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Death of the Academy: the ‘Zombie Law Review Apocalypse’

July 12, 2012

ZombieLaw has previously discussed the zombie education problem, the growing student debt levels, and the failure of modern schools to teach skills necessary for successful participation in the future world economy.

One example of the dying old model is the continued proliferation of Law Review articles. The law schools have increased the number of journals and both the quality and readership interest has declined. Yet they just keep producing more, not because there is any real value but because the illusion of value creates prestige and then the prestige creates prestige.

New York criminal defense attorney, Scott Greenfield wrote on his blog, Simple Justice, a post entitled: “Zombie Law Review Apocalypse (Update)”. He mentions Walter Olsen’s article in the Atlantic “Abolish the Law Reviews!” Greenfield writes:

Not all of them are ridiculously irrelevant, grasping for something remotely resembling purpose in a journal of a million murdered words. It’s awful. It’s painful. Not because these articles don’t occasional raise ideas or argument of merit, though it’s rare, but because even the best and most thoughtful bog down in the brutally heavy compulsion to mask worthwhile thoughts in thousand of worthless words.

And so, I disagree with Walter. The law review should not die. It’s already dead. It’s been dead for a while, and merely wanders about like zombies eating the brains of those who are caught in its clumsy clutches

zombie scott greenfield

Greenfield also claims, “if law reviews are zombies, the blue book is a vampire, existing only to suck the life out of you.”

Overall though Greenfield makes a strong point and it is important. The connection of academia to traditional publishing models needs more examination. We are all aware of the ways that the internet and social media have disrupted the publishing vanguard. And yet the law schools keep pushing out paper like it hasn’t already gone out of style. Fueled on volunteer labor and student debt dollars, they’re publishing model hasn’t collapsed entirely yet – but it seems only a matter of time; a zombie industry (and aren’t they all now that robots are taking over?).

As an alternative, Greenfield cites blawgs like the Volokh Conspiracy. In the update he notes that Chodorow’s zombie tax article is not the kind of brain eating article he was referring to and considers it “scholarship”. I would personally also recommend he also read some of the very entertaining law review articles by Pierre Schlag. If I ever see Greenfield at 100 Centre I will be sure to tell him…


From → Academics

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