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Legal Research Process

What Are Law Review Articles?

A law review or journal is usually a student run publication based at a law school, which regularly publishes issues filled with articles on a variety of legal topics.

Most of the articles are written by law professors, practicing lawyers, or judges. Some articles, usually designated as a note or comment, are authored by law students. Law reviews may be entitled for the name of the school at which it is based (e.g., Texas Law Review) or may have a title that reflects its specialized focus (e.g., Texas Environmental Law Journal).

When to Look for Law Review Articles

Law review articles can be helpful in fleshing out what one has already found in such other secondary sources as legal encyclopedias and treatises, before moving on to primary sources. The scholarly articles offer more focused treatment of specific issues. Footnotes within law review articles can lead to primary resources and other research leads.

How to Find Law Review Articles

There are many ways to go about finding relevant law review articles, in print and online. If looking for an article in print, do a title search for the journal in which that article is published in the library's online catalog, TALLONS. The online resources that may be most familiar are Lexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline, which all have full text. (Bloomberg Law no longer includes law reviews.) This guide highlights some additional resources:

Also worth noting, from Washington & Lee Law Library, is Law Journals: Submissions and Ranking that can help locate law journals by subject, country or publication, or ranking.

And although it is not comprehensive, Annuals and Surveys Appearing in Legal Periodicals (available in HeinOnline's Law Journal Library) can be helpful in discovering recurring special features of individual law reviews. For instance, SMU Law Review has an Annual Texas Survey (vol. 1, 2014 - ), which is indexed separately on HeinOnline. (The survey began in 1967 as the Annual Survey of Texas Law and was published ever year as its last issue.)

How to Use Law Review Articles

Once one has found a relevant law review article, the most important portions of it are usually its introduction and opening sections. Law review authors tend to lay out the structure of their articles in the last paragraph of their introductions, which can be especially useful if the article lacks a table of contents. A researcher may then want to focus in on the early sections of a law review article as it is here that an author provides an overview of the current state of the law, before laying out an argument for changing the law.

Strengths & Weaknesses of Law Review Articles

Strengths

  • Can be more current or detailed than other secondary sources like legal encyclopedias or treatises
  • Articles by noted scholars may be of persuasive value when cited in court

Weaknesses

  • Articles can take a long time to come to press (hence the appeal of working papers' depositories)
  • Law reviews are not a comprehensive resource on a given subject, like a treatise; it is hit or miss whether you can find an article on your topic
  • Articles can be too academic in focus
  • Articles are not updated and therefore fall quickly out of date