The Law Review RSS Project

A link to the Law Review RSS Project.

I am a dedicate user of RSS feeds. RSS is a format that strips away all the stuff that might bog down content on a site and gives a simple version of it for easy aggregation by sites like Feedly (or the long dead Google Reader).

Rather that needing to visit hundreds of websites each day (okay, so maybe I'm the only one who'd be inclined to visit hundreds of websites each day...), or several times a day to catch updated and new content, an RSS aggregator allows users to look at all these sites' content in a single stream. It also offers the advantage of time-delayed reading; unlike Twitter, where if you miss it when it's at the top of your feed you may miss it for good without some real effort or a lucky retweet, all the RSS content is held for whenever you choose to read it.

I've aggregated about 100 law review Twitter accounts in a list (which you can subscribe to here), but their levels of activity can vary wildly--some have been dormant for years, and others regularly tweet content unrelated to the articles they publish. Concurring Opinions launched a "Law Review Contents" feed years ago, but it's mostly fallen into disuse.

Therefore, I started the Law Review RSS Project. I started crawling through law review websites and extracting their RSS feeds. Some of them make this very easy to find. Others do not. Still others have no RSS feed at all.

The RSS feeds of these journals will provide you with access in your RSS reader of these journals' content as soon as it's pushed out to their website. Of course, some journals are slower than others in pushing out the content--but when it gets there, you can read it.

I hope to slowly add more feeds as I have the time to do so in the months ahead. But please let me know if you notice problems with the RSS feeds, or if you find a feed that I couldn't. I appreciate any and all feedback!

Draft work in progress: "The High Cost of Lowering the Bar"

My colleague Rob Anderson and I have posted a draft article, The High Cost of Lowering the Bar on SSRN. From the abstract:

In this Essay, we present data suggesting that lowering the bar examination passing score will likely increase the amount of malpractice, misconduct, and discipline among California lawyers. Our analysis shows that bar exam score is significantly related to likelihood of State Bar discipline throughout a lawyer’s career. We investigate these claims by collecting data on disciplinary actions and disbarments among California-licensed attorneys. We find support for the assertion that attorneys with lower bar examination performance are more likely to be disciplined and disbarred than those with higher performance.

Although our measures of bar performance only have modest predictive power of subsequent discipline, we project that lowering the cut score would result in the admission of attorneys with a substantially higher probability of State Bar discipline over the course of their careers. But we admit that our analysis is limited due to the imperfect data available to the public. For a precise calculation, we call on the California State Bar to use its internal records on bar scores and discipline outcomes to determine the likely impact of changes to the passing score.

We were inspired by the lack of evidence surrounding costs that may be associated with lowering the "cut score" required to pass the California bar, and we offered this small study as one data point toward that end. The Wall Street Journal cited the draft this week, and we've received valuable feedback from a number of people. We welcome more feedback! (We also welcome publication offers!)

The paper really does two things--identifies the likelihood of discipline associated with the bar exam score, and calls on the State Bar to engage in more precise data collection and analysis when evaluating the costs and benefits of changing the cut score.

It emphatically does not do several things. For instance, it does not identify causation and identifies a number of possible reasons for the disparity (at pp. 12-13 of the draft). Additionally, it simply identifies a cost--lower the cut score will likely increase attorneys subject to discipline. It does not make any effort to weigh that cost--it may well be the case that the State Bar views the cost as acceptable given the trade-off of benefits (e.g., more attorneys, more access to justice, etc.) (see pp. 11-12 of the draft). Or it might be the case that the occupational licensing of the state bar and the risk of attorney discipline should not hinge on correlation measures like bar exam score.

There are many, for instance, who have been thoughtfully critically of the bar exam and would likely agree that our findings are accurate but reject that they should be insurmountable costs. Consider thoughtful commentary from Professor Deborah Jones Merritt at the Law School Cafe, who has long had careful and substantive critiques about the use of the bar exam generally.

It has been our hope that these costs are addressed in a meaningful, substantial, and productive way. We include many caveats in our findings for that reason.

Unfortunately, not everyone has reacted to this draft that way.

The Daily Journal (print only) solicited feedback on the work with a couple of salient quotations. First:

Bar Trustee Joanna Mendoza said she agreed the study should not be relied on for policy decisions.

“I am not persuaded by the study since the professors did not have the data available to prove their hypothesis,” she said.

We feel confident in our modest hypothesis--that attorneys with lower bar exam scores are subject to higher rates of discipline. We use two methods to support this. We do not have individualized data that would allow us the precision of measuring the precise effect, but we are confident in this major hypothesis.

Worse, however, is the disappointing answer. Our draft expressly calls on the State Bar to study the data! While we can only roughly address the impact at the macro level, we call on the bar to use data for more precise information! We do hope that the California State Bar would do so. But it appears it will not--at least, not unless it has already planned on doing so:

Bar spokeswoman Laura Ernde did not directly address questions about the Pepperdine professors’ study or their call for the bar to review its internal data, including non-public discipline. Ernde wrote in an email that the agency would use its ongoing studies to make recommendations to the Supreme Court about the bar exam.

Second are the remarks from David L. Faigman, dean of the University of California Hastings College of Law. Dean Faigman has been one of the most vocal advocates for lowering the cut score (consider this Los Angeles Times opinion piece.) His response:

Among his many critiques, Faigman said the professors failed to factor in a number of variables that impact whether an attorney is disciplined. 

“If they were to publish it in its current form, it would be about as irresponsible a product of empirical scholarship I could imagine putting out for public consumption,” Faigman said. “God forbid anybody of policy authority should rely on that manuscript.”

It's hard to know how to address a critique when the epithet "irresponsible" is the substance of the critique.

We concede many variables that may cause attorney discipline (pp. 12-13), and the paper makes no attempt to address that. Instead, we're pointing out that lower bar scores correlate with higher discipline rates; and lowering the score further would likely result in still higher discipline rates. Yes, many factors go into discipline--but the consequence of lowering the cut score will still remain, a consequence of higher discipline.

And our call for policy authorities to "rely" on the manuscript is twofold--to consider that there are actual costs to lowering the cut score, and to use more data to more carefully evaluate those costs. Both, I think, are valuable things for a policy authority to "rely" upon.

We hope that the paper sparks a more nuanced and thoughtful discussion than the one that has been waged in lobbying the State Bar and state legislature so far. We hardly know what the "right" cut score is, or the full range of costs and benefits that arise at varying changes to the cut score of the bar exam. But we hope decisionmakers patiently and seriously engage with these costs and benefits in the months--and, perhaps ideally, years--ahead.

The twenty-two (or twenty-three) law reviews you should follow on Twitter (2016)

While you could follow a pretty sizeable list of law reviews I've maintained on Twitter, there are a handful of law reviews that rise above the rest.

Last year, I listed the twenty-two law reviews to follow on Twitter. I've modified the criteria slightly and updated it. I've mentioned that I find Twitter one of the best places to stumble upon scholarship and engage in a first layer of discussion about new ideas.

In my view, it continues to surprise me how challenging it is to find recently journal content. Many journals don't maintain a Twitter feed, much less a decent web site--most lack an RSS, are updated infrequently at best, and often include stock art (because, apparently, law reviews are into stock art?). Given scarce resources that law schools have today, one might expect schools to find ways of maximizing the value from their investments in their journals. (More on this soon.)

Alas, I'll settle for the occasional tweet on the subject. I looked at the flagship law reviews at the 106 law schools with a U.S. News & World Report peer score of 2.2 or higher.  If I found their Twitter accounts, I included them. I then examined how many tweets they had, how many followers they had, and when their last tweet (not a retweet) took place. I then created a benchmark, modified slightly from last year: the law reviews "worth following" are those with at least 200 tweets, at least 200 followers, and at least one tweet (not a retweet or direct reply) in the last 45 days (as of July 1, 2016). I thought that would be a pretty minimal standard for level of engagement and recency of engagement. This 200/200/45 standard reduces the list to 23 accounts worth following (UPDATE: the original list was just 22, but I found one more thanks to Elli Olson):

Harvard Law Review

Yale Law Journal

University of Chicago Law Review

NYU Law Review

California Law Review

Penn Law Review

Michigan Law Review

Northwestern University Law Review

Georgetown Law Journal

UCLA Law Review

George Washington Law Review

Ohio State Law Journal

Iowa Law Review

University of Illinois Law Review

Hastings Law Journal

Washington & Lee Law Review

Connecticut Law Review

Case Western Reserve Law Review

Georgia State University Law Review

Nebraska Law Review

St. Louis University Law Journal

Syracuse Law Review

Michigan State Law Review

It's fairly notable, I think, that a majority of the schools on this list have a top-30 peer reputation score. Indeed, follower count is highly correlated with peer score (0.59)! There is also a high degree of continuity between last year's list and this year's list, showing, I think, that continuity matters for many of these journals' social media presence--and, perhaps, that it's harder for many journals to get anything started with a lasting institutional memory.

Below is the complete list of these journals, with 200/200/45 law reviews highlighted. If you see a journal not listed, tweet me about it @derektmuller.

Peer score Journal Tweets Followers Last tweet (not RT)
4.8 @HarvLRev 850 18900 June 23, 2016
4.8 @YaleLJournal 792 8676 June 23, 2016
4.8 @StanLRev 458 5722 April 29, 2016
4.6 @UChiLRev 349 4666 June 27, 2016
4.6 @ColumLRev 294 3747 October 31, 2015
4.5 @nyulawreview 1415 6390 June 29, 2016
4.5 @CalifLRev 398 2918 May 20, 2016
4.4 @PennLawReview 413 2837 May 21, 2016
4.4 @michlawreview 265 2254 June 21, 2016
4.3 @VirginiaLawRev 42 670 June 1, 2016
4.2 @NULRev 241 1015 June 30, 2016
4.2 @DukeLawJournal 66 1172 June 13, 2016
4.2 @CornellLRev 0 11 n/a
4.1 @GeorgetownLJ 325 1080 June 23, 2016
4.0 @TexasLRev 458 2059 April 28, 2016
3.9 @UCLALawReview 223 2332 June 23, 2016
3.9 Vanderbilt  
3.6 @emorylawjournal 85 211 June 28, 2016
3.5 @MinnesotaLawRev 112 625 June 29, 2016
3.5 Washington (St. Louis)  
3.4 @BULawReview 530 1232 October 19, 2015
3.4 @nclrev 76 160 March 28, 2016
3.4 @NotreDameLawRev 52 532 April 22, 2016
3.4 @SCalLRev 11 108 May 3, 2016
3.4 Wisconsin  
3.3 @GWLawReview 670 710 June 15, 2016
3.3 @OhioStateLJ 627 1486 June 29, 2016
3.3 @IowaLawReview 273 1196 May 16, 2016
3.3 @UCDavisLawRev 166 430 January 29, 2016
3.3 Indiana (Bloomington)  
3.2 @BCLawReview 372 1439 April 4, 2016
3.2 @WashLawReview 126 1175 May 21, 2015
3.2 @AlaLawReview 44 633 March 28, 2016
3.2 @GaLRev 32 411 April 4, 2016
3.2 Irvine  
3.2 William & Mary  
3.1 @fordhamlrev 381 2010 May 2, 2016
3.1 @UIllLRev 259 1202 May 29, 2016
3.1 @HastingsLJ 207 518 June 29, 2016
3.1 @FloridaLawRev 122 306 June 28, 2016
3.1 @arizlrev 32 242 July 1, 2015
3.1 @ArizStLJ 29 10 April 18, 2016
3.1 Colorado  
3.0 @WFULawReview 793 694 April 23, 2016
3.0 @WLU_LawReview 279 225 June 28, 2016
3.0 @TulaneLawReview 40 611 March 6, 2015
3.0 Maryland  
2.9 Florida State  
2.8 @BYULRev 42 103 May 11, 2016
2.8 @UtahLawReview 0 6 n/a
2.7 @ConnLRev 854 1188 May 25, 2016
2.7 @AmULRev 356 935 November 13, 2015
2.7 @geomasonlrev 219 258 February 18, 2016
2.7 @UMLawReview 193 946 June 3, 2016
2.7 @denverlawreview 153 686 April 26, 2016
2.7 @CardozoLRev 118 1079 June 28, 2016
2.7 @ukanlrev 105 528 September 25, 2014
2.7 @OregonLawReview 7 372 April 7, 2015
2.7 Tennessee  
2.6 @CaseWResLRev 821 840 June 23, 2016
2.6 @GSULawReview 646 268 June 29, 2016
2.6 @PeppLawReview 604 751 April 1, 2016
2.6 @TempleLawReview 38 67 May 18, 2016
2.6 @KYLawJournal 17 157 March 20, 2012
2.6 @LLSlawreview 11 25 March 23, 2016
2.6 @MoLawRev 11 42 June 7, 2016
2.6 @Houston_L_Rev 5 35 April 28, 2016
2.6 @PittLawReview 0 15 n/a
2.6 San Diego  
2.6 SMU  
2.5 @NebLRev 253 258 June 23, 2016
2.5 @LUCLawJournal 169 131 May 21, 2014
2.5 Chicago-Kent  
2.5 Hawaii  
2.4 @SCLawReview 541 892 April 14, 2016
2.4 @NevLawJournal 70 145 May 22, 2016
2.4 @RutgersLRev 63 631 April 3, 2015
2.4 @nuljournal 47 346 June 22, 2016
2.4 @RutgersLJ 12 526 May 2, 2014
2.4 @BrookLRev 0 4 n/a
2.4 Baylor  
2.4 Cincinnati  
2.4 Indiana (Indianapolis)  
2.4 Lewis & Clark  
2.4 Oklahoma  
2.4 Richmond  
2.4 Santa Clara  
2.3 @SLULawJournal 639 558 June 7, 2016
2.3 @SyracuseLRev 538 946 June 26, 2016
2.3 @HULawJournal 532 715 November 4, 2015
2.3 @MichStLRev 402 780 June 11, 2016
2.3 @SULawRev 53 91 February 20, 2016
2.3 @VillanovaLawRev 44 150 June 25, 2016
2.3 @SHULawReview 22 203 January 28, 2014
2.3 Marquette  
2.3 New Mexico  
2.2 @arklawrev 165 1839 February 15, 2016
2.2 @MaineLawReview 103 650 December 3, 2015
2.2 @lalawreview 95 910 March 24, 2016
2.2 @MSLawJournal 70 223 April 13, 2016
2.2 @UofL_Law_Review 16 46 March 31, 2016
2.2 @UMKCLawReview 5 91 April 22, 2016
2.2 @WVU_Law_Rev 4 26 Jule 28, 2013
2.2 DePaul  
2.2 Hofstra  
2.2 SUNY (Buffalo)