Monday, January 08, 2007

(Not) Taking Legal Scholarship Seriously

What do the following journals all have in common?

American University Law Review
Arizona Law Review
Arkansas Law Review
Baylor Law Review
Boston College Law Review
Brandeis Law Journal
Brigham Young University Law Review
Campbell Law Review
Capital University Law Review
Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal
Chapman Law Review
Charleston Law Review
Denver University Law Review
Fordham Law Review
Hofstra Law Review
Howard Law Journal
Intellectual Property Law Bulletin
Iowa Law Review
Lewis & Clark Law Review
Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review
Maine Law Review
Michigan Law Review
Missouri Law Review
Nebraska Law Review
Nevada Law Journal
New England Law Review
New Mexico Law Review
North Carolina Law Review
North Dakota Law Review
Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business
Oklahoma City University Law Review
Pace Environmental Law Review
South Carolina Law Review
Suffolk University Law Review
Syracuse Law Review
Tennessee Law Review
Texas Law Review
University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law
University of Richmond Law Review
University of San Francisco Law Review
Utah Law Review
Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice
Washington and Lee Law Review
Whittier Law Review

Give up? All refuse to accept submissions from J.D. students.

More on this in the coming weeks.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Luis Villa said...

Unless they are actually also run by non-JD students, that is merely elitism, not taking scholarship seriously. (I'm sure some on the list are- I haven't actually checked.)c

1/08/2007 6:50 AM  
Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

Well, I meant to convey that they're *not* taking it seriously... lord knows I don't think this is a good thing. I'll edit to be more clear.

1/08/2007 7:47 AM  
Blogger Luis Villa said...

Ah... yeah, the sarcasm went over my head :)

That said, I think you can make a case for rejecting student scholarship out of hand. If for no other reason, there is already too much legal scholarship out there. Requiring more practical experience from authors would not be the worst way (though I agree probably not the best) to raise the bar and reduce the raw amount of 'scholarship' being produced.

1/08/2007 7:51 AM  
Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

Why is reducing the amount of legal scholarship a desirable goal?

As for the rest, I don't buy it. If the article sucks because it's clear the author has no practical experience, then reject it because it's clear the author has no practical experience (something that I imagine would apply to many professors as well). The person's educational background is simply not relevant here.

1/08/2007 8:20 AM  
Blogger Luis Villa said...

Why is reducing the amount of legal scholarship a desirable goal?
My sense is that much of what gets published is of of little value except to the author's CV; publishing it wastes the time of student-editors whose effort would be better spent actually educating themselves.

The person's educational background is simply not relevant here.

Assuming finite time to read papers, and a very large amount of papers, what would you have the journals do? They could get even more readers (presumably lowering the quality of the readers); they could read the papers even more cursorily than they already do; or they can restrict the pool of papers that they read. A 'no student' rule is one way to restrict the pool and do higher-quality reading of the remaining papers. Admittedly, not a perfect method, but likely a better one than many others.

Note that I'm assuming here that student papers are, on average, worse than the average non-student paper, and hence that this is a good way to increase the percentage of quality papers in the submission pool. (This is different from 'no student papers are good'- we're dealing with aggregates and averages when talking about the large submission pool, not individual brilliance.) My assumption might be wrong, though.

Note that I have no idea if this is why these journals reject student papers- they may have plenty of time on their hands, and may just be rejecting them out of pure snobbery. I would agree that this is stupid and short-sighted. But 'some journals are short-sighted for using this rule' is not the same as 'there are no plausible justifications for using this rule', which seems to be your claim here.

1/08/2007 8:39 AM  
Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

My sense is that much of what gets published is of of little value except to the author's CV; publishing it wastes the time of student-editors whose effort would be better spent actually educating themselves.

Well, if the amount of legal scholarship was significantly reduced, a lot of law journals would have to shut down, and law journals serve additional purposes beyond disseminating scholarship. In any case I don't see why this isn't something that the market can't handle -- if journals are truly a waste of time and are publishing absolutely useless work, then students won't want to participate in those journals, authors won't want to publish in them, and schools won't want to support them.

A 'no student' rule is one way to restrict the pool and do higher-quality reading of the remaining papers.

I don't agree with your assumption that student work is of a lower quality than non-student work. I'm actually in the process of conducting an empirical study examining this question, and some of the results are rather intriguing.

For instance, the average student note in the Columbia Law Review published in the 1998-99 volume received more citations than the average non-student article in the Florida State Law Review (and the average student note in Florida State LRev received more citations than the average non-student article in the Montana Law Review) [I expect to blog about this more in later posts].

Now, obviously other factors may be in play here (like journal prestige, but I don't think that plays that much of a role here), but given these initial findings I don't think it's appropriate to dismiss student scholarship as significantly lower quality than the rest of the article pool.

1/08/2007 8:53 AM  
Blogger Luis Villa said...

(Clearly both of us have too much free time this morning, though mine is quickly running out so I'm afraid this is my last post for the morning.)

On markets for journals:

I agree that journals serve a pedagogical role outside of inflating an author's CV, but the market for that role isn't a sane one. No matter how poor your school's journal is, if you're at the school and you're a top-ish student, there will be a lot of pressure to join it, above other activities (like a clinic) that might be more valuable in the long run. (I also question the value of bluebooking as anything other than a hazing ritual, but that is a post for another time.)

I'm actually in the process of conducting an empirical study examining this question, and some of the results are rather intriguing.

Ah-ha! Now you've got me hooked. :) I look forward to the more detailed posts and will refrain from more comment until then.

1/08/2007 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an editor of one of the listed law reviews, I will give my two cents:

We receive literally thousands of of submissions each year, so we need devices that will help us sort the immense pile and increase our odds of finding the best articles to suit our purposes. For that reason, we say that we will not read student articles. I will admit, however, that we do sometimes take a look at student submissions despite our stern discouragement. But, we have yet to receive a student article that was of higher quality that several other submissions from law faculty or practitioners.

Ciolli here mentions empirical studies that may refute the notion that student-written articles are of lower quality than those of professionals. I do not want to make hasty judgments about his research, but besides the problem of equating number of citations to quality, comparing Columbia to Florida to Montana may leave you measuring journal prestige more than a difference between student and professional articles. I think you have to do better than "I don't think it's a major factor" in dealing with that.

Furthermore, back to the issue of frequency of citation: Many regional schools (and I see many listed here)choose to focus on regional or state-specific scholarship. You can argue about the wisdom of that approach, or the positive or negative impact it has on legal scholarship, but you have to factor it in when discussing the number of citations a journal receives. Many high quality articles may be cited infrequently because they discuss topics in which the nation as a whole does not take an interest. Nevertheless, these articles may be very important to practicioners, scholars, and the judiciary of the region in which the journal sits.

At the same time, articles published at a nationally-focused school will be more likely to address hot issues that are of national scope. That alone will draw citations, yet the number of citations will tell you virtually nothing about the comparative quality of the article.

I don't know. These are just some thoughts.

1/29/2007 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also had the following three journals reject my work for the sole reason that I'm a current student:

-Cleveland State Law Review
-American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy, and the Law
-New England Law Review

The irony, of course, is that a lot of the journals that have this policy are probably screwing themselves. It is because students do not have the letterhead, appointments, etc. that make it easier to get higher-ranked publications that we are more open to publishing with lower-ranked journals. If a journal has a policy against outside student scholarship, it is probably accepting lower quality work from professors who, despite their letterhead and other credentials, couldn't get a higher placement. Lower quality articles = fewer citations = unimpressive reputation for the journal . . . you get the picture.

6/01/2007 4:46 PM  

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