Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
What’s a poor cyber-anarchist to do, now that the days of pulling down files from the Internet with high-minded disregard for the niceties of intellectual property law are ending? Napster, having been dragged kicking and screaming through the courts, now struggles to keep its users from “swapping” copyrighted music files. Scour.com, which once aspired to be a Napster for movies, now says it wants to be a “legal source” of entertainment. And programs that seek to replace Napster by letting users directly search each others’ computers are still merely seeking to replace Napster. Luckily, hackers need not despair. There’s still content ripe for the plucking: law review articles. OK, downloading one might not provide the same thrill as scoring a bootleg MP3 of a Grateful Dead gig, but electronic publishing is still sweeping legal academia. “I don’t submit my stuff to law reviews anymore,” Professor Bernard Hibbitts of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law says dismissively. Hibbitts, it should be noted, is probably the leading edge of the movement. Back in 1996, when dominating the Internet was just a gleam in Bill Gates’ eyes, Hibbitts published on his Web site (and later in a law review) a call to dismantle the paper-bound law review system in favor of one that’s Web-based. “[T]he practice of self-publishing legal scholarship on the World Wide Web will almost certainly bring about the end of the law review as we know it,” wrote Hibbitts. BRAVE NEW WORLD If that hasn’t happened quite yet, law review articles have still found their way into the ether of the Internet. Professors are more and more likely to put the full text of their articles on their personal Web pages. Exchanges for working drafts of articles are sprouting up. And even law reviews themselves are starting to post on the Web. Which raises the question, should we get excited? After all, electronic publishing of law review articles is nothing new. Both Lexis and Westlaw have offered the service since 1982. Also, it’s not nearly as hard for a law professor to publish her work in an established journal as it is for a garage band to get picked up by a big-label recording company. These days, “to get something published is ridiculously easy,” says Professor Ira Lupu, incoming chair of the faculty appointments committee at George Washington University Law School. Even so, the current system has its flaws. Perhaps the biggest is that the vast majority of law reviews are edited by law students. That’s a silly system, says Professor Hibbitts: “We should be able to put two sentences together. It’s odd that we should have students cleaning up after us.” So it’s electronic publishing to the rescue. As Hibbitts and others have noted, it allows for faster dissemination of ideas; gives more people (i.e., those who don’t have access to Lexis or Westlaw) the chance to read what law professors are writing; lets writers revise their pieces as they receive reader feedback; lets writers take advantage of the audio and visual capabilities of computers; and, given how much less effort online publishing requires, might allow mere professors to start editing electronic law journals. READ ME If electronic publishing does eventually drive printed law reviews out of business, it might be partly due to the lightning-fast acceptance of one Web site in particular — the Legal Scholarship Network, run by three professors at Stanford Law School ( http://www.ssrn.com/lsn/). The LSN allows writers of law review-type articles to submit abstracts and working drafts to a central archive, which can be searched by any and all comers, almost always for free. While it was established only in 1996, users have downloaded more than 450,000 files since 1998, approximately half of those within the last year, according to Stanford Professor Bernard Black, who manages the site on a daily basis. “There’s been a cultural shift within the last two years of looking at [the LSN] as a primary source” for scholarly legal research, says Black. A bit of impressionistic research bears him out: Professor Lupu is a self-proclaimed “dinosaur” when it comes to technology, but even he uses the LSN’s services. All this, while not yet spelling the death of traditional law reviews, has at least gained their attention. According to David Weiner, president of the Stanford Law Review, Black’s site has become a topic of conversation at an annual meeting where editors of top law reviews gather to discuss their work. One issue that concerns them is simple dollars and cents. The LSN might “detract the hits from Westlaw and Lexis” that bring cash to the journals, says Weiner. Anyone who reads the headlines will know that argument speaks to basically the same concern that prompted the lawsuits against Napster. Black thinks he can dodge Napster’s fate by asking authors to submit only articles for which they hold the copyright and by taking down any questionable articles brought to his attention. But he admits, “Is that sufficient protection in a litigious world? Damn if I know.” So far, at least, law reviews aren’t taking a belligerent stance toward electronic publishing, but instead are trying to accommodate it. According to Black, several law reviews send him abstracts of their articles. (And Westlaw provides its users with a link to the LSN.) Additionally, many law reviews post abstracts on their own Web sites. Some new journals publish exclusively on the Internet. And at least one traditional law review — Duke Law Journal– publishes the full text of its articles online. PRESTIGE PACKAGING There are other ramifications of electronic publishing for legal academia. Most interesting is the effect that it will have on who gets hired and who gets promoted on law school faculties. According to Professor Lupu, almost every law school requires candidates not only to write articles, but to get them published — on paper. And if a candidate simply pointed to work posted on his own Web site? “It hasn’t come up in a tenure case,” says Lupu. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, it might. Which raises the question of what it is, exactly, that law reviews provide. Status is one main attraction. But why should it be? “I think that this kind of intellectual branding is not necessarily a good thing,” says Professor Hibbitts. “If we’re supposed to be taking our writing seriously on its own terms anyway, then it shouldn’t be a problem to post material directly online.” Professor Eugene Volokh, one of the gurus on the effects of technology on law, disagrees. The UCLA law professor generally advocates electronic publishing of law reviews. But, he says, even if the Internet eventually replaces paper and ink as the preferred method of publishing, “There will be things that mimic the most important functions of the law review, which is the selection and placing of the trademark. Those things will always be necessary.” The same thought seems to have occurred to Professor Black, who says that the LSN might soon experiment with a ranking system of some sort. But, for now, it appears that both print and electronic law reviews will stick around. “I don’t know of any serious movement to publish pieces solely in electronic form,” says Volokh. At least, not yet.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.