The Special Case of Law Reviews

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Wed Oct 27 17:50:57 EST 2004


Prior Amsci Topic Thread: 
    "The Special Case of Law Reviews" (Nov., 2003)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/3192.html

Thanks to Andrew Odlyzko for the reference to this article by
Richard A. Posner, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

  Posner, R.A. (2004) Against the Law Reviews. Legal
  Affairs. November/December 2004.
  http://www.legalaffairs.org/issues/November-December-2004/review_posner_novdec04.html

    Excerpts:

    "With a few exceptions, law reviews are edited [without peer review]
    by law students...inexperienced both in law and in editing... rather
    than by professors or other professionals... Ideally, one would
    like to see the law schools "take back" their law reviews, assigning
    editorial responsibilities to members of the faculty..."

Some comments: Peer review means review by the qualified experts,
who might be in principle be located anywhere. The difference between
a house organ or vanity press and a peer-reviewed journal is that the
latter does not just publish in-house submissions and it does not just
rely on in-house referees.

Of course, there are some pretty high-quality "houses" (Harvard, Yale
and Chicago come to mind) which have more than their share of both the
world's quality authors and the world's qualified referees in-house. And
not all (not even most?) Law Reviews publish only their own Faculty's output.
But could (all, most) Law Reviews make the transition from house-organs to
peer-reviewed journals and still fill their pages?

Probably the pattern would be the same in law as in other areas of
peer-reviewed scholarship: There would be a hierarchy of peer-review rigor
and corresponding quality-levels, from the best at the top, grading down
to something not much different from a vanity press at the bottom.

Stevan Harnad




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