Have Law Blogs Surpassed Law Reviews?


by Kevin O'Keefe

If you’re looking for valuable legal insight, you go to blogs, not law reviews.

This from Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Reporter for the New Times, writing this morning on the declining value of law reviews.

The judge, lawyer or ordinary reader looking for accessible and timely accounts or critiques of legal developments is much better off turning to the many excellent law blogs. (emphasis added)

The fact of the matter is that law reviews aren’t really meant to be read. Law professors write law review articles to obtain promotions and tenure. Law students serve on law review because of the stature it holds in getting the clerkships needed to get into big law, a declining career path altogether.

As Liptak reports, 43 percent of law review articles have never been cited in another article or in a judicial decision.

What do Judges think of law reviews? From Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.:

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.

And from Judge Dennis G. Jacobs, of the federal appeals court in New York:

I haven’t opened up a law review in years,. No one speaks of them. No one relies on them.

With their long, dated and obscure articles, law review readership and influence is only going to continue to drop, per Liptak.

In the 1970s and 1980s, about half of all Supreme Court opinions cited at least one law review article, according to a study by Brent E. Newton last year in The Drexel Law Review. Since 2000, the rate is just 37 percent — even as Supreme Court opinions have grown longer and more elaborate.

The discussion of law blogs replacing law reviews is nothing new. University of Denver Law professor, J. Robert Brown, Jr., wrote last year that law blogs were making law reviews obsolete. I was blogging as long asseven years ago that law reviews would be replaced by law blogs.

Law reviews are likely to be published indefinitely. They have legacy names by school and areas of the law. Why not leverage the existing brands.

But common sense dictates that law reviews be turned into blogs in form and technology. Timely publishing. Expanding authorship. Collaborative writing where listening is as important as writing. Substantially reduced expense. Just a few of the advantages of going to a blog format.

Rather than fighting change, law reviews ought to endorse change and evolve into what’s relevant today. Become part of law blogging.

Newspapers have proven that resisting change in the publishing industry is futile.