Like Tom, I have been away for awhile now. With the kind permission of the other CT’ers, I have taken a leave of absence to work for the federal judiciary. I’m hoping to resume blogging early next fall.
Posts by author:
I haven’t had a chance yet to read Nicola Lacey’s biography of H.L.A. Hart, but it’s not every day you see this kind of exchange in the London Review of Books. Unfortunately, Nagel’s initial review is only available to subscribers. (Brian Leiter had a link posted to some comments from John Gardner on Lacey’s biography, but it doesn’t seem to be working now. Maybe Gardner has published his comments?)
What would you have paid to take a class with Nozick? The end of the article linked is, as it says, priceless.
Last week, a dozen of the top American law journals announced their commitment to reducing the length of law review articles. The Joint Statement concerning this policy is available here. A number of journals have already adopted policies to implement the goals behind this statement. The so-called Virginia Experiment (see the link on Short-Article Policy), which began a year ago, sets a presumptive word limit at 20,000 words and effectively caps articles at 30,000 words. Harvard Law Review has recently adopted similar language, with a 25,000 word preference and a 35,000 word limit. These policies will have serious implications for what is published at Virginia and Harvard. Far less constraining, but nevertheless significant, are policies adopted by Columbia Law Review and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, both of which have set presumptive word caps at approx. 35,000 words. Other journals will probably adopt similar policies in the near future.
From the perspective of academics in non-legal disciplines, these words caps may seem absurdly generous. Most peer-review journals won’t accept articles over 10,000 words. And, to be clear, these limits are ceilings. Most law reviews regularly publish “essays”—really just normal length articles—that are far below these numbers.
One would think that this is all relatively uncontroversial and rather long overdue. And there has been some positive feedback from legal bloggers. Orin Kerr quotes the Joint Statement rather approvingly, and Larry Solum gives it a characteristic very interesting!
Dan Hunter recently posted a paper called Walled Gardens on SSRN. Although the paper has received some attention from legal bloggers (here and here), it’s been all praise so far. Hunter argues that law reviews should allow open access to the papers they publish. And what legal academic could disagree with that? As Hunter says, academics are interested in the widest possible dissemination of their ideas. And free or open access certainly promotes the value of spreading information and ideas.
Hunter’s basic position is that law reviews should permit and indeed encourage authors to self-publish. Journals should also make articles available on-line for free consumption. I’m generally sympathetic to this position. I’ve only published one paper (forgive the shameless plug), but it’s not easy to get access to it. It’d certainly be nice if everyone could read it for free. But I’ve also spent most of the last year working for a law review, and, from the perspective of a student editor, I think Hunter’s criticisms are somewhat harsh. I also think he underestimates the long-term costs of doing business—even on-line. What follows is a first pass at Hunter’s argument. I put these thoughts forward tentatively, and I hope they’ll be received that way. I think Hunter’s paper is important and provocative. It raises lots of interesting questions about what (legal) academic publishing should be like, especially in a paper-free world. But those questions appear to me far more open than Hunter sometimes suggests.
In his recent article Against the Law Reviews, Judge Richard Posner repeats a number of long-standing criticisms directed against student-edited law journals. There isn’t really anything in his article that he hasn’t said before in other places. Posner thinks students choose the wrong pieces, do a bad job of editing them, and generally diminish the quality of legal scholarship. He thinks the system of legal publishing should be reformed by placing law journals under the control of faculty. Although Posner is certainly right to question the lack of peer review in legal academia, he (1) puts the blame for the current system in the wrong place, (2) underestimates the ability of students to do quality work, (3) ignores the opportunity costs to law students of working on journals, and (4) proposes only meager reform.
Bill Clinton did a book-signing in Washington, DC, today. When I got to work this morning, fans were lined up around the block of the 12th St. Barnes & Noble. As they did in New York, hundreds of people camped out the night before. They were under the mistaken impression that it would be hard to get in the next day. At 6:00pm, I walked down the street from where I work to see about all the hoopla. Turns out they were still letting people through the door. I hadn’t bought a copy yet, so I thought I was out of luck. You were supposed to buy one the night before to get in the next day. But five minutes later, and sans book, I was given one those magic wrist-bans, the much-publicized credential that entitled me to the purchase of one—and only one—book, to have it signed, to a speedy presidential handshake, and to the feeling that I’d just experienced a windfall. I certainly wouldn’t have camped out for a book signed by President Clinton. Unlike this fan, I also wouldn’t have camped out for “Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, Frank Gifford.” Which makes me wonder: is there any signed book worth spending the night on the sidewalk? Yeah, maybe I would have camped out for a signed copy of the first edition of A Theory of Justice. Frank Gifford?
Place your bets! In about two minutes, I hope this horse wins. What a triumph it would be for academics worldwide. Wondering where the name comes from? Here’s my conjecture: the owner is Seth Klarman, who is the brother of Michael Klarman, who is the author of this absolutlely terrific book, which has many, many footnotes. But that’s just a guess.
UPDATE: Alas, defeat.
Suppose you’ve been given a sizeable pot of money to fund an annual lecture. Leaving the question of topics aside, who do you invite? Who are the best speakers in academia today? Is there someone you’ve heard speak who you think is underrated—as an academic, or as a public speaker? Now imagine you had to publish the speaker’s talk. Does that change things for you? Or is your top choice still the same?
If you’re at all interested in legal academia, and if you haven’t already discovered them, some of the folks previously at En Banc have formed a new blog called De Novo, which is devoted in part to running on-line symposia. I think this is an excellent innovation, and the De Novo bloggers are off to a great start. They’re currently running a blog-symposium—a blogosium?—about “Perspectives on Legal Education” (see Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3). For anyone thinking about going to law school, or currently suffering through it, there’s an especially good post by Dahlia Lithwick.
The next symposium topic is “Internet, Law and Culture,” and they’re currently accepting submissions.