Open access law journals must provide information required in new DOAJ application form by year’s end

Orange open access logo in shape of an open padlockThe Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) released its DOAJ Journal Application Form and specified a deadline for currently indexed journals in a March 19, 2014 press release.  A draft application form had been released in September 2013 and was the subject of an October 2013 post on this blog.  Recommendations for compliance are discussed in that post.  Here I highlight changes to the application and Seal of Approval criteria and the deadline now set for currently indexed journals to comply.

Changes in the application form and Seal of Approval criteria

Changes in the new form include a requirement that journals publish at least five articles per year to be indexed in DOAJ.  A few key changes were also made to the Seal of Approval criteria.

The number of criteria required to be awarded the DOAJ Seal of Approval was reduced from seven to six.  The DOAJ omitted the Seal requirement that the journal allow authors “to retain the copyright of the work without restriction,” although this continues to be part of the inclusion criteria (see #50-52 in the new application form).

Also, journals will not be required to “use[] DOIs as permanent article identifiers” to receive the Seal, as stated in an earlier version of the draft form now replaced by a newer version.  The Seal of Approval criteria now only state that journals must “provide permanent identifiers in the papers published,” including DOIs (digital object identifiers), Handles, ARK, EzID, or some other type of article identifier.  This is good news for the majority of open access law journals published in the United States that do not use DOIs.  Use of article-level identifiers of some kind continues to be part of the inclusion criteria (see #26 in the new application form).

There are a few other tweaks to the Seal of Approval criteria, including the addition of the CC-BY-NC license as a permissible license.

Deadline for currently indexed journals

There are currently 33 U.S. law journals indexed in the DOAJ.  To continue this listing, by the end of 2014 journals need to provide the information requested in the new application, which contains as many as 52 fields.  Some of the fields request a URL pointing to the journal’s policies and procedures, substantiating that the criteria for inclusion have been met.  Law librarians can support open access journals published by their law schools by alerting them to the new information required and helping them develop and/or implement the required policies, procedures, and practices.

New search interface

The DOAJ also has a new search interface.  For a list of open access law journals currently indexed in the DOAJ, search by subject “law” and then drill down to “journal” in “Journals vs. Articles,” and then to Subject “Law,” and then select the desired Journal Country.

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Cover art remix of Bound By Law comic by Keith Aoki, James, Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins (Duke CSPD)
Remix by @ninarose 15 CC BY-NC-SA 2.5

This week’s feature is a shout out for my YouTube playlist, Journal Views. I’ve been collecting videos on topics like law publishing history, journal publishing on tablets, critiques of law journal publishing, social media usage by academic journals, university press book publishing for the wider academic publishing context, open access law journal publishing, and open access generally (what it is and what kind of impact it can have). Take a peek and let me know what you think. Bonus points to readers who suggest YouTube videos to add to my collection.

DOAJ raises inclusion bar and adopts a Seal of Approval difficult for many open access law journals to attain

Open Access Week is a good time to raise awareness of recent policy changes made by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) that affect all listed journals, including 36 law journals published in the United States.  Importantly, these changes could cause some journals to lose their DOAJ listing and others to be disqualified from receiving the new DOAJ Seal of Approval for Open Access Journals.

What DOAJ is and what it is seeking to accomplish

DOAJ is a directory and article search engine.  It lists open access journals that contain scientific and scholarly content developed through quality control processes (i.e., via an editorial board or peer review system) and that meet specified coverage and access criteria.[1]  DOAJ has defined open access journals as those (1) that do not charge their users or institutions for access and (2) that allow users to “ ‘read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles.’ ”[2]

In an effort to establish itself as “a trusted and reliable information resource that identifies good quality open access journals and filters out disreputable publishers,” DOAJ has raised the bar on journal inclusion.  Following a one-month public comment period that began in June, last month DOAJ finalized changes to its inclusion criteria and put finishing touches on the DOAJ Seal.[3]  These new criteria are currently contained in the draft application, released by DOAJ in September 2013 along with a summary of pubic comments

Criteria for inclusion in DOAJOrange open access logo in shape of an open padlock

To be listed in DOAJ, journals will have to complete a form that currently numbers 33 fields.  Some of the fields pertain to basic journal information, but the bulk of the application sets forth the requirements related to the journal’s funding model, use of permanent article-level identifiers, publication format, available metadata, editorial processes, and levels of openness.[4]  The specific requirements are too numerous to cover here but should be carefully reviewed by journal editors, since currently listed journals will be re-evaluated for compliance by DOAJ within the next year.[5]  The draft application does state that failure to meet all criteria will not automatically disqualify the journal.  Details about how long currently listed journals have to comply will be forthcoming.[6]  Journals can subscribe to DOAJ’s RSS feed or follow @DOAJplus on Twitter for updates.

Law librarian support of law journal publishing

Law librarians at U.S. institutions that publish DOAJ-listed journals could support them during the transition.  Editors could be alerted to the changes and provided with a policy inventory checklist covering the new inclusion criteria.  Librarians might also help journals develop policies and mechanisms for detecting plagiarism and for assigning permanent article-level identifiers.  Law librarians Benjamin Keele and Michelle Pearse provide excellent guidance on these issues in their article, “How Librarians Can Help Improve Law Journal Publishing.”[7]

Qualifying for the new DOAJ Seal of Approval

Close-up photo of a content seal basking in the sun

Seal of approval, by Kyknoord
Flickr CCBY 2.0

Entirely new to DOAJ is the development of a Seal of Approval for Open Access Journals.  DOAJ has had a SPARC Europe Seal since 2008 for publishers that provide journal content under the generous Creative Commons CC-BY license and article-level metadata to DOAJ.  The new seal adds five other requirements.  To obtain a Seal of Approval, a journal must

  • Use DOIs (digital object identifiers) as permanent article-level identifiers
  • Provide article-level metadata to DOAJ
  • Have a long-term digital preservation arrangement in place with an external party[8]
  • Embed machine-readable CC copyright information in its articles’ metadata
  • Allow generous reuse and remixing of its content, in accordance with a CC-BY license
  • Allow the author(s) to retain the copyright of the work without restriction
  • Have a deposit policy registered in a deposit policy directory[9]

While some of these criteria may present a hurdle to listed law journals, this post focuses on the DOI requirement, as these identifiers have not been widely used in legal scholarship and impose an additional cost on providing free content.

“What’s a DOI?”

Most law journals don’t use DOIs, so you may be wondering what they are.  A DOI is an alphanumeric string of characters assigned to a digital object to persistently identify the object and point to its location on the Internet via an associated uniform resource locator (URL).[10]  To assign DOIs to articles, a journal must be a fee-paying member of CrossRef, a DOI link registration agency for scholarly publications.  The per-article deposit fee is $1.00.  Journals would have to provide and maintain the accuracy of article-level metadata and submit the citations of each article.[11]  There are other persistent identifier systems out there, but use of the DOI system is exclusively required to obtain the DOAJ Seal.

Few law reviews assign article-level DOIs,[12] and open access law journals are no different.  There are currently 196 open access law journals indexed in DOAJ, including 36 published in the United States.[13]  Of the U.S. journals, 72%, or 26 journals, do not use DOIs.[14]  This criterion alone disqualifies most listed law journals from receiving the DOAJ Seal.  Not having the seal could carry the taint of being a less credible journal even though the seal requirements are technical.

Consortia, library support for journals that adopt DOI

While DOAJ acknowledged in its summary of public comments that there are other permanent identifier systems and that some publisher groups don’t use DOIs, it retained the DOI criterion as a “best practice in academic publishing.”[15]  DOAJ will explore small-publisher solutions with CrossRef.[16]

Open access law journals with limited resources could form a journal consortium to share CrossRef costs.[17]  Maintaining accurate metadata is, however, particularly difficult for student-edited journals with editorial boards that change from year to year.[18]  Contracting with a vendor to provide DOI services may be an option.[19]  Alternatively, librarians or library consortia could support journals by providing the expertise and continuity needed to manage DOIs.

DOAJ listing is critical, but what about the DOAJ Seal?

Retaining a journal’s DOAJ listing is critical as both a discovery and a credentialing aid.  But how important to open access law journals is the DOAJ Seal?  Can law journals feasibly meet other Seal criteria, like the required CC-BY license?  I’d love to hear from law journals, librarians, or other readers below or on the L.J. eds. Facebook Page.


[2] Ibid. (quoting the Budapest Open Access Initiative).

[3] DOAJ, “DOAJ Publishes Response to Public Feedback on Revised Selection Criteria and a Roadmap,” news release, September 16, 2013, http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=news&nId=311&uiLanguage=en.

[4] DOAJ, “Draft Application for Inclusion in DOAJ,” September 2013, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1u0F-fVbEHySkTRXvJLkfd1s_ace9-nTzRYIWdJwSR68/viewform.

[5] DOAJ, “DOAJ Announces New Selection Criteria,” news release, June 12, 2013, http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=news&nId=303&uiLanguage=en.

[6] DOAJ, “Summary of All Feedback Received During the Open Period to Draft 1 of the Revised DOAJ Selection Criteria,” item #10, news release, September 2013 (v.2), https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1Fw8p9XB3C6NjBwN3dGNFpqajA/edit?usp=sharing.

[7] Benjamin J. Keele and Michelle Pearse, “How Librarians Can Help Improve Law Journal Publishing,” Law Library Journal 104, no. 3 (2012): 391–95, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1993283.

[8] Examples are LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, and Portico.

[9] DOAJ, “Draft Application.”  An example of a deposit policy directory is SHERPA/RoMEO.

[10] “FastFacts,” crossref.org, July 25, 2013, http://www.crossref.org/01company/16fastfacts.html.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Benjamin J. Keele, “A Primer on Digital Object Identifiers for Law Librarians,” Trends in Law Library Management and Technology 20 (2010): 38, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722633.

[13] Based on a manual count.  “Browse by Subject>Law and Political Science >Law,” DOAJ, October 23, 2013, http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=subject&cpId=46&uiLanguage=en.

[14] CrossRef, “Title List,” October 21, 2013, http://www.crossref.org/titleList/.  A list of U.S. law journals currently listed in DOAJ, along with a notation for those not using DOIs, is included in my Notes app on the L.J. eds. Facebook Page.

[15] DOAJ, “Summary of All Feedback,” item #8.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Keele discussed this as a possible option for law journals in general.  Keele, “Primer,” 39.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

Generate buzz, @connect, and #LeadOthers to your journal on Twitter

I ran a few searches on Twitter and found that of the 600+ student-edited law journals being published in the U.S., roughly 125 journals have Twitter accounts.  The question is how much are law journals using Twitter, and in what ways?

If your journal’s Twitter account pretty much sleeps until a new issue is published, Tweets out article titles, and then goes quietly back into its profile page, consider getting out on Twitter a little more and stretching your journal’s wings.  This blog post will talk about some strategies.  If your journal is new to Twitter or doesn’t yet have an account, check out this Prezi slideshow “What the *Tweet*? Social Media for Grad Students” by Melonie Fullick, and read on.

Engage users, brand your journal

Twitter is great for sharing information about your journal, but its potential for engaging users or drawing them into a journal’s activities are limited only by your imagination (and perhaps the school’s social media policy or guidelines, so check them out).Blue bird Twitter logo

If you missed the recent blog post by Professor Derek Muller showcasing the great things going on at Case Western Reserve Law Review, it really is worth a read.  Among other innovations, the law review uses Twitter to accept submissions (apparently via direct messaging with links to the author’s submission once the author follows the journal on Twitter).  Earlier this year, the journal conducted an impromptu Miranda symposium on Twitter, where it reTweeted law professor comments and Tweeted related links.  Search #TwitterSymposium, or check out the April 19 Tweets on @CaseWResLRev’s profile.

The law review also just wound up a campaign soliciting authors to “tweet review” one of its articles, and it offered a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Lego prize to participants.  Go to @CaseWResLRev’s full profile and see its tweets from September 11 to October 4 for campaign details, for @replies to some of its followers with friendly nudges to participate, for the unveiling of the SCOTUS Lego designer (a high school student), and for the resulting “tweet reviews” of articles.

These kinds of campaigns show that the journal is innovative, engage the audience with the journal’s content, get user’s to generate content that is desired by the journal, and create an all-around buzz.  Great work!  Hey @CaseWResLRev, how about posting or Tweeting a photo of one of the desktop SCOTUS Lego prizes?Text box describing what an @username is, how to @reply, and what the #studentedited hashtag is

Live Tweeting of events is another strategy for engaging distributed followers in journal activities on campus.  The New York Law School Law Review (@NYLSLawReview) hosted a few symposia on campus recently where it Tweeted a play-by-play of speaker comments (search #IncomeTaxNYLS and #MLKnyls on Twitter).  The law review also Tweeted links to videos of the MLK symposium on YouTube.

Using play-by-play of another sort, the Tulsa Law Review (@TulsaLawReview) engaged users in newsworthy topics by curating stories on Storify and Tweeting about their works in progress to get its followers involved.  See the law review’s full profile for the January and February 2012 posts.

Surely there are other great examples!  Comment below or Tweet @ninarose15 if your journal has a highly active account or innovative account users on board.

A word about altmetrics

There are many metrics that have traditionally been used to gauge the impact of a journal, article, or scholar.  In a digital environment that is increasingly open and social, more granular metrics are available that may take into account a variety of alternative data sources, including the number and quality of Facebook likes, Twitter Tweets, blog citations, mentions and recommendations around the web, and social bookmarks.  Metrics based on data from the social web are referred to as altmetrics.  Metrics that zoom in at the article-level might combine any number of altmetrics with traditional measures, as described in the 2013 primer on article-level metrics by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) (p. 5).

While rigorous research on the efficacy and reliability of the tools and data used to generate alternative measures has only just begun (p. 294), scholars, students, and the general public continue to push social buttons and read and share open research.  Were altmetrics tools like these and these to gain acceptance alongside traditional metrics in law (and perhaps become customized for legal scholarship), the social ground and exposure your journal and its content will already have gained just might boost its impact ratings at the journal and article level.

Quiet stream or raging river

Twitter is about following other people, entities, media outlets, and more to find information, share ideas, participate in the conversation, and make connections.  The more users you follow, the faster your Twitter feed (or “home timeline”) moves.  Creating lists of select users you follow (or creating separate “streams” for Tweets using groups of users, lists, hashtags, and keywords on Hoot Suite) can make it easier to keep up with a raging Twitter feed.

A list of law journals on Twitter

If you haven’t yet read my About this blog page, you should know that I created this blog to see what interest there is among student editors in a blog about law journal publishing (partly because I had to create a social media campaign for a class, and partly because I’m interested in the topic).  If it so happens that my blog disappears or sleeps after the semester, I hope to at least have made the digital community of law journals a closer one.  So go ahead and find each other on my Twitter list @ninarose15.  It’s called “LJs on twitter.”  You can also subscribe to the list.  Comment below or Tweet me if I missed your journal!

How is your journal using Twitter?

I’m sure to have only skimmed the surface here, so share a Comment about what your journal is doing to increase its reach and impact, and I just might give your journal a Tweeting on #FollowFriday or find some other way to “share alike.”

Reach out and get social

Consistently attracting great content to your journal, having high readership levels, and steadily climbing up in the traditional impact and citation metrics are often the payoff of a well-run, well-established journal.  But even the highest ranking journals by your metric of choice can do more to boost their reach and generate “buzz,” as Fred Shapiro and Michelle Pearse describe it in “The Most-Cited Law Review Articles of All Time” (p. 1517).  The next few posts will discuss some ideas.

When Facebook was in junior high

When I was the editor of the University of Florida Journal of Law & Public Policy in 1997 we may have had a static webpage, but the most social of all media at our disposal was a printed newsletter that was mailed or e-mailed to a group of folks who were likely former journal members.  The Facebook founders were probably in junior high at the time.  Fast forward to 2013, where 72% of adults who are online are using social media, according to the latest Pew Internet and American Life Statistics.  In this non-static digital environment will your current readers be able to find your journal online and engage with it socially?  How about potential new readers who won’t stumble upon your content in a subscription database?  What’s your journal’s plan for engaging this diverse and expansive online audience?

Plan your social media

A good first step is to develop a simple social media marketing plan.  If you don’t already have a journal member in charge of social media, appoint one, or consider creating a new board position to stay on top of it.  Some other resources:

  • Click through this brief 2012 SlideShare presentation by Duncan MacRae, Managing Editor of Neurosurgery: “Social Media: A Case Study.”  It demonstrates the minimal effort involved in driving traffic to your journal’s website.
  • The social marketing strategy used by a nonprofit scientific journal publisher is presented in this 23-minute YouTube video, “Social Tools and Academic Publishing” (2012).  Alan Cann of the University of Leicester is the Internet Consulting Editor for the Annals of Botany (published since 1887).  Cann observes that the “journal” has lost relevance as readers primarily seek content at the article level.  For this journal’s survival it became necessary to use social tools to engage new audiences as traditional print audiences fade.  Sound familiar?
Book illustration, man selling books which he carries in a basket, Carracci, Annibale, 1560-1609, artist, from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Book illustration, man selling books which he carries in a basket, Carracci, Annibale, 1560-1609, artist. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005694896/.)

In developing your social marketing plan, be sure to include the general public as part of your target audience.  And stay tuned to this blog for ways that your journal can make its scholarship more accessible to lay readers.

Ask a librarian

If your university has a business school, then it likely has a wealth of social media marketing books and digital resources.  Google LibGuide “social media marketing” for lists of useful resources and see what is available through your library.  Your law library liaison or the university’s social media librarian (if it has one!) can also be a great source of help.

Student-edited law journals: A brief history, a long legacy

Student-edited law journals have been something of an anomaly in scholarly journal publishing.  In other disciplines, the editor of a journal is typically an expert in the field, as are the peer-reviewers who scrutinize and recommend articles for publication.  According to the 2012 STM (Scientific, Technical, and Medical) Report (sec. 2.9) on scholarly journal publishing, the peer-review process is typically blind (reviewer identity is hidden) or double-blind (reviewer and author identity are hidden), with open peer review (no secrets) being less common.  In contrast, student-edited law journals have traditionally used known, non-expert students to evaluate and select articles for publication, often without faculty input.  The disciplines do have their differences.

In this predominantly student-edited state, law journal scholarship has managed to flourish, growing from a single inward-looking student journal in 1875 to nearly 1,000 U.S. law journals indexed on Washington & Lee University School of Law’s website as of 2012.  More than that, these journals have groomed over a century of lawyers, judges, professors, legislators, and policymakers, and at least one U.S. president, who have had the benefit of that experience.  It’s a good thing for law students.

So how did we get here?  For those just stepping up to the plate as law journal editors, a little context is important.  Standing on the admittedly narrow shoulders of two law professors, Swygert and Bruce, who wrote an excellent historical piece about law journal publishing,[1] I offer this brief retelling.  A full reading of their article is well worth your time.  Also, for further exploration, check out this Short Bibliography from the Charlotte School of Law on the history of American legal publishing.

Early commercial law journals

Beginning in 1808,[2] several legal periodicals were commercially published in America before the earliest incarnations of the student-edited law journal appeared.  According to Swygert and Bruce, the conceptual predecessors of the student-edited law journal included academic “lead articles,” a format that most closely resembles the lengthy, intellectually solid articles currently found in law journals.[3]  These periodicals, along with the more informative commercially published professional journals, set the stage for student-edited law journals “by developing formats for legal writing, by demonstrating that legal periodicals could be useful to the profession, and by creating a widespread audience for articles combining scholarly insights with a professional focus.”[4]

The first student-edited law journal

Swygert and Bruce credit the Albany Law School Journal—published and perished in a single academic year, circa 1875—as being the first student-edited law journal.[5]  Conceived by law students, the journal published brief articles, including a discussion of study methods, and reported on moot court results and law school clubs.[6]  Not quite the faculty-generated legal scholarship that swells PDF files today.  For that reason a reference librarian who was able to lay hands on the last surviving copy of the journal, hanging behind glass in the Albany Law Review office, characterizes it more as a “modern student newspaper than . . . an academic law review.”[7]  Nonetheless, the journal was celebrated by the commercially published, practitioner-oriented, and unaffiliated Albany Law Journal as “ ‘encouraging an endeavor among law students toward a higher legal education.’ ”[8]

Digital clip of Cosmopolitan Saloon advertisement for “Best and Coolest Lager in the City” from the Albany Daily Evening Times on November 9, 1878, similar to an ad that appeared in the Albany Law School Journal, April 13, 1876

Cosmopolitan Saloon advertised in the Albany Law School Journal (April 13, 1876), boasting “the Best and Coolest Lager in the City” (see note 7 below, Emery, “Surviving Copy,” 464). This ad appeared in the Albany Daily Evening Times (Nov. 9, 1878). (Digital clip from http://www.fultonhistory.com.)

The weekly Columbia Jurist

If the Albany Law School Journal was the first student-edited law journal, then the second was the Columbia Jurist, started by law students at Columbia Law School in 1885.[9]  Six law students determined that if other disciplines within Columbia College were producing their own journals, so too would the law school, as stated in the introduction to volume 1, number 1 (p. 2) of the Jurist.  In addition to reporting on law school news and reproducing lecture notes in its weekly installments, the journal also contained notes on recent cases and essays by one of the law school’s professors.[10]

By volume 2, part 1, of the Jurist (p. 1), the journal expanded its scope to include the interests of law students and legal practitioners across the United States, and contributions were sought from students and graduates of the law school.  While in volume 3, number 1 (p. 25), solicitations were also extended to “friends” of the school, by number 18 (p. 213) there was a marked but familiar change: contributions were solicited from those “interested in the work of teaching and studying law.”  That was the last issue ever published (January 1887).  Apparently, the journal’s grueling weekly publication schedule is the reason the Jurist ceased.[11]

Before its sudden death, the Jurist managed to rankle the editorial pages of the commercially published Albany Law Journal and American Law Review and to capture the attention of Harvard law students, who would start a journal of their own.[12]

Front Matter from vol. 2 of The Columbia Jurist (1885-86), “Devoted to the Interest of Students of the Law and Legal Practitioners” published by The Columbia Jurist Publishing Company, digitized by Google Books and personally and non-commercially shared using its clipping tool

Front matter, The Columbia Jurist, Vol. 2 (1885-86). (Columbia Jurist Publishing Co., New York, NY. Digitized by Google Books; personally and non-commercially shared using its clipping tool.)

Harvard Law Review emerges

A group of eight third-year students at Harvard Law School started a club called the Langdell Society in 1886.  It was to be a forum for “serious” discussion of the law and the reading of essays penned by its members.  But society members wanted to give their work a broader audience and floated the idea of a student-edited journal to faculty.[13]  With faculty support and alumni funding, the Harvard Law Review emerged in 1887 as a vehicle for the publication of Harvard faculty and student scholarship, accompanied by lighter fare: school news, lecture summaries, case comments, and book reviews.[14]  The Harvard Law Review continues to be student-edited—quite a feat with approximately 2,000 pages in each volume.  Issues are published in the academic months, from November to June, and include articles by professors, judges, and practitioners; various types of student works; and book reviews.

Photo of Austin Hall, Harvard Law School (ca. 1883-1895), where the Harvard Law Review offices were initially located. Photo is owned by Cornell University Library and made freely available by owners on Flickr Commons.

Austin Hall, Harvard Law School (ca. 1883-1895), where the Harvard Law Review offices were initially located (click “offices” for cite link). (A. D. White Architectural Photographs. Cornell University Library, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from Flickr Commons, http://hdl.handle.net/1813.001/5sb9.)

Some early faculty-edited law journals

Within 20 years, by 1906, five other leading laws schools would publish journals (Yale, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Michigan, and Northwestern), but not all of them student-edited.[15]  The Michigan Law Review, established in 1902, was initially managed and edited by faculty.  Students assisted and were gradually given more responsibility.  By the late 1930s the reins had largely been handed over.[16]

The Illinois Law Review—a joint, faculty-run effort of the law schools at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, and Northwestern—was launched in 1906.  Students at Northwestern increased their involvement until in 1932, Northwestern took over the journal and selected its first student editor-in-chief.  The journal was renamed the Northwestern University Law Review, as it is known today.[17] 

Student editing flourishes

Once the student-edited-journal meme had found its ideal host in the leading U.S. law schools, its replication in law schools across the nation was rapid.  By 1930, 43 law schools had a law review with varying levels of student and faculty involvement.[18]  By 1996, there were more than 400 law journals, most of them student-edited.[19]  Today there are approximately 1,000 law journals in the U.S., about 66% of which are student-edited (and not refereed), 16% of which are refereed (and either student- or peer-edited), and 18% of which are peer-edited (and not refereed), based on data from the Washington & Lee University School of Law’s Law Journals Submissions and Rankings for 2012.

Even with its share of critics and unconventional editorial model, the student-edited journal has had staying power and is recognized as a value-added (and résumé-padding) experience for students in legal education.  While it remains the lone-ranger of editorial models in scholarly journal publishing, the inherent benefits for student editors, along with the low-cost of digital publishing, have inspired graduate and undergraduate student-edited journal entrants in fields such as economics, political science, health sciences, psychology, and the humanities.  For an exemplary list, see this Wikipedia page listing more than 123 academic journals that are tagged as being edited by students, most of them law journals. 

Follow the industry, make good books

This law school legacy continues to be a great opportunity for students, whether on law review or editing a specialty or refereed journal.  So make the most of your term, and make the most of your journal.  Learn about the industry, consider setting new directions for your journal that extend beyond the immediate term, and listen to what folks are blogging about it.  Future installments of this blog will discuss law journal publishing currents of potential interest to student editors.  My intention is to cover developments and ideas in journal publishing; to cull and suggest methods for enhancing a law journal’s reach; and to push news and helpful lists and videos your way.

Before you go

Have an interesting tale to tell about your student-edited journal’s origins?  Post it here, and consider creating a page for your journal on Wikipedia.


[1] Michael I. Swygert and Jon W. Bruce, “The Historical Origins, Founding, and Early Development of Student-Edited Law Reviews,” Hastings Law Journal 36 (1984-1985): 739–91.

[2] Ibid., 751.

[3] Ibid., 753–58.

[4] Ibid., 763.

[5] Ibid., 763–64.

[6] Ibid., 764–65.

[7] Robert A. Emery, “The Albany Law School Journal: The Only Surviving Copy,” Law Library Journal 89 (1997): 463-64, 466.

[8] Swygert and Bruce, “Historical Origins,” 765-66 (quoting the “Notes,” Albany Law Journal 13 (1876): 31).

[9] Ibid., 766.

[10] Swygert and Bruce, “Historical Origins,” 766–67.

[11] Ibid., 768.

[12] Ibid., 767–69.

[13] Ibid., 770.

[14] Ibid., 773–74.

[15] Ibid., 779.

[16] Ibid., 783–84.

[17] Ibid., 784-86.

[18] Ibid., 787.

[19] Michael L. Closen and Robert J. Dzielak, “The History and Influence of the Law Review Institution,” Akron Law Review 30 (1996): 15, note 3.

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