Virtual Liquid Networks and Other Guiding Principles for Optimizing Future Student-Edited Law Review Platforms

13 Pages Posted: 24 May 2016 Last revised: 2 Aug 2016

See all articles by Donald J. Kochan

Donald J. Kochan

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University

Date Written: May 22, 2016


This short essay was written for the Touro Law Review’s Associate Dean’s Symposium on “Student-Edited Law Reviews: Future Publication Platforms.” It maintains that the Associate Dean for Research has a responsibility to shape and develop the scholarly culture and intellectual life of the law school. Part of that charge should be to aid the student-edited law reviews in their contribution to that enterprise and to help those reviews evolve. In addition to their pedagogical value for the students (developing editing, reasoning, research, and writing skills), these reviews play a part in sending signals to the outside world of the scholarly commitment of a law school. And, most importantly, student-edited law reviews serve the higher value of distributing knowledge and disseminating legal thought that addresses doctrinal clarity, unpacks theoretical uncertainties, creates foundations for reform, or otherwise presents legal solutions to critical social issues.

The ideal direction for student-edited journals is toward multiple platforms that deliver law review-quality content – maintaining long form articles and welcoming useful, online shorter forms as well. But, the irreducible minimum requirements for judging what constitutes quality “legal scholarship” – measured by its originality and unique contribution the literature – should not change. So, the first guiding principle that should control student-edited law reviews as they adopt new platforms is simple: maintain the distinctive function of publishing legal content – uniquely as a “law review” – that has the rigor and other qualities to count as legal scholarship. The Essay describes ways to control against the risks of quality dilution.

The most innovative ways that law reviews can embrace the future include using new platforms and harnessing technologies to increase dialogue, exchange, and reasoning through what this Essay calls virtual liquid networks – drawing on lessons from Steven Johnson, Kevin Dunbar, and others who have explained the concept of “liquid networks” where innovation emerges in the natural world through the collision between elements in the system and should operate similarly in intellectual spaces. Law reviews and other academic outlets should aim to create “unusually fertile” and “shared environments” that make possible “serendipitous connections” and allow for the improvement and completion of ideas.

This Essay spells out some of the architecture of student edited law review platforms that could serve this role. For example, beyond endorsing the concurrent or consecutive posting of response pieces at the same time as posting or printing main selected articles, already being done at many reviews, the Essay outlines a proposal to innovate with virtual workshops and virtual roundtables that facilitate strong liquid networks that leave open room to improve scholarly works before publication of a “final” product. The idea here is to truly replicate, in virtual form, the physical roundtable or workshop concept to achieve even higher-order liquid networking effects. These proposed virtual liquid network platforms hold the possibility of helping authors produce works of legal scholarship substantially improved from the forms such works might take in the traditional, more sterile, and inert publication platforms. Such virtual liquid network-based platforms also give student-edited law reviews a modern and expanded, service-oriented role in the continued production of useful scholarship.

Keywords: Law Reviews, Law Journals, Student-Edited Law Review, Associate Dean, Legal Scholarship, Legal Education, Legal Pedagogy, Innovation and Generation of Ideas, Liquid Networks, Academic Workshops, Fertile Cognitive Architecture

Suggested Citation

Kochan, Donald J., Virtual Liquid Networks and Other Guiding Principles for Optimizing Future Student-Edited Law Review Platforms (May 22, 2016). Touro Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2016, Chapman University, Fowler Law Research Paper No. 16-10, Available at SSRN:

Donald J. Kochan (Contact Author)

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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