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Multimedia: Law review serves dual role in student education and critical legal analysis

March 25, 2010

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    Aubrey Thomas
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    Leif Palmer-Burns

For a glimpse of the diverse range of legal scholarship offered by the Lewis & Clark Law Review, readers need look no further than the table of contents of the winter 2009 edition, which points to articles ranging from the Supreme Court’s definitions of constitutional rights to corporate security laws’ impact on climate change legislation.

Given the robust and relevant offerings of the Lewis & Clark Law Review, some may be surprised to learn that—like most law reviews around the country—the publication is managed and edited by students. Given the depth of the scholarly writing, some legal experts have criticized law schools’ support for student-led legal academic journals.

John Parry, law professor and faculty adviser for the Lewis & Clark Law Review, argues that law reviews play an important role in the legal sector because the publications expand the scope and depth of analysis and understanding of many pressing legal issues and precedent-setting cases in the U.S. and international court systems.

While many other academic journals go through an intense, time-consuming peer-review process, most law review content is vetted by students alone. This is a practical necessity in the academic publishing field, Parry argues.

“There is always a lot of criticism of law reviews and legal scholarship, but the bottom line is that having student-edited law reviews ensures that the worthwhile scholarship gets published,” Parry said. “There are certainly many advantages to a peer-review system, but if that were the system we had in place for most legal scholarship, there would be fewer reviews, and the process of article selection would be more drawn out. Student-edited law reviews deliver important scholarship in a timely manner.”

The law review also serves as an effective tool for preparing law students for their futures in the legal field in a number of ways.

“First, the law review experience provides students with an introduction to a wide array of legal scholarship. They learn about the various perspectives that people bring to bear on legal problems, and they learn more about the various ways that legal issues impact other social, political, and cultural topics,” Parry said. “More simply, law review students learn to work hard, and to balance their time among different kinds of work. Finally, law review students have to dig into the details of scholarly articles, and they should take from that an appreciation of how important it is in law to pay close attention to the bits and pieces as well as to the larger picture.”

Aubrey Thomas, editor-in-chief, and Leif Palmer-Burns, executive editor, have welcomed the challenge of overseeing the quarterly. Thomas manages the article selection process, vetting the approximately 300 articles submitted to the law review each year and working with a team of editors to narrow the field to 10 to12 articles for each issue. Shel also plays a major role in the editing process. Palmer-Burns is responsible for ensuring that author assertions and presented facts are logical and accurate. The burden of responsibility is not lost on them, nor is the weight of choosing sound legal analysis.

In this podcast, Thomas and Palmer-Burners discuss their editorial work, address law review critics, and tease out the theme for the annual Law Review Spring Symposium “Who Is the Reasonable Person?”