Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Professors has been doing a regular series called “Where are the Women?” which documents the underrepresentation of women authors published in recent editions of elite law journals. (Check it out–the tables of contents are shocking.) Laura Spitz yesterday wrote a post documenting the numbers of articles, essays, and comments by male and female authors in law journals from 2001-06, and the numbers are again equally shocking in light of the fact that law schools have nearly equal numbers of women and men.
Spitz’s post is interesting in that it notes that law reviews are edited and produced by students, not by law professors–a quirk unique to law reviews, so far as I know. She writes, “students are not especially well trained or positioned to meet and address the systemic discrimination felt by women and minorities in trying to get their work published and ‘valued’.” Spitz continues:
This is not an especially intuitive observation, and it has been made by lots of others before me. And this discrimination cannot be visited solely on law students (who often make great choices and invariably work very hard). Rather, I think it has more to do with the fact that they are the wrong people to be making these publishing decisions. Not because they are ‘bad’ people (some of my best friends were students), but because their experience and training makes them ill-suited for the task.
I’ve never worked at a journal, and the world of law reviews is something I have no understanding of whatsoever, but I wonder if Spitz is right that (perhaps ironically) students’ “experience and training makes them ill-suited for the task?” Does that mean that it’s students lack of training and experience? My expectation is that unless faculty at a law school make the interests of women and non-white people a priority, those interests will not be reflected in law reviews–the tail doesn’t wag the dog, after all. Then again, you’d think that younger people would be more open to new approaches, and that law review editors would want to make a splash by publishing cutting-edge scholarship that tackles new issues and new problems. Is that not the case? (My bet is that law review editors, like all journal editors, might want to publish work by well-established scholars. If a senior scholar wants to publish something stolid and respectable but not cutting-edge, that’s a way of making a splash too, with fewer risks.) I’d love to hear from any of you who understand law reviews or even have direct experience in publishing or being published in law journals.
Another (tangential) issue with law journals: a colleague of mine in the College of Liberal Arts does interdisciplinary scholarship with constitutional law, and has published an article in a law review. She is anxious that although it’s a prestigious law journal, it’s student edited and not peer-reviewed, so she’s uncertain how it will count towards tenure. (Are law professors not required to publish peer reviewed work?) If you’re in a liberal arts department and you or your colleagues have published in law reviews, how were those articles handled by your department for annual review purposes as well as tenure and/or promotion?
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