8 J. Legal Educ. 188 (1955-1956)
Reviewing the Law Reviews

handle is hein.journals/jled8 and id is 198 raw text is: JOURNAL OF LEGAL EDUCATION

REVIEWING THE LAW REVIEWS
ALAN W. MEWETT *
There are being published in this country today no less than 78 law re-
views, comprising a total of approximately 4,000 printed volumes, increas-
ing at the rate of about 75 printed volumes per annum. This staggering
amount is roughly half of the total output of legal periodicals (excluding
all forms of reports) in the United States. The average annual subscription
to a law review is something slightly over four dollars. The leading law
libraries of the country acquire anything up to five or six copies of certain
reviews, and many libraries purchase at least one copy of them all. Vir-
tually all reviews lose money on their publications. Few reviews are read;
and although most of them are skimmed over in the hope of finding some-
thing worthwhile to read, some, perhaps, do not even have that honor con-
ferred upon them. One would have thought, bearing these facts in mind,
that serious consideration would be given to the possible value of these
monumental publications. Whether there has been any such serious con-
sideration, I do not know, but if there has been, there has been a remarkable
absence of any positive action being taken about a situation which is rapidly
getting impossibly out of hand. Perhaps I may be allowed to urge some
action in this comment.
One cannot conscientiously include any article in any review until one
has ascertained the type of reader which the review reaches. (From this
point on, I shall generalize and merely refer to law reviews, although I rec-
ognize that there are a few exceptions to what I am about to say.) One of
the basic mistakes which the law review makes is in its failure to be designed
for any audience at all. It presents a most unfortunate mass of ill-assorted,
heterogeneous articles, connected only by the fact that they appear in the
same review. In its understandable desire for continuity of form, the law
review appears to have completely sacrificed continuity of substance. This,
of course, is the result of a premature publication of a review-a law school
feels that it must get on the worthless roundabout of reputation-building,
and makes the completely undesirable mistake of thinking that the easiest
way of accomplishing this is to publish a review with the school's name in
large capital letters on the outside, a tastefully edited syllabus of the school
on the inner cover, and nothing of note between the first and last pages.
One's policy is then to fill it up with whatever is most conveniently at hand,
and if nothing is conveniently at hand, to persuade some associate professor
to write an article which he does not want to write and which he is probably
ashamed to have published. The result is that, in order to find any articles
on any subject, one has to wade through 4,000 volumes, 90 per cent of which
are of no use whatsoever-although I agree that the invaluable Index to Le-
gal Periodicals renders this task less Herculean than it might otherwise be.
If we are to reduce the present chaos into some appearance of cosmos,
the obviously ideal solution, under present circumstances, would be for law
reviews to cease and their place be taken by periodicals devoted entirely
* LL.B., University of Birmingham; B.C.L., Oxford University; LL.M., University
of Michigan. Bigelow Teaching Fellow, University of Chicago.

[VOL. 8

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