A year or so ago, I chanced upon stacked copies of law journals which were left for dead along the hallowed halls of this College’s corridors. Apparently these were copies which weren’t claimed or were printed in excess of what was needed. Considering that law journals are simply gathering dust in our libraries, the sight served as a rather stark reminder that another age of antiquity has come to pass, deluged by the advent of Westlaw, Google and the internet. Today, save for the occasional visitor deeply interested in the academic tomes of old, I think it’d be a rare thing to find a student - not to mention a member of the bar or the bench - going through the rich material of academic discourse. With the seeming lack of attention brought on by complacent snobbery on one side and easy accessibility to other sources on the other (e.g. legal columns in the newspapers and jurisprudence), where can academic law journals, in general, find relevance?
If relevance can be equated with readership, then perhaps the answer lies within the academe’s own digital walls. If journal entries, spanning the length of decades, could be digitized, if it could be categorized and indexed under specific topics, subjects, keywords, and/or even arguments, then maybe it can find usefulness in an age where Wikipedia seems to be the governing guide for most students in need of a quick academic fix. When topics are discussed in class, students often have to go through the gamut of assigned cases in their professor’s outlines, not knowing that these may have already been summarized in a law journal by a renowned jurist, an able practitioner, or even a run-of-the-mill student. To give students the “webified” (or the at the very least, a refined “indexable”) option to read these journals without the rigorous journey of “trial, error, luck, eventual discovery” that usually accompanies research, would certainly be a phenomenal feat. Not only would it benefit the student, who yearns for knowledge beyond the four walls of assigned cases, but it would also certainly benefit the authors, who’ll now have a ready and willing audience. The journals themselves, as edited and published academic guidebooks, could then serve its original role of sharing knowledge rather than being relegated to just being another line in a would-be lawyer’s resume.