October 25, 2004
October 25, 2004 02:36 PM
From the conclusion of an article by professor, judge and prolific writer Richard Posner, via former co-blogger Gabriel Mendel:
Ideally, one would like to see the law schools "take back" their law reviews, assigning editorial responsibilities to members of the faculty. Students would still work and write for the reviews, but they would do so under faculty supervision. Their care in citation checking would be valued by the authors, but the tendency toward poor judgment and thoughtless impositions on authors would be held in check. Doubtless it is too much to hope for such a reform.
From former guest-blogger Wings & Vodka
I used to sympathize with professors when they complained about the absurdity of giving student editors so much control over their articles, and in some cases, their professional future. It made sense to me that certain legal academics would call for peer-edited journals, and I was puzzled as to why this didn't seem to happen much. Well, the answer -- which I'm sure has been obvious to everyone that's worked on a journal but me -- is that professor-edited journals will never proliferate because professors would never, ever, ever, nerver, want to do all of the shit work that is generated by some of the messy crap that authors send us. Don't get me wrong -- I like the library just as much as the next guy. But while I'm sneezing my way thru the undergraduate library for three hours because a professor got lazy and quoted something from an Amazon.com entry, I realize exactly why it is that they give us this gig in the first place. Because we're dumb enough to do it. UPDATE
: University of Michigan law student Steve Sanders adds his two cents
As I said on Crooked Timber:
Iíve published in both student-edited and peer-reviewed law journals [FN1], and the student editors were generally much more careful and thorough. Sometimes they were a bit too careful in demanding citations for generally-known facts or principles, but I think thatís better than letting errors go unquestioned. My peer-reviewed article contained at least two mistakes that I noticed later, and that probably would have been caught by student editors.
At any rate, Posner isnít the first to cry foul over student-edited law reviews. Articles making the same point appear every few years (usually in a student-edited publication), and theyíve never generated enough of an outcry to force any changes in the system. For those who absolutely canít stand student-edited publications, peer-reviewed journals do exist, so complaints about their absence are greatly exaggerated.
[FN1] ďPeer-reviewedĒ is probably a misnomer in my case, because Iím not a member of a law faculty. On the other hand, Iím no longer a student.
In response to Wings and Vodka, I can tell you how it works in other academic disciplines. Academics are expected to fix their cites.
I once had a paper accepted at a journal that changed their citation style after I submitted, and it was my job to rewrite all the cites.
I've never understood this aspect of legal scholarship, but I wonder if it's a result of most legal scholars not getting training in scholarship. When I got my PhD, it was drilled into my head that getting your sources right was one of the most important things you could do. In the humanities, at least, citing sources that you couldn't document would be a reason to reject a paper.