I’ve read of the diminishing relevance of law review journals before. And so I half-expected Professor Uelmen to quote U.S. Second District Court of Appeals Judge Robert Sack from Adam Liptik’s NY Times article a few years ago, When Rendering Decisions, Judges Are Finding Law Reviews Irrelevant. Too bad he didn’t.
Law reviews have been de rigueur for any law school seeking accreditation and especially for those aspiring to serious scholastic chops. And because they support a veritable cottage industry of self-interested publish or perish faculty and student résumé-burnishers, they aren’t going to go away quickly nor quietly. Indeed, the status quo has a legion of defenders.
In his essay, Law Reviews vs. the Courts:Two Thoughts from the Ivory Tower, American University Washington College of Law Professor Stephen Vladeck even blames fettered judicial discretion for the decline. He speculatively stretches to find “a correlation between the decline of judicial discretion and the growing complaints that legal scholarship is irrelevant and inaccessible.” See What really is the point in publishing law reviews, and can …
Futilely bucking the trend.
Law reviews are like résumés that only a mother would read. Worse yet, they’ve become passé with the only possible audience they might have once had, the courts. Liptak quotes New York Federal Appeals Court Judge Dennis G. Jacobs who says, “I haven’t opened up a law review in years. No one speaks of them. No one relies on them.”
Since 2004, the American Bar Association (ABA) has approved 12 new law schools, including most recently, in 2008, the Charlotte School of Law, Drexel University Earle Macke College of Law, and Elon University School of Law and in 2007, our own Phoenix School of Law.
On February 2, 2010, the first public law school was approved in Massachusetts by the state board of higher education with UMass Dartmouth acquiring the formerly-private Southern New England School of Law, which donated its campus and assets to the state.
Last month, Mark Greenbaum opined in the Los Angeles Times that against all common sense, the ABA continues to approve more and more law schools who will churn out even more new lawyers despite a record glut, layoffs and joblessness in the middle of a historic recession. See No More Room at the Bench at opinion column.
Lemmings over the cliff.
For its own reasons, the ABA refuses to save law students from themselves who like lemmings panicked over a cliff keep enrolling in law schools against all reason and caution, indenturing themselves to a lifetime’s astronomical tuition debt.
So despite a glut, more and more students with nothing better to do enroll in a growing list of approved law schools who in turn produce more unread law reviews. The good news, though, is that at least these students can still list their law review experience on the hundreds of résumés they’ll mail out in their daunting quest for work.
Perhaps it’s just as well, paraphrasing the ancient Latin proverb, to let the marketplace, not God sort them out.
If Aristole was right that moral virtue is acquired by the repetition of the corresponding acts, then so are the vices. The prescription is to do as the philosopher teaches, which is to make sure that our acts be of a certain kind.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with being smarter about the choices we make. And foremost in that consideration ought to be sufficient introspection to assure our acts are grounded on prudence.
“Lamppost Man,” by David Hodgson at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.