A recent study by Ross E. Davies, editor in chief of The Green Bag and a professor of law at George Mason University reveals that print subscriptions to law reviews are declining dramatically.
Davies compared the subscription numbers for the flagship law reviews of 15 top tier law schools and found that all of them “have seen significant drops – most in the range of half to two-thirds – in their print circulations.”
The author wonders whether this drop “might be connected to a drop in influence or status” or if it is simply because more journals are now available online. I suspect both. It’s true that libraries, at least, are canceling print subscriptions to journals that are available to them electronically. But there have also been some indications that the influence of law reviews may also be declining.
For example, a 2005 study on the judicial citation of student notes revealed that:
the average note published in 1980 has been cited 3.5 more times than the average note published in 2000. This decline appears to correlate to a similar decline in the judicial citation of professional legal scholarship. Of course, if the number of opinions declined at the same rate, we would expect a decline in citations, but it is almost certain that the number of opinions has, in fact, increased over the period studied.
See also When Rendering Decisions, Judges Are Finding Law Reviews Irrelevant (New York Times) which suggests that availability of blogs in which “law professors analyze legal developments with skill and flair almost immediately after they happen” may be contributing to the shift in influence.