The End of Law Reviews?
Do law reviews matter anymore? Their circulations continue to plunge. The august Harvard Law Review, which Barack Obama once led, has gone from 11,000 subscribers in the early 1960s to just 1,900 today. Legal commentator Walter Olson sounded the battle cry in his recent post: “Abolish the Law Reviews!,” arguing that most exist so students can edit them, rather than to be read by lawyers and judges. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told a judicial conference last year that most law review articles, on topics like “the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria,” are irrelevant. Of course legal analysis, commentary, and scholarship still matter – but like everything else in publishing, they’re moving online. Legal academics publish their ideas faster and in bite-sized chunks — without those pesky student editors — on blogs like The Volokh Conspiracy, Concurring Opinions, and the network of Law Professor Blogs. But whether the Internet will be a place where long-form legal scholarship can thrive is an open question.