Faculty Perceptions of Online Law Journals
Michael Conklin, Faculty Perceptions of Online Law Journals, ___ Midwest L. J. ___ (Forthcoming 2020).
15 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 2020
Online-only law journals (OLJs) are sometimes referred to as “companions” or “supplements.” They are law journals that are only distributed in a digital medium. The Yale Law Journal Pocket Part became the first OLJ in 2005. In the brief existence of OLJs, they have experienced rapid growth in both prestige and prevalence. There were already four OLJs in the top 100 of the Washington & Lee law journal rankings by 2015. In 2020, there are now seven OLJs in the top 100. Using the impact factor measure, there are ten OLJs in the top 100. The Forum—Harvard’s OLJ—is ranked ahead of the flagship print journals North Carolina Law Review and Connecticut Law Review. The performance of OLJs in rankings is even more impressive when considering how a key measure used in the rankings—impact factor—disadvantages OLJs because they publish shorter articles.
OLJs generally have less stringent footnote requirements and a faster turnaround time from acceptance to publishing. OLJs publish a greater variety of articles than their print counterparts. Book reviews, short essays, responses, current event musings, and even poetry and satirical pieces are published in OLJs. Some scholars applaud this flexibility, while others criticize it as unpredictable. There is great variance in OLJ article lengths, but they are generally shorter than flagship print journal articles. Some OLJs have an explicitly stated maximum of only 2,500 words including footnotes. Others allow submissions of over 15,000 words.
Demand for printing and purchasing physical law journal editions has been steadily decreasing due to cost, limited library shelf space, and increased popularity of digital legal research. Physical distribution of the Harvard Law Review has decreased almost 90%. Even libraries at elite law schools, such as Columbia, are canceling subscriptions to hundreds of print law journals. Some commentators argue persuasively that certain flagship journals should move exclusively online. The budget cuts many colleges face from coronavirus will likely accelerate this trend of transitioning toward OLJs.
This article first examines current conceptions for weighting OLJs compared to print law journals, criticism of OLJs, and praise for OLJs. It then reports the findings of a survey of business law faculty to measure perceptions of OLJs. Finally, faculty demographic factors are also analyzed to determine what role they may play in forming these perceptions.
Keywords: Legal scholarship, Online journals, Online law reviews, Ranking online law journals, Online publications
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