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March 01, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Student Control of Law Reviews Presents No Ethical Dilemma

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As a student editor of a law review, I take issue with Professor Neil Hamilton’s argument that the long-standing tradition of student-edited and managed legal journals represents a universal ethical lapse on the part of law school faculty. (Neil Hamilton, The Law Faculty’s Ethical Failures Regarding Student-Edited Law Reviews, 23 The Prof’l Law. no. 4 (2016)). The practice of law is not a science. Hamilton’s analogy of the law journal editorial process to scientific peer review ignores a crucial distinction. As time passes, we do not learn more about the law as it exists in nature, we learn more about how the law we have created shapes the natural world and society, and what new laws may be needed.

We as members of the legal profession are not furthering the advancement of the law in the same way that scientists advance understanding of the physical universe. We are not applying and refining methods to understand a world that exists independent of ourselves. Rather, we are learning how to create a forum for society to decide its own system of rules and norms, offering different ideas and ways of understanding the choices available to us. Each generation of law students brings a new perspective on the social values, problems and opportunities that await practicing attorneys. This perspective is exactly why students are well-suited to editing and controlling the content of those journals leading the discussion of trending topics in the law.

There is room in the community for student-, academic-, and practitioner-managed journals. Do not ask students to abandon their 100-year, 50-year, or even 20-year legacies of blood, sweat, and tears in the service of law journals. Offer guidance, but do not take control.


Dean Williams

Seattle University Law Review | Managing Editor