Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goodbye To Law Reviews?

A number of authors have recently questioned the influence and relevance of law reviews, including, rather prominently, Adam Liptak in the New York Times on October 21, 2013.  Liptak's article, entitled The Lackluster Reviews That Lawyers Love to Hate, humorously cites a 1936 Virginia Law Review article for support.  The article, by Fred Rodell of Yale Law School, is called Goodbye To Law Reviews.  Here is its abstract:
It is doubtless of no concern to anyone that this is probably my last law review article. As a matter of fact, this makes one more article than I had originally planned to write. It was something in the nature of a New Year's resolution. Yet the request to do a piece about law reviews seemed a golden opportunity to make my future absence from the "Leading Articles, Authors" lists a bit more pointed than would the business of merely sitting in a comer, sucking my thumb, and muttering Boo. Keeping well in line with two traditions—a course which lawyers will readily understand—I decided to break the resolution and not wait for opportunity's second knock. This, then, is by way of explaining why I do not care to contribute further to the qualitatively moribund while quantitatively mushroom-like literature of the law.

There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. That, I think, about covers the ground. And though it is in the law reviews that the most highly regarded legal literature—and I by no means except those fancy rationalizations of legal action called judicial opinions—is regularly embalmed, it is in the law reviews that a pennyworth of content is most frequently concealed beneath a pound of so-called style. The average law review writer is peculiarly able to say nothing with an air of great importance. When I Used to read law reviews, I used constantly to be reminded of an elephant trying to swat a fly.
One might ask an obvious, and logically-challenging, question prompted by the article itself:  should one bother reading it since it was published in a law review?