JLE: A New Approach

The Journal of Legal Education: A New Approach


By Kathryn Fanlund

The Journal of Legal Education (JLE) addresses issues confronting legal educators, including curriculum development, teaching methods, and scholarship. Published since 1948, it acts as an outlet for emerging areas of scholarship and teaching. The journal is now under the editorial leadership of Northeastern University School of Law and the University of Washington School of Law. Recently, AALS launched a new website for the JLE at www.aals.org/jle. The site includes subscription, submission, and copyright information, and serves as a repository for current and past issues of the journal.
AALS spoke to the co-editors of the JLE, Dean Jeremy Paul and Professor Margaret Y. Woo of Northeastern University School of Law, and Dean Kellye Y. Testy and Professor Kate M. O’Neill of the University of Washington School of Law, about the importance of the JLE and what lies ahead for the journal.

Dean Jeremy Paul and Professor Margaret Y. Woo of Northeastern University School of Law, and Dean Kellye Y. Testy and Professor Kate M. O’Neill of the University of Washington School of Law

How is the Journal of Legal Education different from other journals? 
Kellye Y. Testy: The Journal of Legal Education is unique in its mission of advancing knowledge about legal education and serving as the main scholarly arm of the AALS.
Jeremy Paul: More than any other, the JLE blends the two main functions of law schools and law professors: teaching and scholarship. It brings the same level of rigor ordinarily devoted to law reform to the challenges of successful transmission of legal understandings. And, its method of distribution—free to all AALS member schools—means that the journal has enormous impact.

Dean Paul Quote

Margaret Woo:  It is the only journal in the U.S. to focus on legal education and pedagogy as a whole (from clinical to doctrinal, teaching to administration). As the official journal of the AALS, it provides an excellent venue for the diverse voices of the American legal academy.
Dean Testy and Dean Paul, what made you interested in hosting the journal at your schools?
Testy: I was interested in being a part of extending the reach and impact of the journal. It has an important mission and I believe that we can enhance the quality of the articles and the impact that ithas on the academy and the profession.
Paul: I arrived at Northeastern in 2012 to discover a school with a great deal to contribute to the legal academy, especially in terms of experiential legal education and using law to achieve systemic justice. Because our students rotate in and out of classes for our signature co-op program, we only house one law journal. So I was looking for vehicle in which interested members of our community could contribute meaningfully to the development of scholarship about training new lawyers.
What made you interested in serving as editors?  
Woo: I am interested in serving as an editor because I am interested in education issues, both theoretical and practical, and welcome the opportunity to work on a project that can advance the conversation. I particularly like to pull together seemingly discrete ideas into a thematic context oridentify new and upcoming trends or bring in disparate debates.
Paul: As for my personal interest in serving as an editor, I have long edited with Dean Arterian from Syracuse University Law School for the SSRN journal on legal education. And I have written on legal education, most notably as co-author with UConn School of Law Professor Michael Fischl for the book “Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams.” I was thrilled that the AALS accepted Northeastern’s proposal to co-host the journal and to allow me to be one of the editors.
How would you like to expand the readership of the journal and what audiences would you like to reach? What kind of contributors are you looking for? 
Kate O’Neill: All faculty members at most U.S. law schools—and about 500 additional subscribers aroundthe world—already receive the journal. So, at this time, our focus is not so much on expanding who receives the journal as much as increasing their engagement with the content. We would like law faculty members to find that each issue of the JLE is full of cutting-edge ideas that are important to teaching, scholarship, and service to their communities and to their schools’ missions. We are considering developing a more vibrant online presence, including one that would allow readers and authors to exchange comments on articles.
Woo: I would like to see the JLE as the go-to journal for anyone interested in a thoughtful analysis of the state of legal education, and as a place where ideas are shared and pedagogy issues are raised and debated. I would like to see all U.S. legal educators pick up a JLE volume and find something that they can learn from and something that is fun to read.
O’Neill: Ultimately, it would be wonderful if the JLE readership attracts more readers who are judges,legislators, and community leaders, who view it as a go-to source for improving legal education and scholarship and promoting broad access to justice around the world. We want contributors who engage our readers with provocative, important ideas about a wide range of related concerns, such as: what are the values and purposes of legal education? How can teaching and learning be improved? What should the role of educational institutions be in developing the “rule of law,” improving professional practices and legal institutions and systems, articulating and disseminating theories of justice, and expanding the delivery of affordable legal services? How can law schools enhance the well-being of their students, graduates, faculties, and staff?
Robin West, a law professor at Georgetown University and Chair of the JLE Editorial Board, spoke recently with AALS about wanting to strengthen the journal’s scholarly mission and raise its visibility. Could you describe the journal’s efforts to solicit articles and generate scholarship topics? 
Paul: We are extremely fortunate that Professor West agreed to chair the JLE Editorial Board. The AALS has established a first rate group around her, and we will certainly take advantage of this strong network to solicit articles. We are already planning a symposium issue devoted to the current scholarly landscape. In addition, Professor Woo has done great work in contacting AALS sections and other scholarly groups who are holding interesting symposia and soliciting papers for the JLE. One great example is the set of papers we recently published from the Igniting Law Teaching Conference.
Woo: Since Northeastern has taken on the JLE, and now joined by the University of Washington, we have tried to strengthen the scholarly mission of the journal in a number of ways. First, we are increasingly soliciting articles from the AALS Annual Meeting as one way of continuing the conversations that began at the meeting. Publishing presentations from the Annual Meeting is also an important way to document the many incredible discussions that are taking place at these meetings. Second, we are hoping to put forth symposium volumes with some regularity. Some topics are better as standalone articles, but others benefit from a back and forth that reveals the greater complexity of the topic.  Two upcoming symposium issues for 2016 are good examples. First, we will have an issue on “Ferguson and Its Impact on Legal Education,” which we hope will capture the emotional and rich responses many in the legal academy have to these events.  The other symposium topic is the “Future of Legal Scholarship”—a topic that is quite contested on the different role that legal scholarship can and should take.
O’Neill: For this second symposium, we have solicited articles from noted scholars about the role and value of legal scholarship within and outside the academy. Northeastern will host a symposium and the JLE will publish the associated papers.
Woo: We hope both these topics will be of interest to our readership.   We are also increasingly making use of the expertise of JLE’s Editorial Board to assist in soliciting and reviewing articles and/or take on the task of “guest editor” to assist with a particular symposium issue. Robin West, the current chair of the advisory board, has been particularly helpful in this regard.
Could you discuss the submission and selection process for journal articles? 
O’Neill: We are increasing our efforts to solicit articles and reviews about timely subjects and books. To that end, we have a diverse group of editors and advisors who can call our collective attention to important developments in diverse areas. We then reach out to potential authors on those topics or for book reviews. We also accept and review all unsolicited submissions on a rolling basis, and we publish a significant number of those. The guidelines for submissions appear on the JLE website and in the front cover of the paper journal.
Woo: When we consider submissions on a rolling basis we try to give an answer within the month because submissions to the JLE must be exclusive. The editorial board will read and discuss each submission, and, when appropriate, send individual submissions for outside review.
O’Neill: The editors confer by phone approximately every two weeks on all matters: symposia development; solicitations; new books that might deserve review; and evaluation of submissions. We are grateful to West for printing and mailing the journals.

ONeill Quote

Paul: We have a collegial group that carefully reads and discusses in regular calls the submissions we receive. As is true for most journals, we are looking for fresh articles that clearly and concisely make key points that will engage and inform our readers.
It’s an interesting, changing time for many in legal education. One of the most downloaded articles from the JLE website was “Reforming the Law School Curriculum from the Top Down” by R. Michael Cassidy. Do you think this speaks to a growing interest in the academy in articles that address the changing landscape of law schools? 
Testy: Yes, there is a great deal of interest in reforms to legal education that can respond to our changing profession. This conversation could not be more important for all of our member schools, and thus the JLE is an excellent forum for a robust exchange of viewpoints.
Woo: Absolutely. Considering the “law school crisis” presently facing the legal academy, how can any legal educator not be interested in reading articles about the changing landscape of American law schools? We hope to tackle these as well as other evolving issues and welcome suggestions from our readership.
Paul: The rate of change within law schools and the legal profession is challenging for us all, and we would have our heads in the sand if we failed to tackle this current context. Law schools need to do a much better job of articulating the contributions we are making to the success of the country and the spread of the rule of law. And the JLE can certainly be a forum for diverse points of view on the role of today’s law schools.
What else do you think people should know about the journal? 
Woo: That there is an incredible variety of innovative thinking out there about legal education. The JLE encourages wide distribution and use of its publications for educational purposes. Take a look at the website, see what’s in archives, enjoy.
Paul: I want people to see the JLE as a site for those with passion about supporting the law as the nation’s preeminent public language and as a place where legal education can be extended across multiple disciplines in a way that makes meaningful contributions to weaving justice into the structure of our powerful institutions and the fabric of everyday life.
O’Neill: We are accessible. If you are thinking about publishing in the JLE, or you have a suggestion for a topic we should cover, please contact us.
What do you see for the future of the JLE
Paul: I believe we will continue to build on the marvelous work done by editors who have preceded us to enable the JLE to be a powerful locus or forum for discussion about re-shaping legal education to fit 21st-century conditions.
Woo: I would like to see our archives be viewed as a rich resource. We are in the process of digitizing and putting back issues on our electronic archive, which will make research easier. The JLE should be the kind of authoritative journal that one can turn to whenever you are working on a legal education issue.
O’Neill: This is an interesting and challenging time for legal education, for many legal institutions, and for the provision of legal services. I hope that the JLE will be seen as the leading forum for analyzing the issues and for stimulating productive change.