review. I reminded them of the fun and learning experiences they'll have over the next four semesters. And while some might liken this speech and student editing of journals more generally to chapter 2 of Tom Sawyer, I think law review will be a really positive intellectual experience for the students. I also reminded them that the review is our school's ambassador to the rest of legal education and that our school will likely be judged by the quality of work that they produce. (More thoughts on this here and here.) As people who write on the history of the book say, if you want to know something about the minds of a people, read their literature.
That reminds me that I need to post some more on my continuing series (in 18 parts more or less) on advice to law journals. This one is very closely related to the last piece of advice:
4. Another way to get better work than typically walks itself in the door (or at least work by bigger names is: publish distinguished lectures. Lots of law reviews in recent years have very successfully recruited essays (and sometimes longer articles) by distinguished senior faculty who have given talks at their law school. We're all familiar with some of the grand lecture series and the work they've produced. When I was in school everyone spoke about Herbert Wechsler's Holmes lecture, which resulted in "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law" in the Harvard Law Review in 1959. And then there is Robert Bork's "Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems," which appeared in the Indiana Law Journal in 1971--one of the most-cited articles of all-time. Lots of times these lectures become books, like Grant Gilmore's Storrs' lectures that ended up as Ages of American Law. (Ages hasn't worn all that well over time, but that's a separate matter and one to be taken up at another time and perhaps on another blog). But lots of reviews have, I think, done a very nice job with getting thoughtful distinguished scholars (particularly in recent years youngish scholars who have done great work and are on the verge of becoming very distinguished) to give lectures and then publish work in their law journals.
Particularly for schools that pick people who are about to become famous (or semi-famous), this shows some creativity and may be another sign of the thoughtfulness and intellectual culture of a school. I'm not sure it shows a whole lot of creativity to invite Cass Sunstein or Richard Epstein or Lawrence Tribe or Richard Posner or any of a whole list of other huge figures to give a distinguished lecture. But it might show tons of creativity and thoughtfulness to invite a youngish scholar who's already done great work. But either way, if you secure a thoughtful piece, you're likely to have some really high quality work. And I suspect that publishing distinguished lectures avoids some of the pitfalls associated with pre-placements of symposium pieces: the distinguished scholars will want to put their best feet forward for a public audience.
Alfred L. Brophy
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