A few days ago, I quoted Fred Rodell's 1936 article, Goodbye to Law Reviews, and said I'm sorely tempted, at this stage of my career, to eschew law review articles for other forms of scholarship and writing. I asked if this seemed like a crazy idea.
This post has generated a surprisingly high number of responses, here and elsewhere, as well as emails sent directly to me. On the "am I crazy" question, I'd say there's a hung jury, and interestingly, it seems to be divided in part based on career stage. A lot of the untenured appear to regard the notion of abandoning student-edited law reviews with great suspicion, and thus think I'm crazy; the more senior folks seem more sanguine about the idea that there is life beyond law reviews and have a moderately higher opinion of my sanity.
I'd have expected the reverse, but more and more I think I am not very good at predictions. In any case, to clarify a couple of things that were perhaps ambiguous in the original post, I am not proposing to abandon legal scholarship or even the writing of scholarly articles. I am proposing to end the ludicrous ritual of writing pieces longer than necessary, duller than necessary, and more heavily footnoted than necessary, then spending an agonizing few weeks waiting for second and third-year law students to decide if my articles measure up to their mysterious standards, then trying to "trade up," then going through months of tedious multiple edits before the pieces are finally published in a forum that very few people will read, even in my own field. (More after the jump).
Let me hasten to add some caveats and disclaimers:
1) No, it's not the students' fault. They're behaving reasonably and appropriately within structures they've inherited. And, needless to say, though I've had some atrocious experiences with student editors, I have also worked with some excellent student editors. (Including the terrific students at Chicago who very charitably published my last idiosyncratic piece).
2) Yes, I imagine I'll still publish in student-edited law reviews, but I think I'll let them the law reviews ask me for pieces, should they ever wish to do so.
3) No, I'm not swearing off peer-reviewed journals, though they scare me, since it's harder to fool your peers than it is to fool law students.
But to chime into the broader debate: I don't see why there should be an inherent contradiction between "advancing scholarship," whatever it is we mean by that, and "reaching a broader audience." If the two appear to be irreconcilable goals, then something is deeply wrong with both academic and public discourse -- and part of our job, surely, is to change that.