Can lawyers be brief?
I suppose I should have expected after my off-handed critique of law reviews last week that reform would be forthcoming, but I didn't expect it quite this soon. I suppose it may have had something to do with Judge Richard Posner's comments last year, but since I seconded his comments to some extent, I still had something to do with it. Ah, the humbling power of blogging.
Seriously, Michael Dorf's article describing the intent of eleven prominent law reviews to shorten article length points out that this statement of intent, even if it does have the effect of providing legal scholars with an incentive to write shorter (if not short) articles, doesn't address the issues that have caused problems with law reviews to begin with. Dorf seems to agree with Posner that student editing is a major contributing factor to the poor quality of law review articles, but goes further by calling into question the role that law reviews pursue. In truth, Posner hints at this by suggesting the types of articles student editors could handle well and the greater need for these.
At the risk of being trendy, I would characterize Dorf's description of the direction that law reviews have taken away from the concerns of lawyers and judges as a move toward theory (I'm not sure if it's still fashionable to be "against theory.") Since I enjoy reading political and legal theory, I can't really say I'm against it, but as an academic who studies legal institutions, I consistently get the feeling while I'm reading legal theory that its real goal is self-amusement. As I try to publish articles that provide a meaningful analysis of legal doctrines or institutions accessible to generalists in my discipline supplemented with theoretical models of relevant behavior, efforts to operationalize and empirically test those models and discussion of the results and whatever inferences that can be made from them--all in about 25 pages--I wonder repeatedly why I didn't go to law school so I could be a professor whose idea of a longitudinal study is to ask himself the same question several days in a row.
Will the legal professoriate heal themselves? Can the law reviews improve the quality of their scholarship? I guess we'll see.