Working Paper No. 09-15:
The Original Law Journals

Author(s):

Ross Davies

Date Posted: March 2009

Availability:
Abstract (below) | Full text (most recent) on SSRN

Abstract:

Commercially speaking, law journalism was a risky business in the early Republic. According to Frederick Hicks, of the 30 legal periodicals that went into business before 1850, 24 also went out of business before 1850. And of the six that survived into the second half of the century, five expired by 1866, leaving just one to carry on over the long term. (That one is the Legal Intelligencer of Philadelphia, which is still in operation today.) A simple recitation of Hicks's body count does not, however, reveal the full intensity of the semi-Hobbesian existence of those early journals. A few features of their experience merit a bit more attention. First, the very short lifespans. Second, the total number of failures. Third, the persistence of failure despite enthusiastic support from pillars of the bar. And fourth, the depths of obscurity into which those failed journals have tended to fall.