Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What Academic Law Journal has the Most Subscribers?

This little bit of trivia was inspired by reading Professor Michael Madison's charming essay, "The Idea of the Law Review: Scholarship, Prestige, and Open Access."  Professor Madison's essay has a number of virtues.  Prime among them: it's actually funny.  Try these lines out:

Once Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw started putting full texts of law reviews on their databases, the authority of print started to recede, leaving the authority of the publisher and, to a lesser extent, the authority of limited access.  A lot of law professors these days never actually handle original physical copies of law review articles, unless they're stuffing envelopes with reprints to send out to colleagues.  The patios of the profession long ago started to refer to placement of an article simply by the school name, that is, by the authority of the brand.  "I'm publishing in NYU," or "I'm publishing in Florida State," is a perfectly comprehensible statement among legal scholars.

Prestige is, obviously, important in the law review world.  Being "on law review" is prestigious for students; publishing in a top 10 or top 30 or top 50 journal is prestigious for authors.   Law reviews not only lend their prestige to the authors who publish with them.  They also contribute to the brand name of their schools.  Thus, I think it's important for DePaul that the DePaul Law Review is ranked in the top 50 and for the University of Houston that the Houston Law Review is ranked in the top 50, too.  If you want a good idea of the ranking of law journals, take a look at "The Emerging Importance of Law Review Rankings for Law School Rankings" (which ranks law reviews based on recent citations to them).  I advise against spending a lot of time with bepress' list of the top 100 law journals.

So that gets me to the piece of trivia: which academic law journal (thus excluding publications like the ABA Journal and the New York Law Journal) has the highest subscriber base?  Let's make it multiple choice:

A.  Business Lawyer
B.  Harvard Law Review
C.  Journal of Legal Education
D.  Law and History Review

Answer (and an UPDATE from yesterday) below the fold

I suppose the answer depends on what one means by academic law journal.  According to the most recent postal service's disclosure statement, Harvard Law Review (which might have been your guess) has a paid and requested circulation of about 2900.  (HLR's press run is about 5000 copies per issue.)  That's less than I'd expected--but, hey, HLR charges $200 a year for institutional subscriptions.  The Business Lawyer's most recent postal service disclosure reports a paid and requested circulation of about 47,000.  (They claim a readership of approximately 60,000.)  Yup--47,000.

I couldn't locate the Journal of Legal Education's postal service disclosure, but they say they send it to 6000 law professors and they claim another 600 subscribers, so that means its circulation is about 6600.  Why did I ask about the Law and History Review?  It has a lot higher circulation than you might expect, because every member of the American Society for Legal History.  As best as I can remember (again, I couldn't located the postal service disclosure statement) approximately 1200 people and institutions receive it.

Related posts:

The Relationship between Law Review Rankings and US News Law School Rankings
Law Review Ranking Table and Apologies to the Houston Law Review.
Rankings of Law Journals: The View from the Customer (i.e., Author): Or, What's the bepress Ranking of Law Reviews Mean?
The Hylton Rankings: US News Without the Clutter
The Hylton Rankings II (at propertyprof)

UPDATE:  I had forgotten that Paul Caron and Rafael Gely's instant classic,What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, 82 Texas L. Rev. 1483 (2004) has a table with law review circulation figures at page 1535.  Circulation and subscription are somewhat different figures, I take it.  I wonder how much things have changed since 2004.  Hmm....

Alfred L. Brophy
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