Apr 15

Law Journals (or Law Reviews)

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Law Journals (Law Reviews) LibTour QR CodeThis CALI LibTour on Law Journals, also called Law Reviews, was written by Melanie Oberlin. Melanie is the Instructional Services Librarian at the George Mason University School of Law. You can download the audio file here.

LibTour Poster:

Librarians and legal writing professors:  Download the pre-made, letter-sized poster. Print the PDF and post it close to your library’s collection. Students can scan the QR code to hear the audio file instantly on their smart phones.

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This CALI LibTour covers law journals, which are also called law reviews. These are scholarly journals with articles about the law.

Each law journal publishes a few issues per year. New issues are paperback. Some libraries bind a year’s worth together in hardback. Often, the new, paperback issues are located in one place, and the bound volumes are located elsewhere in the library.

If you look at the front cover of a paperback issue, you see the title of the journal, the volume number, issue number, and date. You see a list of the Articles, Notes, and Comments. Articles are written by professionals – usually law professors, but sometimes practicing judges or attorneys. Notes and Comments are written by students. Each article covers a very specific point of law.

The specificity is what makes law journal articles a unique secondary source. Remember that secondary sources are writings about the law. The law itself is called a primary source, or primary authority. Law journal articles are similar to treatises – another secondary source – because they are written by an author who knows a lot about the subject, and they include extensive footnotes to primary authority and other secondary authority. If a law journal article is written by a well-known scholar, is published in a well-regarded journal, or includes excellent analysis, it may be cited in legal documents.

You might use a law journal article to understand a point of law or help craft an argument for a memo or a brief. For example, let’s say that in your Civil Procedure class you learned about pleadings standards, and your professor mentioned Twombly and Iqbal, two Supreme Court decisions about pleadings. You might find law review articles to help you understand these decisions. Each article will provide a brief history about pleading standards, analyze the two decisions in detail, give examples of how the decisions will affect specific cases, and, finally, raise questions about the usefulness of the decisions or suggest how lower courts should apply them.

To find law journal articles, you could search the “law reviews and journals” database on Westlaw or Lexis. Or, you could use an index to legal periodicals to help you find citations to articles. Law journal articles are available in print, and online at Westlaw, Lexis, HeinOnLine, and at the journal’s website.

Hopefully, you will find a helpful article that was written recently. You don’t update articles using KeyCite or Shepard’s like you do for cases. Instead, if an article is old or seems out-of-date, you simply look for a newer article on the same subject.