Law Review Begets Law Firm Review: Brief History Of The UPenn Law Review

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review has existed, in some form or another, for the past 160 years. It remains one of the oldest continuously published legal periodicals in the United States.

Like other law reviews, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review was a product of various legal reforms enacted during the mid nineteenth century. As a reaction to these changes, the Law Review was created as an attempt to balance the pragmatic orientation of the industry with the academic approach of the legal publishing world (Greenlee 1875).

Upon its foundation, the Law Review was forced to find ways to fund the publication and its staff, especially during periods of financial instability and at times of fluctuation in student population. After all, 1852 was the onset of the American Civil War.

In fact, 1852 was quite an impressionable year for law.

Not only was the Law Review (under the name American Law Register) first printed, but Harriet Beecher Stowe also published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, bringing the issue of slavery to the legal and social forefront.

Thus, at its inception, the Law Review was alreadylooking to grant equal opportunity to students and lawyers of diverse racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds (Greenlee 1876-1879).

Over the years, the content and tone of the Law Review has evolved. But, by the 1890s, the Law Review assumed the form recognizable today, referred to frequently as case method.

“Students who excelled in the classroom wrote for the Law Review, where they typically applied this scientific analysis [the case method] to a recently decided case,” quotes Greenlee in “The University of Pennsylvania Law Review: 150 Years of History” (Greenlee 1881).

And, it is still students who determine whether or not an article is accepted for publication.

Ergo, within the lifetime of its founding editors, the Law Review had built an institution that adjusted for risk, encouraged diversity, implemented structure, and embraced youth in the field.

Today, law firms are wise to remember this basis for law review.

For example, it’s not often that young associates are trusted for their opinion or included in high-profile cases.

In addition, law firms these days have forgotten the importance of structure, especially at the higher levels. Managing and equity partners are often left to their own devices just because “they made partner”—regardless of the hours they (may or may not) keep, clients they seldom attract, or colleagues they’re prone to abuse.

It’s rare that a law firm would use peer review on their partners. And, sometimes, it’s exactly this structure and rule-enforcement that’s needed.

Furthermore, although diversity is improving, the industry of law still ranks low on the level of women or minorities in senior positions.

And, finally, firms like Howrey LLP remind use that law is still slow to incorporate administrative innovation, embrace technological change, or look for methods to diffuse financial risk.

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review continues to be one of the most revered legal publications in the U.S. and the world. A simple look back on their history and their business model explains why.

 

-WB

Reference:

Edwin J. Greenlee, “The University of Pennsylvania Law Review: 150 Years of History,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review , Vol. 150, No. 6 (Jun., 2002), pp. 1875-1904. Published by: The University of Pennsylvania Law Review [URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3312982?seq=7]

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