Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jeff Harrison and Orin Kerr on Law Journal Proliferation

See here. Be sure to read the comments, where the actual debate takes place.

I guess the difference comes down to what one views the primary purpose of student-edited secondary journals -- publishers of legal scholarship, or vehicles of self-promotion for their editors.

Perhaps we could satisy both sides of the aisle by adopting Paul Horwitz's open membership law review proposal.

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Blogger David said...

It seems to me the arguments advanced by Horwitz and Harrison artificially divorce the putative benefits (resume building) of journal selectivity (Horwitz) or journal creation (Harrison) with the skill sets sought by legal employers. Membership in a selective journal - as opposed to an open membership journal - signals to employers the applicant is a motivated self starter, with an eye to improving critical skill sets. The application process also signals to employers that the member's written product garners the respect of peers. Both are efficient indicators that employers can and should consider in extending offers to interview.

Journal membership can be a means of advancement for editors precisely because they further legal scholarship, reinforcing best practices through accurate source checking, citations (in both format and substance), and the construction of coherent, complex, original, and substantiated arguments.

As a result, I have difficulty with the notion that journal membership as a resume building activity should be viewed as a negative in the first place. There is surely a bit of puffery on just about any activity described on a resume, but I don't think that detracts from the fact that journal responsibilities can't be replicated on an open-membership basis described by Horwitz, nor should the benefits be confused with self-congratulatory elitism described by Harrison.

11/26/2006 8:50 PM  
Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

I guess the main point of contention here is that I just don't see why resume building *must* be bundled together with law journal membership. If a law school must identify certain students for employers based on criteria other than grades, than create some kind of award for that purpose, and leave legal scholarship out of it.

As for your other points, to be quite frank, it seems like a laundry list of things that a lot of people would find objectionable about the current law journal system:

"further legal scholarship"

Only the chosen few selected as articles editors (or the EIC, or whoever happens to select the articles) gets to actually experience this educational benefit. If this is so good, why not open it up to everyone so we all can experience the benefit (and at the same time ensure that each article evaluted gets more than 15 minutes devoted to it)?

"reinforcing best practices through accurate source checking"

Where is the educational value in this for students, other than reminding 2Ls where the law school library is? But if there is educational value here, why not let everyone experience it instead of just a select few?

"citations (in both format and substance)"

Why can't authors do this themselves like in every single other academic discipline? Or why not do the cite checking in a way that doesn't resemble a hazing ritual? And if there is educational benefit to this, why not let everyone experience it instead of just a select few?

"and the construction of coherent, complex, original, and substantiated arguments."

I'm not really sure what you mean by this. If you're referring to articles editors selecting articles can learn the difference between good legal arguments and bad legal arguments, then you're right, thers is a major benefit in here... but a benefit that *everyone* should have access to instead of just a small privileged few.

But if you're referring to make an article become coherent/substantiated/etc. after it has already been accepted, well, that pretty much sums up everything wrong with the current system right there... If you haven't already done so, I'd highly recommend you read the various articles on this subject written by Judge Richard Posner and Professor Jim Lindgren. They're very eye opening.

11/27/2006 8:04 PM  

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