Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hucksters in the Tower

Some time ago I asked what a moneylaw law review would look like. After thinking it about it, I wonder if law reviews as they currently exist would be part of the legal education. Take what we know. Publication decisions are made by third year law students who are suckers for institutional appeals. Many law professors -- especially the ones with privileged backgrounds -- are quick to respond with all kinds of signaling about credentials and extensive acknowledgements of legal education "stars" even if their connection with the article was a quick comment while standing at the neighboring urinal. (I am not saying the non elitists are more honorable in this regard. They just do not have the tools)

And then there is the advice I hear. Call anyone you know who teaches at the school considering your article and tell them to call the law review editors to say how great your article is. In fact, and this was a new one to me, have professors who are not at that school send letters of recommendation.

The weird thing is this. Having witnessed people play this game to the point of absurdity, the same people then turn around and take the results seriously. It's like feeling proud about the A you got on a math test that you cheated on. Never underestimate the powers of rationalization.

Here is your moneylaw law review. All submission are anonymous. All credentials deleted as are all acknowledgements. Any outside testimonials mean the article is immediately dropped from consideration. I would say peer review and no multiple submissions but there are probably not enough peers to evaluate thousands of articles and in an authors' market a review that said no multiple submission might not get any. Plus, if the peers are as reliable as those who supply letters in the tenure review letter market, that does not get us anywhere. And, let's admit it: many law professors would apply a political litmus test rather than assess the quality of the work (in fact, for some the difference does not exist) The point is not that all or even most law professors would be lousy at peer review but that the risks are high and who reviews the reviewers? Maybe it's best to stay with the students.

One thing is certain, given what we know about the determinants of law reveiw placement, no moneylaw school would take them seriously, even if their authors do.


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