Infographic: Do U.S. law journals need reform?

A recent study regarding whether U.S. law journals need reform was conducted by Richard A. Wise, Lucy S. McGough, James W. Bowers, Douglas P. Peters, Joseph C. Miller, Heather K. Terrell, Brett Holfeld, and Joe H. Neal.  The study consisted of a survey distributed to student editors, law professors, judges, and lawyers using a convenience sampling method.  A convenience sample is not necessarily representative of the groups from which the respondents were selected, so to the extent representativeness is in question (respondents are described in the article and some limitations are identified by the authors) the study’s findings cannot be generalized to the larger population.  Still, the study paints a portrait of those surveyed that is worth considering.  The infographic below depicts some of the study’s results, published last year, along with other statistics.

Law Journal Infographic.001

Sources

Davies, Ross E. “The Increasingly Lengthy Long Run of the Law Reviews: Law Review Business 2012—Circulation and Production.” Journal of Law 3 (2013): 345-72.

Washington & Lee University. Law Journals: Submissions & Ranking [Web site] (2013).

Wise, Richard. A. et al. “Do Law Reviews Need Reform? A Survey of Law Professors, Student Editors, Attorneys, and Judges.” Loyola Law Review 59 (2013): 1-75.

Wolotira, Alena. “From a Trickle to a Flood: A Case Study of the Current Index to Legal Periodicals to Examine the Swell of American Law Journals Published in the Last Fifty Years.” Legal Reference Services Quarterly 31 (2012): 150-83.

Create Your Own

Infographics are a great way to promote your journal or to visualize data or information presented in an article.  There are free web-based templates that can get you started, including Piktochart, easel.ly, and infogr.am.  I used KeyNote, Apple’s presentation application, and infographic templates and elements from Jumsoft.

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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.”

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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