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In three succinct paragraphs, 11 of the nation’s most prestigious law reviews set an example of brevity they insist, or at least urge, their contributors to follow. The law reviews of Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Yale recently issued a joint statement vowing to confront an “unfortunate trend in legal scholarship” by publishing much shorter legal treatises. The statement cites a recent survey conducted by the Harvard Law Review that found 90 percent of nearly 800 responding law professors agreed that law review articles, presumably including the ones they write, would be improved if shortened. Brian Fletcher, president of the Harvard Law Review, said the survey confirmed a widely perceived consensus that law review articles had become longer than either readers or contributors liked. According to the joint statement, “Importantly, the survey documented one particularly unambiguous view shared by faculty and law review editors alike: The length of articles has become excessive.” “The producers are also the consumers, and there is a widespread sense that shorter articles are more manageable,” Fletcher said. “Everybody is enthusiastic about shorter articles.” While there is wide agreement that law review articles have become longer, there is only speculation as to why. “I’ve seen personally our own journal increase, whether that is cyclical or a trend, I can’t say,” said Dan Tristan, managing editor of the California Law Review, which is polling its membership on whether to set a length limitation. The Web site of New York University School of Law notes without irony that its faculty’s members “produce prodigious amounts of scholarly writings.” The NYU Law Review has just mailed out its largest edition ever, but Manuel Miranda, managing editor, said he believed readers and contributors will appreciate a less prodigious review. “We have no page guidelines, but if an article can be shorter, we are all for that,” he said. The NYU Law Review is not one of the 11 signatories, but it issued its own statement that “we also strongly believe that the vast majority of law review articles can convey their arguments effectively in 40-70 journal pages and encourage authors to target the lengths of their submissions to this range.” Miranda speculated that law review articles have become longer because the law, like the rest of the world, has become more complex. “There are many more ‘law and’ pieces: law and economics, law and statistics,” Miranda said. “Those articles require more length to explain that other discipline so law students can understand it.” Peter Page is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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