Down With Law Reviews?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on November 23, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Are law reviews ruining legal education and thus the job market?

It would seem so, if the New York Times is correct in its assertions. The paper suggests that client dissatisfaction with first and second-year associates is hastening the decline in legal hiring.

That dissatisfaction is the result of poorly trained lawyers who acquire no practical skills during law school. And the reason they have no practical skills?

Law schools are too busy pushing law review articles.

Let's start at the beginning. Though law schools are trying to increase the number of practical classes and clinics, they have a habit of shying away from experienced attorneys. Experience often counts against those seeking tenure-track positions, according to the Times.

Instead, schools focus on academic pedigree. And law review articles. Especially after hiring has completed. By the paper's calculations, law schools spent $575 million last year supporting faculty scholarship. That's about 1/6 of all law school tuition.

And by the looks of it, that's also about $575 million of utter waste.

There are approximately 10,000 law review articles a year. Only 1/3 of all Supreme Court cases in the last 61 years cite such articles, reports the Times. Over 40% of all articles are also never accessed.

It would seem that law review articles solely exist to inflate the egos of the professors who write them, the students who edit them, and the schools that publish them.

While they seek prestige, the majority of students are left with few opportunities to develop practical skills. And even if such opportunities exist, there are few, if any, permanent faculty members who are qualified to impart practical skills.

So perhaps law schools need to ditch the law review and refocus on what counts. It may be time to hire faculty members who have actually practiced law so that they can teach students how to do so themselves.

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