Davies in National Law Journal: Paid Circulation of Law Journals Drops

A study by Professor Ross Davies indicates that flagship law reviews have seen a significant decline in paid subscriptions over the past three decades, with an especially steep drop in recent years.

Collecting information from the U.S. Postal Service to track circulation of 21 law reviews from 1979 to 2009, Davies discovered that circulation rates had fallen as much as 77 percent in the case of the Harvard Law Review and 57 percent for The Yale Law Journal.

Davies attributes the trend primarily to two factors: First, electronic access to law journals and their articles is readily available, so readers no longer need a paid subscription to view content. In addition, Davies believes that academics have become the primary target for law journals, as opposed to practicing attorneys.

Declining paid circulation does not necessarily equate to decreased readership, however. Davies points out that the availability of law journals online may indicate an overall increase in readership.

"The worry is on the influence end," said Davies. "The question is now, 'How useful are we?'"

Study Finds Sharp Decline in Law Review Circulation, The National Law Journal, February 18, 2010. By Karen Sloan.

"Rival law schools present another market for law reviews, but they don't tend to need multiple hard copies because these publications can be shared in a reading room or online.

"Davies didn't track paid subscription of more specialized reviews, but theorized that they may attract a greater percentage of subscribers who are practicing attorneys."

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