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September 21, 2008

What if Westlaw merged with SSRN?

Legal scholarship truly is bizarre, in that the status of our work is largely determined not by our peers, but by students (the law review editors) at schools other than our own. We all know this-- that status correlates to the reputation of the law review that publishes our writing. That is, our publication outcomes are determined by people we don't teach and who have not even completed their own basic education. Now, of course, we have an alternative process developing on SSRN. Most people do both-- submit their work to SSRN and publish them as law review articles. One reason to do both is that only by publishing in a law review does our work become available via the Lexis and Westlaw databases, which then lead to citation. But what if SSRN pieces appeared on Lexis and Westlaw? Would we then see an end to the absolute need to publish such work in a law review? It would seem that the only reason to publish in a law review at that point would be to subject ourselves to the pecking order imposed by students at schools other than our own, and that does not make much sense. Freed from the bizarre land of law reviews, it could be that status would be determined only by the ways and frequency with which our work is read and cited-- both of which are status markers much more rational than the filter of other people's students. -- Mark Osler

September 21, 2008 | Permalink


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Of course, it doesn't make sense, Mark. It happens for the same reason that fraternity hazing takes place and that so many youth soccer coaches are such jerks: b/c it replicates what was a success for those in power. I have been thinking about this for a long time (why do so many law professors act precisely like the professors they had 10, 20 and 30 years ago), and am convinced this is the answer. (Their view): I was a success at it; therefore it works. I was a success at it; therefore why change? oo-bla-di, oo-bla-dah

Posted by: Michael Perlin | Sep 22, 2008 7:01:55 AM

I think that the work would suffer if it weren't published in law reviews for a couple reasons:
1. There is value to cite checking
2. There is editorial value in the process

My final published articles are all better than the original submission versions I put on SSRN. I suspect that might be true for many people.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Sep 22, 2008 1:36:49 PM

"Youth soccer coaches are such jerks?" In a thread about SSRN posts being available on Westlaw/Lexis? Sounds like somebody has issues.

Incidentally, this post is no mere fantasy. I fully expect both SSRN and Bepress to be gobbled up by larger multinationals at some point in the same way that Bar/Bri and Gilberts and other offshoots of the legal academy were acquired in years past. Thomson is as good a bet as any. They own virtually everything else in legal publishing now.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 23, 2008 12:48:19 PM

You need surgery. Your town needs a bridge built. Your surgeon and your bridge engineer keep up with their fields by reading journals edited by second year med students, and master's level grad students. Is that OK? Those crazy kids are studying 80 hours a week. Then they have to read piles of advanced articles and make decisions about validity. Is that OK? They are not members of the public who could at least demand clearer writing and would have no pretensions of understanding. Yet, it will be another 10 years, at least before students know anything of substance about a specialized subject.

Some Harvard Dean, 120 years ago, preferred to drink whiskey and laze around to editing pile of pretentious gibberish. He got the brilliant idea to have the students do it. What's the difference, no one will read that stuff anyway.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 28, 2008 1:08:04 AM

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