Back in 2008 a group of forward-looking law library directors put out a collective statement called "Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship". It ..calls for all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats."
Improved access and cost savings were the key points cited for the recommendation. As changes in the legal market place and in the law schools have necessitated unprecedented budget cuts, their recommendation has taken on greater significance for all law schools and their libraries.
While the intellectual and editorial costs of publishing law reviews are already Incorporated in student tuition and faculty salaries. The costs of publishing and printing and mailing physical law reviews are additional costs. So is the expense of acquiring the law reviews from other law schools for the law library.
The recent development of a viable online platform by California- based "bepress", makes it possible to actually begin the movement away from print law reviews. Founded in 1999 by several University of California, Berkeley professors, bepress created tools for producing peer-reviewed journals. This year they have announced the development of the "Law Review Commons" , publishing and institutional repository platform.
All "Law Review Commons" publications are made freely available online through their institutions’ bepress Digital Commons repositories. Each institution hosts its own repository and bepress provides the platform, the support, and the expertise.
The "Law Review Commons" provides : Browse Law Reviews by Subject ; Browse Law Reviews by Title; Browse Law Reviews by over 110 Sub-Disciplines in Law and by search terms.
The Law Review Commons helps realize the Durham Statement's prediction that such a platform "...will increase access to legal information and knowledge not only to those inside the legal academy and in practice, but to scholars in other disciplines and to international audiences, many of whom do not now have access either to print journals or to commercial databases." The platform exposes faculty members work to broader audiences and contributes to the reputation of their institution.
With almost 150 law reviews currently hosted in Digital Commons repositories and new additions each month, perhaps all the pieces are in place, for law schools to consign most PRINT law reviews, to a past era of legal research and education.