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15 August 2007

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Jeff Yates

Ben makes some excellent points here, in fact some that I had planned to make (yeah, that's the ticket, I was going to say that). I had discussed some of the relative advantages and disadvantages of peer review and law review publishing a while back when I guest blogged, but I'll try to add some new points here.

1) I think that there is room for both student edited and peer reviewed journals in law. In fact, there may also be room for hybrid journals in which students act as reviewers for work that they are better trained to handle (e.g. doctrinal, although some may have social science skills) and law faculty are called upon to act as peer reviewers as well. In fact, such legal journals could get profs from other disciplines to perform peer review (did I just say that?). But, the day to day running and editing of the journal falls to students (with supervision). This is one advantage that law schools have that social science journals and their editors do not enjoy - an ample supply of relatively cheap (or free) labor.
2. On the topic of faculty peer review, I think that it makes a lot of sense for law faculty to get more involved in this process. It can be mutually beneficial and faculty may feel better about their treatment at law journals if they know that at least one faculty member has taken a look at their work and had a say in the publication decision.
3. Of course, #2 comes at a price - law faculty will have to spend time engaging in peer review. While this is not the end of the world, it can be taxing. I have a couple of things to review as we speak. I would say that my average peer review total for a year is between 15-20 manuscripts or grant applications (not counting textbooks) and I would say that this is around the mean number for someone with my experience and in my sub-field. Someone who is more experienced usually gets much more and people in certain fields (e.g. methods) get tapped a lot for this service (e.g. 40-50).
3. Ben makes a good point about the number of law reviews - I'm all for having multiple outlets, because limited outlets sometimes muffles creative and innovative ideas, however, with 200+ law journals in existence, there may be a need for some type of quality control measure or ranking system.Perhaps the one in place now is not optimal, but come on...
4. One of the tremendous advantages of law journals is simultaneous review. This is especially helpful for untenured people. You can only imagine how ulcer rendering waiting for 4-6 months for reviews can be when you're on the ticking clock of tenure (and then it's unfairly rejected and you have to wait somewhere else for 4 months). This being said, simultaneous review and peer review do not play well together. I know that some journals (JELS, I believe) allow for some limited form of simultaneous review while using peer review, however the traditional method of submitting to 50+ journals at the same time would have to be modified.
5. A brief point about legal research - While I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time in legal practice, I did find law reviews to be a very valuable source of guidance in day to day lawyering and legal research. Perhaps it depends on your area of practice, but as a corporate counsel handling a multitude of different areas, I found that law review articles were very helpful in framing my understanding of a new field or getting up to speed on a complicated issue. Of course, most of these articles were doctrinal in nature, however empirical work can also help inform legal (and business) decision making.

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