Saturday, February 28, 2015

What’s Wrong with Law Reviews

In 1936, Yale Professor wrote his well-known diatribe against law reviews (here). His argument:

 There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. That, I think, about covers the ground. And though it is in the law reviews that the most highly regarded legal literature—and I by no means except those fancy rationalizations of legal action called judicial opinions—is regularly embalmed, it is in the law reviews that a pennyworth of content is most frequently concealed beneath a pound of so-called style.

In a recent issue of the Virginia Law Review, Judge and former law professor Harry Edwards builds on Rodell’s argument:

The most important point that Professor Rodell made is that, too often, law reviews and the articles they contain are irrelevant to law’s purpose of serving society. Intensely theoretical, philosophical, and empirical scholarship, which is very much in vogue in the legal academy these days, is rarely of interest or use to wide audiences. It is too abstract. Indeed, it does not even purport to address concrete issues relating to legal practice, procedure, doctrine, legislation, regulation, or enforcement. Yet, many young legal scholars report that they are under pressure to write articles of this sort, and law reviews readily accept their offerings for publication. There is certainly value in some philosophical, theoretical, and empirical scholarship, but it should not be preferred over other forms of scholarship. In order for law reviews to be relevant outside the legal academy, they should balance abstract articles with scholarly works that are of interest and use to lawyers, legislators, judges, and regulators who serve society through legal arguments, decision making, regulatory initiatives, and enforcement actions.

As a regular author of law review articles, I have to agree. You can read all of Judge Edwards’ article here. I also have written critically about law reviews, for example, here and here.


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