Once upon a time in a law review cubicle not so far, far away, this future blogger, pregnant and overwhelmed, labored over a dazzling but somewhat dry law review article submitted by a distinguished academic who went on to an even more dazzling judicial career. I vividly remember the nagging thought that kept interrupting my cite-checking: Why me?
Adam Liptak's Sidebar column in today's New York Times zeroes in on the same question -- why are law reviews, the primary repositories of legal scholarship, edited by law students:
These student editors are mostly bright and work hard, but they are young, part-time amateurs who know little about the law or about editing prose. Yet they are in charge of picking the best articles from among many hundreds of submissions written by professors with authentic expertise in fields the students may never have studied.
Liptak notes that law reviews are losing influence in appellate opinions. Thirty years ago about half of all Supreme Court opinions cited at least one law review article. Since 2000 the rate has fallen to 37%. And top jurists have become down right dismissive. Chief Justice quipped "“Pick up a copy of any law review that you see and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th-century Bulgaria, or something, which I’m sure was of great interest to the academic that wrote it, but isn’t of much help to the bar.” But Liptak found an even more cutting condemnation in a 1936 law review article by a Yale law professor:
There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.
William Baude rallies to the defense at Volokh Conspiracy.