The Future of Law Reviews

An article by Walter Olson in the Atlantic titled Abolish the Law Reviews! adds another chapter to the debate about the value and future of scholarly legal journals.  Membership and publication in a law journal no doubt remains a valued credential.  But will this continue to be the case?  Olson posits that the real future for valuable academic scholarship is the blawgosphere and other virtual forums.

Olson also cites GMUSL’s Professor Ross Davies’s report, Law Review Circulation 2011: More Change, More Same.  Davies finds that diminishing subscriptions “have ranged from near-freefall to mere steep-slide.” He notes that in the last year “no major law review had more than 2,000 paying subscribers.”

One positive aspect of the law review saga is the growth of freely available content. Many journals—including those produced by so-called “top tier” law schools— make at least the most recent issue of their publication available free online.  Here are some resources for locating this content:

  • ABA Legal Technology Resource Center.  Search more than 400 online full-text journal/law reviews and related sources, including Congressional Research Service Reports.  Coverage varies.
  • BePress.  Browse or Search over 90 law journals published in the Digital Commons open access repository.
  • Dragnet. Browse or search approximately 150 law journals that provide free online content, including their most current issue.  Searches may be limited to International or Environmental Law.
  • Google Scholar.  Limits Google search to academic journal articles, conference papers, dissertations, theses, indexes articles and abstracts from major academic publishers.  Coverage and access to full-text varies.
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Widely used by scholars to share papers and articles in several topical networks.  Legal Scholarship Network includes over 130,000 papers searchable by keyword, title, author or date.