Friday, December 21, 2007

Practices Relating to Oversight by Schools of Law Reviews

UPDATE:  Moving to front, since I stupidly neglected to open comments the first time!

A colleague at American University writes:

A committee I'm on at the American University Washington College of Law is preparing to examine the questions below, and I suggested that to elicit more information more efficiently we submit them to a blawg for general discussion.

Here are the questions

       (1) Do law school faculties/administrations generally have oversight of the rules that their law reviews have concerning footnote to text ratios, template verification, and other formatting requirements?

     (2) If so, have editors or authors argued that such oversight interferes with the quality of the published articles?

     (3) Do law schools generally award credit to students for their work as law review editors?

As usual, non-anonymous comments strongly preferred; please post only once and be patient, as comments may take awhile to appear.

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I was an articles editor on the Michigan Law Review in 2004-05. While I believe the editor in chief occasionally had informal conversations with the dean or certain faculty members about big-picture concerns (for example, at the time our class took over, the LR was badly behind in its publishing schedule and there was fear it would keep good people from publishing with us), the LR was treated as autonomous. There was no faculty oversight, and, to my knowledge, no faculty member ever expressed any opinion about the sorts of concerns mentioned by the AU prof. We did not receive academic credit for service on law review.

Posted by: Steve Sanders | Dec 21, 2007 6:12:17 AM

I was managing editor of Law & Contemporary Problems in 1998-1999. At that time (I don't know the present format) L&CP had a general editor, who was a faculty member of the law school and each issue -- for seventy-plus years, always in a symposium format -- had a "special editor" who was also a faculty member (sometimes there are co-special editors, but the rule in the late-90s was that at least one special editor was a Duke faculty member). The special editor's chief role was inviting the contributors and he or she generally oversaw production of the issue and worked closely with the student editors. A Board (the exact name of which escapes me) of Duke faculty approved proposed symposium topics and generally oversaw the direction of the journal.

Although very much outside the typical student-run model of a law review, nevertheless L&CP's student editors had a very free hand when it came to editing duties, with little active faculty oversight. The General Editor would read behind the EIC's final read and, of course, had veto power over pretty much anything we did, but I can't recall any disagreement about how to handle an article. Certainly in matters of styles, conventions, and formatting, the students maintained the standards and made sure the final product was uniform and consistent throughout the book and also with the previous scores of volumes we'd published. (In terms of format and conventions, L&CP looks pretty much the same today as it did when Richard Nixon was a student editor on the journal in 1936.)

I can only imagine that arguments over something like text-to-footnote ratios involve writing and scholarship that is perfect in every other way, if that's all there is to talk about! I can't recall a single one of our authors arguing over our styles, conventions, or formatting and I can recall, nearly 10 years later, some very significant changes and edits that we made to articles. Almost to a person, the authors we worked with were extremely appreciative of our changes and adopted almost all of our suggestions. We really worked hard to try to make the scholarship better -- more soundly reasoned, better supported, and written in clearer prose -- than we got it, and we found that most of the folks we worked with really appreciated the thought and hard work that we put into their project.

Duke had 6 journals when I was a student there, and no credit was awarded for participation on any of them. I recall (vaguely) that a year or two before I came to the school (1996) that there had been credit for law review service -- 1 credit for 2Ls and 2 credits for 3Ls who held elected positions sticks in my mind.

Posted by: Paul Rozelle | Dec 21, 2007 10:10:50 AM

I was recently evening J.D. student at Georgetown Law (L'06) and was a footnote editor on The Tax Lawyer. My experience with the Tax Lawyer may have differed from other journals at Georgetown since it is affiliated with the ABA's section of Taxation. The ABA's Tax Section had a lot of input with regard to format and substance while the school had next to none. We did have a target number of footnotes for student notes and precise formatting standards, for example. I cannot speak from first hand knowledge for the other journals though. I can speak to the third question; no students receive academic credit for law review work while at Georgetown, though there have been some academic offerings designed for law review editors and students writing case notes. (e.g., Introduction to Scholarly Note Writing; 1 credit) However these offerings are independent from any actual law review work.

Posted by: John Stephens | Dec 27, 2007 1:27:10 PM

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