Reading the Early American Legal Profession: A Study of the First American Law Review

54 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2012 Last revised: 6 Sep 2012

See all articles by Zoey Orol

Zoey Orol

New York University School of Law

Date Written: August 19, 2012


This note seeks to demonstrate the ripeness of early American legal periodicals as a subject of further inquiry by reading the American Law Journal (1808-1817), the first American law review, as a reflection of the changing nature of the legal profession at a crucial time in American history. Close analysis of the content and editorial choices of the Journal suggests that the Journal both reflects and addresses three early nineteenth century professional needs: the need to practice in a variety of jurisdictions and areas of law; the need to give voice and content to the emerging idea of a professional self-consciousness, which some scholars suggest developed only later in the century; and the need to respond to the internationalization of American legal and political affairs, which undercuts the arguments of many legal historians that the period marked an increasing tendency in American jurisprudence to look inward. The few scholars who have attempted to paint a picture of legal affairs in this transformative period have typically focused on the dockets of particular jurisdictions while overlooking legal periodicals. But such sources can more accurately portray the state of the national legal profession given that a journal editor, unconstrained by state or regional boundaries, can incorporate cases and sources from a wide range of jurisdictions and on a varied array of topics. Furthermore, the fact that periodicals are necessarily dependent on a subscriber base suggests that such editors had to touch on issues of interest to subscribers from all across the country in order to stay afloat.

Keywords: American Law Journal, legal history, legal periodicals

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Orol, Zoey, Reading the Early American Legal Profession: A Study of the First American Law Review (August 19, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Zoey Orol (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
United States

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