Adam Liptak’s recent report in the New York Times on “lackluster law reviews” is fun to read and highly recommended. Here is an excerpt:
Law reviews are not really meant to be read. They mostly exist as a way for law schools to evaluate law professors for promotion and tenure, based partly on what they have to say and partly on their success in placing articles in prestigious law reviews.
All this is true, but Liptak ignores the most obvious problem with the law reviews: law review editors don’t know how to edit. (*) The proof of this statement is in the law review pudding, so to speak, or the fact that most law review articles are simply dull, tedious, and boring. The editing process, by piling on so many extra footnotes, probably makes them even worse.
Worse yet, the average number of words in a typical law review article has now reached enormous proportions. Compare, for example, the length of the articles appearing in the most recent issues of the Yale Law Journal or Harvard Law Review with the length of the most recent scientific reports appearing in the journals Nature or Science, and you will get some idea of how bloated and unnecessarily long law review articles are. (**) After all, who wants to read a 50+ or 100+ page article with 300+ plus footnotes?
No one. (***)
* Clarification: law review editors certainly know how to edit footnotes and citations but not the content and style of the articles themselves.
** Could there be an inverse relationship between the truth value and originality of an article and its length?
*** prior probability suspects that even law professors don’t really enjoy reading law review articles