Which publisher has the most comprehensive digital collection of law reviews?
An analysis was performed on database content for the top 100 law journals for six major legal research databases: HeinOnline, Westlaw, LexisNexis Academic, JSTOR, Gale LegalTrac, and EBSCO Legal Collection. The results of the study – “Top 100 Journals Comparison Across Multiple Legal Research Databases” – are discussed in detail in an article re-published by HeinOnline. Full text available here.
HeinOnline is found to have the most comprehensive collection of full-text and indexed law reviews for the top 100 law journals. Who decided what law reviews were in the “top 100” list? Washington and Lee Law School’s Law Journal Ranking Project.
Law librarians would not be surprised by these results because:
1) HeinOnline has historically been known as an excellent source for researching law review articles. Lexis and Westlaw came late to law review collection publishing.
2) HeinOnline touted the study. (Librarians are trained information skeptics.)
You can review the methodology and findings in detail by reading the article.
The following graphs summarize the findings:
Why research law reviews?
Lawyers become familiar with law review publications in law school. From personal experience in law firm libraries, my guess is that practitioners, once they enter the real world, tend to forget about law review articles as excellent sources for certain types of legal research. Attorneys’ focus is on case law or practice guides. But what if you are looking for a more philosophical or academic overview discussion of an area of the law? Consider, also, that law review articles are written by the most academically nimble members of any law school class. Law review articles provide highly detailed coverage of legal subjects that include a plethora of citations to both legislation and controlling case law.
Looking for any viable arguments that a judge might buy? These articles present well-considered legal arguments focused on specialized topics and are written by people whose thought processes are most similar to those of judges. In fact, many of these authors go on to be judges.
A recent real world legal research example
A patron of ACLL was trying to research case law involving the issues of statutory construction of local parking ordinances. Not many parties can afford to appeal traffic court cases, so subject coverage is thin in Wexis. Our patron was trying to develop her arguments to present at her upcoming administrative hearing. She wasn’t having any luck finding cases that were relevant to the facts of her situation. A wise, grey-haired librarian suggested trying HeinOnline to see if there was a law review that focused on the legal issues surrounding the enforcement of municipal parking ordinances. (Legal scholars feel the injustice when they get parking tickets, too. When scholars get mad, they get writing.) Her search proved very, very productive. She was very pleased. I guess legal scholars frequently forget to check the signage posted above the curb just like mere mortals.
If you are interested, the full text of study can be found from HeinOnline at http://help.heinonline.org/2016/07/top-100-journals-comparison-across-multiple-legal-research-databases/