Working Paper No. 11-16:
Three Invitations to Law & Commentary
Date Posted: April 2011
Abstract (below) | Full text (most recent) on SSRN
If Law & Commentary survives, it will be due to some combination of its approaches to: (a) peer review and article selection; and (b) commentary on the works it publishes. We begin with an unusual approach to peer review: Each article we publish will be accompanied by at least two signed review essays by senior, leading scholars in relevant fields. Imagine a symposium issue in which a panel of top scholars selects (in collaboration with an editor) one of the best not-yet-published works in the panelists’ area of expertise, and then they write substantial comments to be published side-by-side with that work. The contributions made by those leading scholars are at the core of this project: (1) they lend their knowledge of the relevant field and their connections within it to the identification and solicitation of excellent new work; (2) they lend their good names – their reputations – to the selection and publication of that work by publicly endorsing it; and (3) they add to the substantive quality of the work by providing their own explanations and extensions of it in signed companion essays. There are two interrelated concerns motivating this version of peer review. First, there is the difficulty junior scholars – and also senior scholars working in areas outside their established specialties – sometimes have placing first-class articles in appropriate journals and generally drawing attention to their best work. Second, there is the difficulty consumers of legal scholarship can have identifying which articles – out of the thousands published every year – most merit their attention. Articles placed in a few leading law journals will enjoy wide notice. But there are not many slots in those journals, and few of those few go to the work of relatively junior or unknown scholars. So, for the underappreciated scholar and the people who ought to be reading that scholar’s best work, an additional, accessible, credible signal of quality might well be a big help. Law & Commentary is, one might say, the journal of error-correction in article selection – a home for articles that should be appearing in top journals but for some reason unrelated to the quality of the work are not. This approach is based on two kinds of optimism about the intellectual and collegial capacities of legal scholars. Optimism that there are more good articles out there than the average reader currently gets to see, and optimism that there are prominent senior legal scholars who can and will invest in bringing that scholarship the attention it merits.