Such concerns have been acknowledged by law reviews. The Harvard Law Review, for example, limited the length of submissions after a 2004 study it conducted showed that nearly 90 percent of readers found law review articles to be too long.
In the face of the obstacles associated with student-reviewed law journals, professors said that they would like to see an increased presence of academics in the editing and publication of legal scholarship.
Some contend that peer-reviewed journals deserve a chance and may outperform student-reviewed law reviews, if given a chance to establish a readership.
“[Student-reviewed and peer-reviewed journals] ought to compete against each other,” Dershowitz said. “Let’s see what’s better in the marketplace of ideas.”
Despite the claims that professors are as equipped or willing to edit legal scholarship, Dershowitz said that if the faculty wanted to launch a peer-review journal, they could do so “without much difficulty.”
Others have proposed that law reviews can continue to be student-reviewed, but should gain further input from scholars.
“Perhaps professors could make themselves available en masse once or twice a year to help review submissions,” Zittrain wrote. “Imagine faculty at various stations in a library during a law review-a-thon, able to consult with editors who have questions on the work they're reviewing.”
FOR BETTER OR WORSE
Despite the cacophony of opinions from legal scholars and law review editors past and present, very few believe that the student-reviewed law model is a perfect one.
Yet the barriers for change are immense—student-run law reviews are reinforced by more than a century of prestige and the process of editing legal scholarship is not the most appetizing activity for law professors.
Moreover, though law reviews continue to influence legal scholarship and the reputations of those who are published, their power—in terms of who reads what and who receives tenure—is on the decline, according to Fallon and Peters-Fransen.
“I think everyone recognizes that their importance is less so than it once was,” Peters-Fransen said, calling the continued predominance of law reviews a “historical hangover.”
Although numerous problems persist with student-reviewed law journals, these problems do not seem significant enough to alter the status quo significantly or generate competition from peer-reviewed journals. For better or worse, the student-reviewed law model is here to stay.
—Staff writer Tyler S. Olkowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @OlkowskiTyler.