The Birth of a Student Law Review

The University of Western Ontario has been the only common law school in Canada without a student-run law review. Until now.

After years and several attempts of starting a student-run law review, the faculty finally approved the launch of a new peer-reviewed legal journal. This current effort started over a year ago, when I thought that it was ridiculous that we didn’t have our own academic publication that our student body could get involved with and administer themselves.

After consulting with a number of other colleagues in my year with a background in publishing, notably Joel Welch, Kamila Pizon, and Leo Law, I founded the Western Law Review Association to formalize our efforts to launch a review and gain full support of the student body. The students following us continued the task to fruition, eventually gaining the support of the school through a number of revisions and a presentation to the entire faculty.

The current students responsible for the launch include: Justin Anisman (1L), Suzie Chiodo (3L), Lisa Di Valentino (2L, president), John Mather (2L), Rajeeve Thakur (3L), and Ben Tinholt (2L). The current faculty advisors include: Erika Chamberlain, Valerie Oosterveld, Sam Trosow, and Margaret-Ann Wilkinson.

The final name the students decided on for the journal was the University of Western Ontario Journal of Legal Studies (Western Journal of Legal Studies for short). A significant debate still exists over the credibility of an exclusively online journal compared to a print publication, and the costs associated with the latter option bear close scrutiny. A more central discussion surrounds whether the journal should be topic-specific or of a general nature.

The students aim to have their first issue published by December 2011, an ambitious goal that all of you can assist with by helping to spread the word. They will initially be publishing student submissions.

History of Student Reviews at UWO

This student-run law review will not be the first at Western Law. In 1959 the Western Law Review (U.W.O. L. Rev.) was established the same year the school opened its doors, releasing its first issue in 1961. By 1962-1963, the circulation extended to the Middlesex Bar Association, with contributions from both faculty and members of the bar. Circulation continued to increase, with Carswell Ltd. of Toronto distributing in 1964, and an entry in the Index to Legal Periodicals in 1965.

But in 1965 the journal changed its name to the Western Ontario Law Review, and by this point most of the contributions were by faculty members and articling students. By 1968, student contributions had ceased, although editing and administration continued by the student body. Student cotnributions resumed briefly in 1969.

The student law journal changed its name yet again in 1976 to the University of Western Ontario Law Review, and was picked up by Wilfred Laurier University Press in 1981. The final issue was published in 1986-1987, after 24 volumes since 1959. In its place, the school began a faculty-run journal with a more specific focus, the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (CJLJ).

The reason for the demise of the student review is speculated to include waning faculty interest in supporting the student review, and a perception that there were already too many law reviews on the market with a general focus.

Delivery Format and Focus

As may be expected, the students predominantly prefer an online journal. However, there is still considerable reservations that law journals are taken more seriously when they produce a printed publication.

Some American law journals that have moved online without compromising quality or reputation include The Harvard International Law Journal, The Harvard Law Review Project, and The Richmond Journal of Law and Technology.

Given the reasons for the previous renditions of Western’s student law review being discontinued, the possibility of a topically-focused law review has been considered. But the best way to foster student participation in submitting articles would likely be a review with a more general focus.

The new law journal is already accepting submission for consideration in the first issue. A Facebook fan page can be found here. Spreading the word to potential contributors is the best way to ensure the new law review meets its goal of a first issue by the end of 2011.

Current Canadian Student Law Reviews

Here is a list of the current student-run law reviews in Canada:

Eastern Canada

Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies (est. 1991)

University of New Brunswick Law Journal (est. 1947)

Central Canada

McGill Law Journal (est. 1952)

Queen’s Law Journal (est. 1971)

Ottawa Law Review (est. 1966)

Osgoode Hall Law Journal (est. 1958)

U of T Faculty of Law Review (est. 1942)
U of T Journal of Law & Equality (est. 2004)
Indigenous Law Journal (est. 2002)
Journal of International Law & International Relations (est. 2004)

Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues (est. 1989)

Western Canada

Manitoba Law Journal (est. 1961)

Saskatchewan Law Review (est. 1967)

Alberta Law Review (UofC and UofA) (est. 1955)

UBC Law Review (est. 1959)

Appeal (UVic) (est. 1993)

Sample Website

Here is a sample of how the website design could appear:

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this article, Omar. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Internet will contribute to the growth of this publication.

    I just wanted to make it clear that this is a journal of student publications (at least for now). So it is peer-reviewed, albeit students reviewing other students (with faculty in an advisory role). Other such publications in Canadian law schools are the UofT Faculty of Law Review, and the Dal Journal of Legal Studies (linked in the article).

    A second thing I’d like to point out is that the journal will be entirely open access, and will conform to Open Access Law Principles, following publications such as the Ottawa Law and Technology Journal, and the McGill Journal of Law and Health.

  2. IMHO – forget print. I don’t think the credibility factor of print is that significant any more. Because there are so many law reviews out there, and I suspect the readership is limited, why not distinguish yourself and try to broaden the appeal by doing it only online. And don’t just do a pdf of what a paper version would look like. Design it with online in mind, and take advantage of the advantages it offers over print. At the most basic are links to other related material such as cases cited. You could even include things like short video interviews with counsel or a party to a case. Or commentary by interested parties. Or even common craft type explanations of what a case is about, or showing different viewpoints.

  3. David,
    I think video interviews with counsel seem like a fascinating proposition.
    One of the major challenges I saw with online delivery was the concern of maintaining a distinction between a blog and a respectable law review.
    My response would obviously be that the content and review process should clearly distinguish the two, but it seems like the delivery format alone can be sufficient to alarm some academics.
    Supplementing high-quality academic pieces with multimedia would probably be a first for student law reviews as far as I know. But doing something new, and doing it well, is usually the best thing worth doing.

  4. Congratulations to the students. This is a great development. I, too, think that it’s time to cast one’s fortunes with the internet and to let print go by (except for print on demand). I would encourage the editors / founders to consult with librarians in order to create the best possible metadata, stable links, etc. for the internet version. Might as well lead the pack in that respect as well.

  5. Lisa Di Valentino

    Simon, that’s a good point. We’ve been working with Adrian Ho, Western’s Scholarly Communications Librarian, on these issues.

  6. Great Work Omar something that I have come to expect of you.
    Congatulations.

  7. As one the UVic student journal Appeal for the last 10 years I am glad to see another journal by students with student scholarship, I am also glad to see that it will be open access, and in that regard it may be useful to refer to the Durham Statement

    One thing I have always encouraged student editors to do is to communicate and collaborate with each other, and one idea I put forward to the student editors is to consider having a national meeting of student law journals sometime at the same time as he Canadian Association of Law Teachers has their annual meeting.