This Blog has written numerous times on the merits of peer-reviewed versus law journal placement (see, e.g., here and here). On the subject I once questioned whether hybrid law journals would develop that would take advantage of both faculty expertise and student editing. I wrote, "Stated another way, is there a journal model that could take full advantage of both student and faculty efforts?" The future is now.
First, this phenomenon will begin to arise in the specialty journals where faculty in those fields will take an increased role in article selection. In today's mail, I received this letter from the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal that states, "In addition to our student editorial board, the ELJ's Faculty Editor (Adjunct Professor Paul Kibel) is directly involved in the article selection and editing process." I'd hope, at some point, that tenure-track faculty will also be part of such processes. Some law reviews already informally solicit faculty feedback; perhaps it's time to formalize the process. And specialty journals are uniquely situated to do this--student editorial boards could make the first cuts and faculty boards could make final decisions. Faculty members are far more willing to read papers in their areas of expertise than all the submissions received by general-subject journals. Thus, schools with a specialty journal that also employ a good number of faculty in that field are prime candidates for implementing some sort of peer-review process. (And I commend the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal on their effort which I am especially pleased to see in my field of environmental law.)
Second, to make some type of peer-review the norm in all general-subject law journals (and I leave to another day to discuss what type of peer-review), the elite law schools would have to be on board, using all of their faculty as reviewers in their areas of expertise. This would be a huge commitment by a Law School, its Law Review, and its Faculty, but it may have a substantial payoff.