Law reviews are broken. So say judges and lawyers, who have stopped using them. Their complaints are simple. Articles are:
- irrelevant (i.e. too esoteric to be topical)
- poorly written
- too long
- too heavy on background (and bloated with citations)
- not needed, now that online databases make it easier to find the law
- a last resort, signaling official statements of the law are unavailable
You don’t have to take my word for it. The stir raised by the New York Times article on this subject can be characterized as a collective sneer by the legal profession. Bloggers are not pulling any punches, either; witness the post and comments at The Volokh Conspiracy. Law professors who write the papers and the law students who edit the journals are under attack.
I have an easy fix. Stop publishing law reviews.
We don’t need them any more. Save the scholarly stuff for retrospective academic monographs and collections of essays.
Instead, print law prospectives. Such legal journals would publish papers dedicated to advancing the law. Doing so would involve providing jurists two things:
- recommendations for lawyers and judges, about real cases under review and on matters of law expected to be before the courts
- recommendations for legislators
For both sorts, the criterion is simple: is the paper a forward-looking application of the law to existing problems?
Tah dah. Problem solved. If only law review editors were listening…