Who Publishes in International Law Journals: An Unsystematic Survey

by Peter Spiro

Ed Swaine had suggested in response to post of mine several months back that there might be a downside to the increasing willingness of flagship journals to publish IL-related articles, namely, that student-edited IL specialty journals might be orphaned as a result. That seemed like a plausible hypothesis. To make a comparison to a similar phenomenon in a completely different register (obviously not intended as a serious one), it might be akin to what happened to African-American neighborhoods in the wake of integration, as middle-class blacks moved elsewhere and left their old neighborhoods deprived of an important leadership element. Might IL journals have been the victim of IL’s mainstreaming, an unexpected consequence of the field’s resurgence?

So I had my very capable research assistant, Jennifer Sang, take a look at contributions to a range of student-edited IL journals, comparing those contributions in volumes for 2004-05 to those from 1994-95. I was most interested in establishing the proportion of articles by tenure-track faculty from US law schools. I excluded contributions to symposium issues, on the theory that would reflect other factors, as well as student notes from the totals.

The bottom line: contrary to the prediction, the ratio of US lawprof contributions appears to have grown over the last decade. Among the dozen journals surveyed, the proportion of contributions from tenure-track faculty rose from 28% (26 out of 93 articles) to 46% (45 out of 97). The numbers were higher at the top-ranked journals, then and now. At what might impressionistically be considered the top six in the group (Cornell, Harvard, NYU, Virginia, and Yale), 31 out of 56 articles in the 2004-05 tranche (55%)were authored by US international law faculty. You can find some numbers after the jump.

One incidental finding: a surprisingly large number of entries from non-US law faculty make there way into IL journals at American law schools (18 out of 97 for 2004-05). Apparently publication in US law journals is considered a prestigious placement at non-US law schools (confirmed by what I hear from foreign lawprofs).

Of course, the trendline here could be explained by another byproduct of IL’s popularity: there is now more material to go around, both in terms of the number of lawprofs in the field (and perhaps also their productivity on a per capita basis, assuming we are now attracting the best and in light of changing publication expectations up and down the law school ladder). So the good news here is that there’s more than enough to go around. As the number of IL specialty journals has proliferated, I think there is still a question as to the function of IL journals outside the top tiers. But I suppose there’s not much harm done there, either, if one thinks of them as a curricular offering more than an outlet for scholarship.


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