Last Writes? Re-assessing the Law Review in the Age of

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Bernard J. Hibbitts
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
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Marshall McLuhan describes the impact of new technologies on traditional media...

Introduction: Hail! - and Farewell?

The next decade could witness the end of the law review as we know it. At first glance, this contention might seem implausible - after all, the law review is the supreme institution of the contemporary American legal academy. Virtually all accredited law schools have one; quite a few have several. Law schools depend upon law reviews for publicity and prestige. Law professors depend upon law reviews for publication and promotion. Law students depend upon law reviews for education and employment.

[i.2] The law review, however, is hardly an inevitable institution. It emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the product of the fortuitous interaction of academic circumstances and improvements in publishing technology. Today, new academic circumstances (not least among which is an increased professorial dissatisfaction with law reviews themselves) and new computer-mediated communications technologies (e.g. on-line services and the Internet) are coming together in a way that may soon lead to the demise of the familiar law review in favor of a more promising system of scholarly communication. academic circumstances...and new computer-mediated communications technologies...are coming together in a way that may soon lead to the demise of the familiar law review.....

[i.3] In this article, I undertake a comprehensive re-assessment of the law review from the perspective of the present age of cyberspace. In Part I, I begin this re-assessment by investigating the academic and technological conditions that initially joined to generate the form. In Part II, I trace the course that criticism of the law review has taken since the institution's debut, showing how criticisms have grown in number, range and intensity to the point of their current crescendo; I explore why various criticisms arose when they did, and evaluate erstwhile (and, as it turns out, largely failed) attempts at reforming the law review system for the benefit of its academic and professional constituencies. In Part III, I examine how new computer-mediated communications technologies embodied in WESTLAW, LEXIS, and the Internet's so-called "electronic journals" have subtly begun to change and improve the law review system, even if those particular services do not and cannot cure the system's more profound ills. In Part IV, I offer a "modest proposal" for the electronic self-publishing of legal scholarship that would use the full potential of today's computer technology to overcome the editorial and material limitations of the law review format while providing legal scholars with an unprecedented range of intellectual and professional opportunities. In the Conclusion to this article, I consider what legal scholars, law school Deans and faculties, the Association of American Law Schools and even the editors of law reviews themselves might do to accelerate or at least accommodate the transition to the proposed system of electronic self-publication.

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