Ronald Dworkin Dies at 81

Ronald Dworkin was a professor at NYU Law and an influential Anglo-American legal theorist.  His many writings include his best known book, Law’s Empire (1986), which won the prestigious Coif Award and the Ames Prize at Harvard Law School.

Here is a summary of Dworkin’s jurisprudence from his NYU biography:

In Dworkin’s view, every legal interpretation reflects an underlying theory about the general character of law; he assesses three such theories. One, previously influential, takes the law of a community to be only what the established conventions of that community say it is. Another, currently popular, assumes that legal practice is best understood as an instrument of society to achieve its policy goals. Dworkin opposes both views, arguing that the most fundamental purpose of law is not to report consensus or provide efficient means to social goals, but to be ethical; that is, to meet the requirement that a political community act in a coherent and principled manner toward all its members.



The “Scholarly Impact” of Law School Faculty

A University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) professor and three of the school’s law librarians have authored a citation analysis of scholarly writing by faculty in the “top third of ABA-accredited law schools.” The authors calculate a “Scholarly Impact Score” based on “the mean and the median of total law journal citations over the past five years” by tenured members of each law faculty.

George Mason School of Law is tied for 21st with Boston University. The most cited faculty members are Professors Bernstein, Butler, Claeys, Greve,  Kobayashi,  Lund,  Mossoff, Muris, Somin, and Zywicki.

The paper, titled Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties in 2012: Applying Leiter Scores to Rank the Top Third, is available on SSRN here.


The Future of Law Reviews

An article by Walter Olson in the Atlantic titled Abolish the Law Reviews! adds another chapter to the debate about the value and future of scholarly legal journals.  Membership and publication in a law journal no doubt remains a valued credential.  But will this continue to be the case?  Olson posits that the real future for valuable academic scholarship is the blawgosphere and other virtual forums.

Olson also cites GMUSL’s Professor Ross Davies’s report, Law Review Circulation 2011: More Change, More Same.  Davies finds that diminishing subscriptions “have ranged from near-freefall to mere steep-slide.” He notes that in the last year “no major law review had more than 2,000 paying subscribers.”

One positive aspect of the law review saga is the growth of freely available content. Many journals—including those produced by so-called “top tier” law schools— make at least the most recent issue of their publication available free online.  Here are some resources for locating this content:

  • ABA Legal Technology Resource Center.  Search more than 400 online full-text journal/law reviews and related sources, including Congressional Research Service Reports.  Coverage varies.
  • BePress.  Browse or Search over 90 law journals published in the Digital Commons open access repository.
  • Dragnet. Browse or search approximately 150 law journals that provide free online content, including their most current issue.  Searches may be limited to International or Environmental Law.
  • Google Scholar.  Limits Google search to academic journal articles, conference papers, dissertations, theses, indexes articles and abstracts from major academic publishers.  Coverage and access to full-text varies.
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Widely used by scholars to share papers and articles in several topical networks.  Legal Scholarship Network includes over 130,000 papers searchable by keyword, title, author or date.


The Most-Cited Law Review Articles

Citation analysis is one measure of an article’s influence in the legal community. The Michigan Law Review has published an article, written by two librarians, titled: The Most-Cited Law Review Articles of All Time. The data collected includes the 100 most-cited legal articles. Here’s the top 10 list:

  1. R.H. Coase, The Problem of Social Cost, 3 J.L. & Econ. 1 (1960).
  2. Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev.
    193 (1890).
  3. O.W. Holmes, The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457 (1897).  
  4. Gerald Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term—Foreword: In Search of Evolving Doctrine on a Changing Court: A Model for a Newer Equal Protection, 86 Harv. L. Rev. 1 (1972).
  5. Herbert Wechsler, Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law, 73 Harv. L.
    Rev. 1 (1959).
  6. Guido Calabresi & A. Douglas Melamed, Property Rules, Liability Rules, and
    Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral, 85 Harv. L. Rev. 1089 (1972). 
  7. Charles A. Reich, The New Property, 73 Yale L.J . 733 (1964).  
  8. Charles R. Lawrence III, The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning with
    Unconscious Racism, 39 Stan. L. Rev. 317 (1987).
  9. William J. Brennan, Jr., State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual
    Rights, 90 Harv. L. Rev. 489 (1977). 
  10.  Robert H. Bork, Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems, 47 Ind. L.J. 1 (1971).


Introducing Stanford Law Review Online

The Stanford Law Review has launched Stanford Law Review Online.  According to the publishers:

This new site will offer a flexible outlet for the publication of short, original pieces of scholarship and commentary on timely legal topics. The aim is to produce pieces of law-review quality, with an Internet-quick turnaround between submission and publication. And while we have made tentative decisions about the nature of the publication, perhaps the most important feature of the Stanford Law Review Online will be its ability to evolve over time.