The unique capacity of the Web to expedite feedback from readers, to facilitate dialogue between readers and writers, and to allow revisions based on feedback and dialogue prompts the creation of this section. Interesting and/or constructive comments and criticisms (and my response to same, as appropriate) are posted here for the information of new readers who would like to know how this article is being received, and for those who would like to follow any debate which the article prompts.
You are invited to submit your own views and opinions to Hibbitts@law.pitt.edu.
The most recent comment was received on February 20, 1997.
Speaking as somebody who's been doing his damndest to subvert student-edited law reviews as we know and love them, I read (and will re-read) your article on same with great interest. By way of saying thanks I'd like to point you at another alternative way of approaching the problem, one which we (Peter Martin and I, individually and in our corporate role as the LII) feel has a great deal of potential for all involved, but most especially students. See
for full information. By way of an enticing coda I'll add that the 'managing editor' of this new venture of ours is also the Senior Note Editor at the Law Review -- and has more than once told us that he feels his experience on the bulletin to be the more valuable.
I'll be interested to hear your reaction.
T.B. [Thomas R. Bruce, Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School]
Dear Professor Hibbitts:
Thank you for alerting me to your article. It is an impressive and important piece of scholarship. Unfortunately, you will have to publish it on paper in order to the reach those who need to read it most. I hope they are intrigued enough to go online and actually experience the role that multi-media hypertext can play in traditional scholarship.
Winton Woods [Professor, University of Arizona College of Law]
........As to "Last Writes?", I have a few preliminary thoughts. First, what would be the effect of self-publishing on promotion and tenure? While faculties might choose to assume greater responsibility for reading and evaluating the quality of a colleague's work, how fast is that going to happen? Taking the Web-publishing route may well be risky for "early adopters." (Ironically, the younger faculty, who are the ones more likely early adopters, are the ones with the most at risk.)
As to getting paper versions for reading the old way. Ideally, there should be a way of letting the reader look at a composed page with footnotes at the bottom. That would improve readability. With links back and forth, you don't need it for the HTML version, but with paper it's inconvenient to keep flipping back and forth. One way to accomplish that is to let the reader download a word-processing version of the paper. (Of course the reader would lose the functionality of the hypertext links.)
That raises an interesting question, how did you decide what should be straight hypertext-links, and what should be in footnotes. In a Web'd world, footnotes might include only (i) narrative place-holders for hypertext-links, and (ii) parenthetical comments or other supplemental information.
Prof. Gary S. Rosin [South Texas College of Law]
You may be aware that the student e-law reviews are creating a meta-index of all the online law reviews.
Very thoughtful article. May I put a link to it on the State Bar of Wisconsin's website www.wisbar.org?
John Lederer [Chair, Technology Resource Committee, State Bar of Wisconsin]
Your article demonstrates that a subject can be given exhaustive treatment on the web, without sacrificing quality. Many of us who have been practicing law for "a few years" have little practical use for the law review article, unless it's directly on point to a subject area that Pa Supreme Court law has not addressed. It is a rare Judge who requires scholarship.
The Web availabilty of such articles yanks us back to academia, but in a very practical way. I can read them from the very desk I look across at my clients, the very desk on which I eat my lunch, and the same from which I communicate to you now. Moreover, if a given article has no relevance for my intended use, I "click" it away without the guilt of having wasted up to an hour of my time.
I understand that the articles have benefit in the "writing" as well as the "reading", but in this marketplace of ideas, why hide the light under a bushel-basket? Maybe they will become more than just a set of unread bookends on the bottom shelf of my bookcase? And lest any of your colleagues think that lawyers read those things, tell them to stick their heads "out the door" for a couple minutes.
Your article is proof that lawyers read on the web what they would not have taken the time to read elsewhere. I just did. Good job!
It would be helpful if you could publish a version of your article in Adobe Acrobat format or in some other portable document format. It is extremely tiring to read a large number of pages of text on a computer screen -- the resolution is far too low with current screen technology. If you were to publish a version in Adobe Acrobat format, the reader could print the file on a high-resolution laser printer, read the article through without ruining his or her eyes, and then go back to the html version to follow any desired hyperlinks.
[Professor Robert Green, Cornell Law School]
I read and enjoyed your article about law reviews.....
....I have a specific criticism of your paper, and since you asked for it, here it is. My fear is that people will steal other people's ideas. E.g., someone publishes something on the internet, another person picks up the idea and makes it his own, without giving attribution. This sort of thing happens now, but imagine how much easier it will be when papers are published on the internet, especially if those papers are updated. There will be severe problems of claiming who was first with the idea, coupled with disclaimers such as "I never thought to look on the internet". When someone steals an idea from me-- it has happened, alas, more than a few times--at least, if I have to, I can point to irrefutable proof--a hard copy in a law review of an article printed years before the plagiarist's. I'm afraid that the ease of stealing ideas will discourage people from publishing on the internet, and thus I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed. Meanwhile, congratulations for an important work.
[Professor Anthony D'Amato, Northwestern University School of Law]
....I have read your article with some interest. I guess I am not as optimistic as you as to what the net would look like if there were electronic self-publication of law review articles. Today, I try to keep up in three areas: corporations, partnerships (and similar entities) and contracts. The amount of stuff published in law reviews in these areas today is so great and so much of it is so bad that I spend a fair amount of time scanning articles not to read. At least some weeding out now occurs at the reviews themselves (there must be some articles rejected by everyone); goodness knows how bad much of the stuff they reject must be. If there were self-publication I would imagine the clutter would be even greater as everyone thinking about going into teaching will post something. At least today one can decide to look only at articles in the better journals (because they are in better journals and therefore more likely to be thoughtful). If there is electronic self publication, this ability to limit the number of articles would be lost and there would be no way to avoid looking at everything that is posted that relates to specific areas of interest. In short, I do not think your hopeful views that self-publication means self-selection by authors will be borne out. It reminds me a little of the early bulletin boards that were accessed by modem, which shortly became so full of irrelevant stuff that it was not worth searching through them.
[Professor Robert Hamilton, University of Texas School of Law]
...I would...like to congratulate you on your terrifically insightful and, frankly, amazing piece of cyber-scholarship. A posting on a listserv alerted me to "Last Writes? . . ." To be quite honest, it concretizes many feelings I have had about law reviews as we move further into the current age. Indeed, I have on occasion suggested to faculty and students that there should be an area on our server, entirely independent of our Law Review or other journals, in which they might "self-publish" their scholarship without having to go through any sort of law review editing or mediating processes. Because we have developed macros which readily and automatically convert law review articles (with all their footnotes) to HTML, this may well come to pass quite shortly.....
[James Wyman, Editor-in-Chief, Florida State University Law Review]
....I've just accessed your article and you may be interested in my comments in return. First some minor nits:
1. The ALT tag for the image at the top of the page is incorrect. It leaves the "IMG SRC=" text visible inside the ALT tag. Of course, this will only be visible to someone using a character-mode browser or viewing pages with 'Autoload images' turned off.
2. It would probably be easier for many to view your document if you split it into its four constituent parts. A 237K HTML is pushing the limit for many browsers. Certainly it took mine a while to load it. A small document containing the introduction and pointers to the four parts would be a better starting place (IMHO).
3. The URL "http://www.ics.uci.edu/CORPS/klingj2.html" (cited in one of your footnotes) is no longer there.
4. I particularly like the links to other reader's comments (and your responses). This embeds the article in the ongoing dialogue that should characterise true scholarship.
5. Sections III and IV (I'm not competent to comment on I and II) are a very nice review of the field and an eloquent plea for change in the field of legal scholarly publishing.
Thank you for drawing your work to my attention. I have entered its details in my citation database and will definitely be referring to in future writings. Please link to my AusWeb paper [Electronic Scholarly Publishing and the World Wide Web] if you think it will be helpful to your readers. You might also be interested in a later paper which amplifies some of the themes in the earlier work that can be found at http://www.deakin.edu.au/~aet/vala96/
Andrew Treloar, School of Computing & Mathematics, Deakin University, 662 Blackburn Road, Clayton, Australia, 3168. Ph: +61 3 98731492 Fx: +61 3 96602761 Email: Andrew.Treloar@deakin.edu.au WWW: http://www.deakin.edu.au/~aet/
....You write about an interesting topic, and write very nice and thoughtfully. I enjoyed reading [the article]. It seems to me, though, that you leave at least one major question unanswered -- indeed, unaddressed: why do we have student-edited law reivews. Apparently, the HarvLRev began at the same time as the AJS, the QJE, the JPE, and all these other faculty edited journals. Why was student editing the exclusive choice of law faculties? That you don't answer it suggests that you may think it an accident that was hard for unspecified reasons to unwind. That's plausible, though it's not a terribly interesting answer. And in fact it doesn't seem hard to unwind -- witness the success of all the law & econ journals, of the Law & Soc Rev., etc. I largely gave up writing for student edited journals about 8 years ago, and the puzzle to me is why so many other seemingly intelligent people continue to put up with the situation and write for these journals. Your article would, I think, be an even more interesting article if you could come up with a plausible, testable hypothesis about what makes the legal field different from all the other disciplines.
[Professor Mark Ramseyer, University of Chicago Law School]
I look forward to addressing this issue at greater length in a revised version of this article.
During the last hours I have read...."Last Writes". I do appreciate very much the simplicity and the manner in which you present your thoughts and remarks. They open perspectives and this is really something rare.
Probably you would like to get to know one of your so-called "second generation electronic journals" and in its kind the only German-speaking one.... For the moment I do not want to tell you more about this publication "Humboldt Forum Recht" [Humboldt Law Forum] and the plans of the editor's crew. But I would very much like to ask you a few questions within a few weeks. Meanwhile you can throw an eye on it:
[Student Editor, Humboldt Forum Recht, Humboldt University Faculty of Law, Berlin, GERMANY]
Just had a chance to scan your http://www.law.pitt.edu/hibbitts/last.htm (Last Writes? Re-Assessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace) which I enjoyed for its clarity and cogency. (two typos I noticed, serendipidy -> serendipity, subtlely -> subtly -- would a student editor have caught those for you?)
Another journal you could mention in your law journals on-line is "The Web Journal of Current Legal Issues" at http://www.newcastle.ac.uk/~nlawwww/ which I was pointed to....for their copyright agreement, found in their instructions to authors at http://www.newcastle.ac.uk/~nlawwww/admin/info.html :
14. Copyright Copyright in all contributions accepted for publication remains with the authors, and the publishers acquire publication rights. Authors are free to re-use their own material but if all or any part of published material is reproduced elsewhere, the author should acknowledge the Web Journal of Current Legal Issues as the original place of publication.
> To a large extent, quality control in a self-publishing environment will be self-imposed.
I personally agree, since that's the way we'd been operating even in the days of hardcopy preprint distribution. but that's apparently one of the most contentious issues in many disciplines -- people can't imagine proceeding without formal organized peer review. I just don't know one way or another, and can't speak for other disciplines. It is encouraging to hear some possibility that the legal profession would benefit from the open dissemination, but clearly there's ample room for a sector of open distribution and any number of selected subsets validated with gradated (and clearly indicated) rigor.
> (although I have already argued that post-hoc peer review would make such a development unlikely).
Right, that's what makes the NEJM [New England Journal of Medicine] stance so strange -- it's precisely a discipline in which peer review is alleged to be so crucial that the established journals would have an advantage in the electronic realm. I hear an increasing clamor from doctors for greater electronic accessibility both to raw data and research results, so eventually NEJM will have to either rethink its head-in-the-sand approach to the electronic world, or be sidestepped. and at a symposium I was at last week, it was pointed out that paradoxically some doctors are finding patients better informed about specific illnesses than they are: an educated and highly motivated patient will read much more aggressively the material specific to particular conditions being posted at any of the growing number of web sites sponsored by medical schools, [providing some implicit measure of authentication], when the doctor him/herself does not have the time or network connectivity to keep as up-to-date.
> the Web's publishing language - _HTML_ ("Hypertext Markup Language") can be learned in a few hours
Indeed. And we do receive occasional html submissions here, which are automatically treated just as any other, and when downloaded are just imaged directly in web browser rather than calling up external pdf,ps, dvi,tex or related viewer.
> assuming that the standard law review paper is ten times longer than the standard physics paper, and would therefore take up ten times more disk space
Actually the storage for the average physics paper is dominated by figures, so it may really depend how graphics intensive are law papers. Your figureless "Last Writes", for example, is about 243kb, but compresses to 82kb, so a 1Gb disk could easily hold over 10,000 of that size. But [that] doesn't matter, as you argue, since even another factor of 10 in there remains easily feasible even at current technology...
pg [Paul Ginsparg, Founder of the Physics Pre-print Archive, Los Alamos National Laboratory]
P.S. I would like to point some people to your paper, but there is something strange about your server -- it took many minutes to download despite my having here less than a 120 millisecond packet delay time to your site (i.e. quite good network connection). typically something like that, just a couple hundred kb, should come in just a few seconds. The server seems to be using too small a buffer size, or is running on a 286 machine, or is too heavily loaded (I checked that the server was multitasking very poorly during the download, and wasn't a network problem at either end). Perhaps you could break it up so that there's a main index page with links to the individual sections (this would require a small amount of work since the footnotes would have to be set up to link to the footnote page, but still just a global substitution), and of course retain as well a link to the full paper for people who just want to download and print out (I typically read directly from a crisp screen so former format is preferable).
The whole typo argument is specious anyway - it's like arguing against printed books because early printers committed a few typesetting errors. Over time, they took steps to ensure that errors of that nature did not occur. We will do the same, "internalizing" procedures that to this point have been "externalized" to law reviews (internalization of law review functions could take the form of computerized spelling and grammar-checking; alternatively, law profs could use their own research assistants as personal editors, or a law school as a whole could convert its law review staff to a glorified "secretarial pool" that does editorial and citation-checking work for its own profs, but under their supervision and without direct access to publishing media).
I'll look into the server problem.
It's a very nice paper. Well argued, and with lots of interesting (to a layman) information about law reviews.
Concerning the point Paul Ginsparg raises about NEJM and medical journals in general, there seems to be serious tension between doctors who would like to retain control over all expert medical information, and patients who are trying to get access to it. There was an interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (I think, but don't remember for certain) about a flourishing database that went through a major shakeup over precisely that issue, with the medical authorities at the university where it was based ousting the person who ran it in iorder to control distribution of information. Doctors' powers are already being limited by managed health plans adn government regulation, and now in addition patients are beginning to intrude and treat doctors as advisors only, and not the people who decide what to do. (A good example is the story by Andy Grove, the chap who runs Intel, of his fight with prostate cancer, told in the latest issue of Fortune.) Do you think there is a similar fight in the legal profession?
As you may have noticed, if you read any of my articles, I am very interested in the economics of publishing, as I think that is crucial to future developments. From your article, it appears that most (and possibly all) law reviews are published by law schools. Do you know whether this is generally a money-making enterprise? The problem in many scientific and technical fields is that professional societies derive substantial income from their journals, and are reluctant to upset the applecart by a move to electronics.
Andrew [Andrew Odlyzko, AT&T Bell Laboratories]
As to the economics of legal periodical publishing, most law reviews are heavily subsidized by their schools, and ultimately operate at a deficit. At the moment, I think Harvard's is the only money-maker. As a result, the law reviews have not been as compulsive about copyright and reprint issues as I understand many of the commercial scientific journals to have been. The law reviews are also somewhat less entrenched as institutions, since their editorial staffs roll over so frequently. In both these respects, they are a "weak link" in the current system of academic journals. This could play two ways: they might be less determined to resist change, but at the same they might not be very good at directing or orchestrating it themselves. This means that law professors may be uniquely empowered to take *direct* action....
....I was interested in Last Writes (nice name) and d/l'ed a copy to *print* and read. I definitely believe that there are some advantages to web publishing. After all, if your article appeared in any but a few of the law journals that UCI subscribes to, I might not have gotten around to requesting a copy through ILL.
I think that your article starts w/an interesting history of law reviews ...and discusses some of their (now known) limitations. I found the proposal about self-publishing to be less compelling ... there have been substantial debates about tehse matters, stimuated in part by Ginsparg+Harnad+Odlyzko+Okerson, and responses .. and refinements ... I believe that your proposal would be stronger if you took some of the diverse issues raised more clearly into account. Harnad has doen a good job of clearly separating issues of referring from the medium of distribution (electrons, paper). But there are many issues re. reading practice, version control, duplicity/authenticity, and the complexities of managing cyberspace/paper media that I believe you consider more directly....
/R [Rob Kling, Editor-in-Chief, The Information Society; Professor, Department of Information and Computer Science, University of California at Irvine]
Well thanks for bringing your article to my attention. I enjoyed reading it. It provided a wealth of detailed historical information on the experiences of the legal profession with primary publication. Even if we only considered this one aspect, it would be a worthwhile contribution since there simply is a dearth of material on the history of the scholarly journal.
Your article helps demonstrate, I think, the broader generalizability of the standard critique on paper publication. It is comforting (?) to know that things like high cost, the publish or perish syndrome, slow publication turnaround, and the like, are not confined to the arts and sciences. I also enjoyed the history of student involvement in the law review. It is good to know that students have innovated successfully.
Your commentary on the New England Journal of Medicine's response to the threat of information technology was interesting. This parallels a current problem the EJS is having with the new sociology journal "Sociological Research Online." They have mistakenly claimed to be the first journal of sociology on the internet, and they have attacked our own journal by claiming to respect the 'traditional' peer review process which, they say, makes them more rigourous. I have written a response to their accusations. It is at
if your are interested.
All in all an excellent article. My only criticism would be that it didn't pay much attention to the problems of information technology. But then again, electronic publication is probably too new for us to get a sense of the long term implications and difficulties.
Hopefully someone will undertake the same historical project for other disciplines that you have completed for law....
University of Alberta, Edmonton
Phone: 1 (403) 435-0177 email: Mike.Sosteric@ualberta.ca
Editor: Electronic Journal of Sociology, EJS
I found your article "Last Writes" very compelling and convincingly argued. Although we do not have the same problematic background of student-edited law reviews in the UK (all law journals here are faculty-edited, many are anonymously peer-reviewed, while student-generated law reviews tend to be in-house productions with limited circulation), I could immediately see how attractive your ideas would be, especially in a smaller legal jurisdiction and legal academy (such as in the UK).
One small problem with your advocacy of the multi-media links that publishing on the Web would create - an otherwise very attractive argument - is the frustration of waiting for connections to load. I tried to access some of your links to the OJ trial and gave up waiting, lest I lost the track of your arguments. Even access to the Magna Carta at a local UK site was painfully slow. I suppose that the arguments are (1) you can always return when the Web is less busy and (2) technology will find a solution eventually.
Anyway, congratulations on what will no doubt be a debate-generating paper.
Professor of Law
Faculty of Law
University of Liverpool
Great article. I'm giving a seminar to my colleagues at the National Organization of Bar Counsel at the ABA convention in Orlando on August 1st, to encourage them to go online for legal research. Your article is a wonderful introduction to what the cyberworld offers....
[Tom McCormick, National Organization of Bar Counsel]
I have perused your article and I commend you for your presentation. I have been crusading within the law library and law school computer community for the past three years to get each law school to put their law reviews on the web. A few are now starting to do so. Eventually, I foresee the same result you do, self-publishing of articles....
User Services Coordinator
Rutgers School of Law at Newark
I enjoyed your article....I'm an NYU alumnus (class of 1988) and former executive editor of the Law Review.
For professors who are capable of it, self-publication through the Web sounds like an attractive and practically inevitable option.
I think, however, that there will turn out to be a significant number of legal academics who are not capable of preparing something readable and getting it into a professionally satisfactory form on their own.
The flip side of faculty complaints about obnoxious editing by underqualified student editors is the surprising number of submissions that arrive at a law review in horrendous shape. Not just with Bluebook irregularities, but with profound gaps and incomprehensibilities in both the text and the footnotes.
Everything seems to get accepted and published somewhere. A trend toward self-publication may mean that some less qualified authors will no longer be able to count on student editors to help them pull things together.
An issue to watch as self-publication develops will be whether these authors stop publishing (which wouldn't be a bad development) or simply post their faulty product on the Web and hope no one notices (which seems more likely to me).
[John D. Bennett]
If for some reason this change did not take place, I strongly suspect that careless or incompetent self-publishers would be marginalized by market forces (e.g. readers not bothering to read their stuff through, leaving nasty - or no - comments for them, etc. etc.). This might indeed force these individuals back to the law reviews, but I wonder whether it would necessarily be good for the reviews themselves to become dominated by or associated with authors who couldn't electronically "cut it" on their own.
An initial reaction from the title to your work might well be that you are "out to get" law reviews. A thorough reading of it discloses that such is not the case. Instead you persuasively demonstrate that the era of the traditional law review and its role in legal education is diminishing quickly.
Reading your article can be a bit scary -- at least it was for me. It was not scary in the sense of nightmares, horror stories or mental dimentia; rather it provoked for me the type of fear which I imagine is encompassed in the age-old concept that a mere mortal does not have sufficient emotional sustenance to handle a look at her future. What's even scarier is that I believe you are right on in your theme of "Last Writes."
A cornerstone to your elaborate and well-conceived piece is that a law review is merely a "means to an end" and not an "end" in itself. I readily acknowledge the validity of this concept today, but I also confess that for many (too many) years of my career, I have viewed the law review as the "end" itself. I need to publish these articles because I need to apply for promotions and tenure, etc. Unfortunately, I believe there are others in legal education that have a bit of this notion ingrained in their approach to scholarship. I am somewhat surprised that I am even willing to admit that I may suffer from this complex -- I think that this self-realization was brought about by the stark reality of the future as portrayed in your article.
Law reviews were created to deliver the message of scholars and scholars have been required to accept the idoscynchrasies of the law reviews in order to survive. This is quickly changing. One can now get his views published before the world without going through a law review editor. (Raise your hand if you truly believe law review editors have improved your product.) Additionally, the product can be displayed almost immediately. (Raise your hand if you truly believe law reviews have helped you get your message out in timely fashion.)
The latter observation has some interesting twists. We have all seen and will continue to see messages put forth on electronic media which have not been well-thought-out and which need to be cleaned up. The blame for this truly ought to fall on the author, should it not? This problem will be resolved (or not) as the technology advances and is not a real obstacle.
I think one of the most interesting questions you raise is "WHO" will take the lead in organizing the self- publication endeavor? Do we need a leader? Do we need quality control? Who will organize and run the show? As pointed out in your article, scholarship was originally seen in the form of letters from one scholar to another -- a crude, yet historically sound, method of publication.
The possibilities for leaders include the AALS, law schools (such as Chicago-Kent), and who knows???
Things are going to change. Our system is definitely on the path of electronic publishing and the skeptics will eventually swept away simply because there will be no one around to listen to them. This may not happen in the next year or even 5 years, but it will happen.
The message of your article was especially timely for me. Being the only teacher of family law at the only law school in the state, I have a rather captive audience consisting of bench, bar, and students. My family law book is the only book there is which is comprehensive and devoted exclusively to South Dakota Family Law. It is in its 3rd edition and I provide annual supplements. When I had finished the most recent supplement to my book, the State Bar asked me about putting the book on a web site. The possibilities are incredible. Those who want and need access to the material can get it quickly. The new developments in the law could be merged into the book at the web site. I haven't done this yet, but it will be done in the future I am certain. The limitations I now have with "hard copies" no longer exist.
Unfortunately, I do not have a computer capable of "surfing the net." There are such computers with mouses in our school, but not in my office. I cannot bring up the published version of your article on my own computer screen. But, I can do e-mail and I will sooner or later be surfing the net when the resources are there. So, for me and for many others in a situation like mine, I need to rely on hard copies. I still think in terms of hard copies, but I am adjusting. I don't react well when people tell me "you need to change;" nonetheless, when I discover the advantages of a new and better approach, I become real interested real quick. It won't be overnight, but I believe that many, if not all, in legal education will reassess their present tools. Certainly as the older ones retire and fade away, the new generation will have its way -- in the meantime I don't think I'll buy any stock in a law review.
[Professor Roger Baron, University of South Dakota School of Law]
This is just so neat. Who do you see as the collecting place for all this publishing? Findlaw at Stanford?
I am a legal researcher for a law firm in NZ and I will need to know that there is a place to go for the collection point or else we will miss out on knowing about the existence of this usefull resource.
With more and more legal jurisdictions putting up full text material we are in for a very exciting development in the way we do legal research.
At last the academics can control the intellectual product they create and place it where they chose. That is very satisfying. Lets hope they are reserving their E-rights for themselves.
The 3 dominant legal publishers do not appear to want to discuss what this new phenomemon means and it will be interesting to to see who will take up the offer being made by the Argonaut Project at Heiros Gamos. Publishers do not appear to realise a revenue stream may be able to be a reality in a different mode.
Many entities make a lot of money from the journal product which they basically get for nothing. The vendors of print and electronic indexes will have to look to their strategic plans as I think it will be difficult to include an internet cite in a traditional indexing tool.
Dear Professor Hibbitts:
... "Last Writes? Reassessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace"... is one of the most creative and well-researched articles that I have read in a long time. Scientists have used the Internet for a long [while] to get their works circulated (rather than wait for the slow process of traditional publishing). Perhaps it is inevitable that law professors would eventually follow in this tradition.
Ronald D. Rotunda
The Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law
The University of Illinois College of Law
Congratulations on your web-version of Last Writes. Whatever one might say abstractly about your argument, the site/publication itself goes along way toward demonstrating your principal thesis. It is one of the best web publications I have seen and makes wonderful use of the various technologies that now exist.
T. Gary Mitchell
202 Carnegie Center Dr.
Hi Bernie! ...I read your Last Writes paper.... Really a great piece of work. Needless to say I agree completely with your point of view and I was more than impressed with the way you published this. I also took the liberty of putting a link to it on my Web site. I think you have created a model for not just for Law Reviews but for *all* areas of publishing. Congratulations.... Hope you don't mind if I refer to you and your work in my talks around the world.
P.S. I am copying my legal colleagues at IBM who I am sure will be quite interested in Last Writes.
John R. Patrick
Vice President - Internet Technology
....I found ["Last Writes?"] entertaining, provocative, informative, and well-written.
I believe your prediction of the demise, or at least the increasing irrelevance, of the current print-based system is correct. I have long believed that the same thing is happening to judicial opinions. Cases are being accessed increasingly through electronic means and the published reporters are used less and less. Many people, including many law librarians, are resistant, but I think it's only a matter of time before the electronic versions become dominant. Changes will come, but I'm sure that the end result will be something that neither you nor I can now fully anticipate.
I have followed the discussion of your article in some of the e-mail discussion lists. I agree with some of the comments made in those forums, and I won't repeat them here. However, if you will permit me to quibble about details, I do think you missed one obvious point.
You discuss the need for pointers to Web articles and for filters to allow people to screen what's out there. You suggest that the AALS or an individual law school could fulfill these functions. In reality, no NEW entity is needed. WESTLAW and LEXIS/NEXIS are already fulfilling those functions for printed articles, and could easily evolve to deal with Web articles. LEXIS certainly recognizes the possibility, as indicated by the Dayton/Mead Data report you discuss.....
However, this is a relatively minor quibble with what I think was an excellent article. I'm glad I read it.
[Professor] Steve Bradford
College of Law
University of Nebraska
Dear Professor Hibbitts,
I just read your article....which I found interesting, and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought I might pass along to you a few comments that I wrote down as I read it. (I am a patent/intellectual property lawyer practicing in Philadelphia.)
Your points seem to assume no profit motivation. Those publishing for-profit articles and books might still rather publish by paper just to ensure a profit. Also, I see other problems with electronic publishing that I do not recall that you addressed. What about longevity? If an article or book is cited now, you can be reasonably certain that you could find a copy of it years later, if necessary. A web site may be taken down, so the cross-reference to an article may become totally useless after a given time. Also, I read Slate, and I find it annoying that it changes daily. With a normal journal or magazine that I get periodically, I receive a tangible, finite, fixed package in the mail that I can read and throw away or archive when I am done with it. With a journal that change all the time, I never know what I may have missed.
Even worse, I find it problematic that articles "published" electronically on one day may be amended or revised later by the author when he is alerted of mistakes. Because I then find I am never done reading the article--I read it, I am done with it--but then it might be revised later on. In fact, that would dissuade me from reading recent articles; I would want to wait a few months to let others find mistakes and have them made by the author. I.e., articles are never publihsed, only tentative drafts.
Plus, I like to underline words, make notes in the margin, etc., of books I read. This is at least cumbersome to do now with electronic copies.
Perhaps some or all these problems can someday be surmounted, but as of now and for the foreseeable future I don't see how. On the other hand, I have a few things I have written that are not published that I am considering electronically publishing myself on a web page.
A couple more random comments. I found your suggestion....that the practice of self-pub. may develop spontaneously [of interest], but then you list a few steps that can be taken to "accelerate" the process. This reminded me of the problem of Marxism: on the one hand, Marx said that the evolution of communism, the decline of capitalism, etc., was inevitable; yet he and other Marxists on the other hand wanted Communists to actively agitate for and try to bring it about.
I am also not sure your comments on copyright....are accurate. You seem to imply that if you publish an article in a law review, you lose your copyright in it unless you retain it. It is my understanding that an author retains his copyright unless it is somehow lost, through contract, work-for-hire, etc. I have published a few law review articles and do not recall ever assigning exclusive rights to the publisher, but only a *non*-exclusive right to them. (Some of them may have required that any future re-publication list he law review as the place of first publication.) That means the law review has the right to publish the article--maybe even to authorize re-publication elsewhere--but I retain the copyright as well. Thus, I have a right to authorize others to re-publish one of my previously-published law review articles. Thus, you do not need to "regain" copyright from a law review to be able to publish the article yourself on-line, or at least so it seems to me. (There may be some duty to account for profits, but here we are speaking of a non-profit situation.) I have not researched this issue lately, so I am not positive this is correct, but that is my current understanding. Nimmer on Copyrights should have a quick answer to this, but I have not looked at this specific issue recently.
Your suggestion....regarding a two-track publication system being unstable reminded me of Gresham's law whereby under a bimetallic system (silver & gold, e.g.), bad money drives out good.
N. Stephan Kinsella
Intellectual Property and High Tech Dept.
Internet Law & Computer Networking Practice Group
Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis
1600 Market Street, Suite 3600
Philadelphia, PA 19103
[The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the author's firm or of his clients.]
True. Most law professors - or others - writing in law reviews write to get their ideas out rather than to make money. "Trade" publishers might indeed wish to publish on paper to ensure a profit, as you suggest.
>>What about longevity? If an article or book is cited now, you can be reasonably certain that you could find a copy of it years later, if necessary. A web site may be taken down, so the cross-reference to an article may become totally useless after a given time.
This is potentially a problem, but it is one that certainly could be solved by responsible Web site management. An article stored in an AALS-electronic archive (such as I propose in Last Writes?) would be as unlikely (and perhaps, given thefts, more unlikely) to disappear as any given printed volume in your local law library.
>>I read Slate, and I find it annoying that it changes daily. With a normal journal or magazine that I get periodically, I receive a tangible, finite, fixed package in the mail that I can read and throw away or archive when I am done with it. With a journal that change all the time, I never know what I may have missed.
I've not read Slate myself, but "changes" in individual articles may be controlled by voluntarily limiting the frequency of revision (instead of making many small changes to online Version 1.0 of Last Writes?, I held them for several months and then made them all at once in Version 1.1). As a matter of course, old copies of a document should be electronically archived (although Version 1.1 of Last Writes? is the "current" version, you can still pull Version 1.0 from the "Archive" section of the paper).
>>I find it problematic that articles "published" electronically on one day may be amended or revised later by the author when he is alerted of mistakes. Because I then find I am never done reading the article--I read it, I am done with it--but then it might be revised later on. In fact, that would dissuade me from reading recent articles; I would want to wait a few months to let others find mistakes and have them made by the author. I.e., articles are never publihsed, only tentative drafts.
This is the "half-empty" theory of revision - I prefer the "half-full" version: revisions allow you to create and read a better product, if you choose to do so. Under current print-based practices, the author and the reader get one shot, and that's it. The fact that work can be revised should not, however, be used as an excuse to post junk - responsible authors will post first-instance products that in normal circumstances would be print-publishable; on the Web, however, those works will be allowed to change and improve over time, while most printed (fixed) materials will become irrelevant or dated, resulting in a loss of value for both author and (new) readers.
>>Plus, I like to underline words, make notes in the margin, etc., of books I read. This is at least cumbersome to do now with electronic copies.
True, but this will shortly change. Primitive annotation programs already exist. What's more, Web-based annotation may develop to the point where you can conveniently make your own annotatations available to others (potentially allowing you to create elaborate medieval-style "commentaries" on various electronically-published works).
>>You seem to imply that if you publish an article in a law review, you lose your copyright in it unless you retain it. It is my understanding that an author retains his copyright unless it is somehow lost, through contract, work-for-hire, etc. I have published a few law review articles and do not recall ever assigning exclusive rights to the publisher, but only a *non*-exclusive right to them.
You've been luckier than most. The majority of law reviews (and most of the leading ones) have traditionally required complete assignment of rights. I've only run into "non-exclusive licences" once, and that was in a relatively minor journal.
Thanks for the reference to "Last Writes". As an editor I have to commend you for a beautifully structured and highly communicative article and one which also uses the medium rather nicely.
I guess the problem I have with self-publishing in the professions is that of authentication, which is why something lie the HLR or the NEJM have a stronghold or even a stranglehold on the dissemination of information - if it's in there it must be correct as it has been authenticated by these guys who are a proxy for an academy.
In management and organizations, where I work, it doesn't really matter. People publish all sorts of hokum and it's caveat emptor whether you adopt it or not. The cost is usually no more than a couple of percentage points more or less profit than you would have made anyway.....
With best wishes,
[Editor, Internet Research; BCB International Ltd. Management Consultants]
Thanks for ["Last Writes?"]-- a terrifically comprehensive and thoughtful article on our weird tribal customs.
[Professor Robert Weisberg, Stanford Law School]
As a former law review editor, I greatly appreciated your article. The history was impeccable, not to mention a good read. (Even though I didn't do the footnotes.) The problems and criticisms you noted expose many of the difficulties inherent in the American law review system. At one point, I was not entirely certain whether your voice was one of whimsy or bitterness. (A point in your favor.) As I progressed through the article, however, I concluded that bitter it was.
I must admit that I lost a bit of interest in the end. The tone became too strident for my tastes (call me a conservative former law review student-editor if you will), and the medium you are espousing, as it currently exists, is not sufficiently developed to effectively present what you wish. That, of course, will change with time and technological advance.
But for now, call me a stickler. I adore the smell of old paper. I revel in the experience of pulling dusty volumes from a stack. Yes, I am a bit of a computer geek, but, the concept of the death of print medium as we know it causes me not inconsiderable pain.
I truly enjoyed reading your article. As a pre-1L (starting in the fall - do not know where yet ) I hope I can be involved with the eventual transition of the Law Review.
[President, Buyer's Advantage Realtors, Houston, TX]
Dear Associate Professor Hibbitts,
I am a post-grad student at The University of Melbourne and I am just completing a masters degree on historical authorship on the web and CD ROM. I am comparing how the normal practices of book based authorship compare to historical hypertext productions. I have just read your article on print journals and I will offer a brief response.
Firstly, the article is very rich in ideas, but the thesis is so fundamentally flawed that I do not know where to begin. All I can offer is a brief statement as the time an effort to go through the paper systematically is beyond the scope of the paper's worth. Firstly, you introduce the history of the law journal effectively and set out to state a problem. The problem is that there are too many journals, they are edited by "students"(who you see incompetent) and the editorial process is a bottle neck (and does not add any value to the publication process.) You then state that there is growing dissatisfaction within the profession concerning journals. My question to you is, how do you know? You use two or three examples of complaints, but there are about 400 journals! To introduce a problem like this, surely you have to at least get a broader selection. I am sure that there are a few people dissatisfied with the United States health system, but it does not mean you close it down.
You assert that the web and information technology is cheap or somehow free (as I type this into my $3000 computer), and then you go on with a whole bunch of inconsistencies. One is that you claim that it is difficult to get an article in a journal because they are always "filled up" then a few pages later you claim that electronic publication is effective because articles do not have to be put in it as space "filler". You then claim that self-publishing is going to fix all our problems and use an example from 1665 to somehow legitimization through historical precedent. (They also burned witches during this period, perhaps we should revert to this as well.) You are basically claiming that legal editors serve little or no use and students are corrupt and incompetent. Not a bad thesis, and you wouldn't be the first professor to claim this. But I am only a new post-grad student and I know virtually nothing about legal practice nor journals. What I can recognize is a good paper, a good thesis and a well argued point of view, and if I may be so bold, your paper reflect precious little of this. Surely this proof alone is enough to convince you of some of the huge dangers in self-publishing. Who is perfect?
University of Melbourne]
I enjoyed reading Last Writes....I am an editor for a physics journal....I believe some journal publishers, notably Elsevier, are now requiring authors to remove papers posted on eprint servers when they are accepted by the journal. This seems to be selective by subfield, though, since they would probably be boycotted if they did so in high-energy physics.
Physical Review B
American Physical Society
[The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Physical Review]