The following business plan lays out the new direction that the Stanford Journal of Legal Studies is charting in the field of legal publication.
In ancient Athens, the agora was a public meeting ground where citizens from all walks of life gathered to debate issues of political importance in a spirit of democracy. All voices were heard, with different perspectives weighed against each other. AGORA recreates the openness of the Athenian agora by designing the law journal of the new century. This new journal re-envisions, revolutionizes, and revitalizes the function, relevance, look, and appeal of the law school publication. AGORA will bridge the gap between the study of law and other academic disciplines by focusing on a broad range of interdisciplinary approaches to law as well as topics in jurisprudence and legal theory. By exploring the interrelationship of law and other academic disciplines, AGORA hopes to open legal discourse to different perspectives.
AGORA places itself at the forefront of emerging trends within academia by publishing on?line rather than in printed form. Our website will allow legal scholars, legal practitioners, students, and the general public to mingle, share their wares, foster discussion of current events and trends in the legal community, encourage exchange with other disciplines, and create an immediacy in the legal discourse that the current law journal format does not allow. As a Web?based publication, AGORA can take advantage of multimedia possibilities, such as photos and short video or audio clips, to enhance and deepen the impact of its written content. The goal is to create a journal that is intellectually rigorous and stimulating, enjoyable to read, and explores the dynamic potentialities that an on?line publication offers to academic scholarship.
Currently, the accepted role of a law journal is to allow aspiring and current legal scholars to publish, offer law students the opportunity to learn editing skills, and to generate source material that will generally only be used when pulled for research. While all of these purposes are valid, they hardly scratch the surface of the potential that an Internet-based legal publication has to educate, excite, and inform the legal community it serves and hopefully the curious public beyond. AGORA will embrace and realize this potential.
1. Create a journal that reinvigorates the idea of law as one of the pillars of liberal arts thinking and human problem solving, resisting the increasing Balkanization of the legal establishment into highly specialized and technical areas of expertise. This will be accomplished by creating an ongoing and active interdisciplinary dialogue between legal scholars and other academic disciplines on the law and its effects on society.
2. Create a legal publication that is "readable with teeth." AGORA seeks to be a law journal that will be read because people are interested in the topic, not just because they are looking for a citation to support an argument. This will require articles that are short enough to be easily digestible while at the same time intellectually rigorous. AGORA seeks articles that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the relationship between law and society by increasing the perspectives from which the law can be viewed.
3. Create a legal publication that allows traditional legal scholarship and cutting edge, radical scholarship to co-exist within the same publication. This will increase the publication's relevance and use to a greater range of legal scholars and practitioners and the general public by offering an increased spectrum of legal analysis.
4. Encourage, solicit, and foster new methods of examining law and society that go beyond the traditional rational analytical approaches, such as drawing upon oral traditions of tribal justice systems, storytelling, nonlinear examinations, and artistic critiques that offer unique and potentially illuminating perspectives on their subject matter. Being an Internet publication will foster the exploration of these different approaches to understanding in ways not possible using the traditional printed format.
5. Facilitate the timely discussion of current issues facing law and society. The short turn-around time of Internet-based publications will allow AGORA to address pressing issues more quickly than can print journals which have to go through lengthy publication procedures.
6. Create actual interest and passion in students to be a member of a journal. We believe that there is an untapped audience of students who are interested in legal scholarship, but reluctant to join a traditional journal that gives them limited and often sterile involvement in the editing process. The shorter articles that AGORA publishes will allow members to be involved more globally in the process of editing an article rather than be exposed to just a piece of it.
Taking advantage of the medium - Relevance and Appeal through Interactivity (The Octopus System):
Just as an octopus has several tentacles extending from a central body, AGORA wants each article to serve as a starting point for branching explorations of different approaches to law. We seek to maximize the full interactive potential of the Internet to add dimension and vibrancy to the dialogue on timely and ageless legal and social issues. Each submission will be designed to connect to a series of interconnected and related areas in the website. For example, a person might click on a poetry reading and then be able to link to an extensive research article that uses the poem, or a video-taped excerpt of scholars sitting around a table discussing the issues raised in the poem. Below are some potential uses of the Internet to enhance the journal experience:1. Use video and illustrative film clips. These can be drawn from films, TV shows, plays, and dance performances to illustrate the points being made in the article.
2. Host live and staged online forums or chat sessions complete with online interaction by viewers. These forums may or may not involve the authors of the articles.
3. Host a moderated discussion group in which readers can post comments on the articles in the issue. This could be a continuously updated "Letters to the Editors" section.
4. Feature audio clips of readings by authors, poets, and playwrights.
5. Create problem solving environments (thought experiments) for website visitors to challenge themselves in and play out possible scenarios in specific situations.
6. Include a component of journalistic content in each issue. Something like a "What's Hot" page where readers can find out about the most dynamic, current, and contested issue and legal debates and who the players are. This section might develop out of our current "commentaries" format and may include still shots or video clips of campus lectures to accompany the commentary.
7. Include clips of songs or other musical passages that relate to the issue being discussed.
8. Create a list of further readings on the topic and links to appropriate Webpages.
Implementation:1. Rather than the traditional hierarchical format of lead editor directing the work of editors, AGORA will use a creative team system in which each team is given the task of analyzing an article in its entirety and creating an interactive "octopus" location that allows the reader literally to come at a topic from a stimulating and substantively informative variety of angles and perspectives. This approach brings an added dimension to the examination of a subject matter as opposed the narrow focus of reading a 60-80 page treatise on a particular subject.
2. AGORA will use a solicited symposium format vs. a traditional, unsolicited large article format. Each issue will be centered around a particular issue or theme in law that can be examined from a variety of different perspectives. The submissions editor, with the assistance of the faculty committee, will solicit articles from leading minds in relevant disciplines addressing the topic for the symposium. The editors for that particular article, in addition to editing the article, will brainstorm on multimedia enhancements for the article in consultation with the author. If journal membership is large enough, unsolicited articles may be accepted if of sufficient quality.
3. We plan on drawing upon technical and intellectual know-how of nonlegal academics and professional school graduate students such as computer programmers, creative writing scholars, MBAs, etc. to realize full interactivity of AGORA. Eventually, we may consider the recruitment of liaisons or members from other Stanford University departments.
Financial Support - possible options:1. Explore the possible use of advertisement as a replacement for lost revenues from subscribers fees used by traditional journals.
2. Charge for access to parts or all of the journal through some sort of subscription system. One option would be to allow unlimited viewing of the journal, but charge for printing the articles.
3. Consider shifting to a patronage system much like a non-profit foundation or an arts organization, rather than a subscriber-based system.
Practical Concerns at SLS:1. Membership: Where will it come from in an already saturated journal environment? Our concept may draw interested people away from the more traditional journals, but more importantly this concept targets the SLS student currently uninterested in or even repelled by the current "graybeard" form of the law journal, modeled after the Law Review model. Also, AGORA would provide a venue that would draw directly upon the over 25% of SLS students who come to school with advanced degrees in other disciplines. These students represent a resource that is not directly tapped into by the current law journal system.
2. Academic rigor & professionalism: How do we create a journal that is taken seriously by both the general public and academia? An active student and faculty review board will be necessary to ensure the quality of all AGORA materials. Faculty assistance in soliciting submissions will aid in maintaining article quality. The purpose of this journal is not to create a fluff, "pop" law journal, but to push and expand the realm of legal scholarship past the basic foundation of rational, critical analysis to discover additional approaches to examination and analysis that can illuminate on topic areas.
3. Transition: How to make the shift to the new style journal and bring in enough cautious law students and submissions to make it take off? One clear way is active and public institutional support by the SLS administration. We would also keep "Stanford" in our secondary name for resume and reputation purposes. While it may take time to build up the journal, sticking to an exciting format will increase recognition and readership.
Long term goals:
After AGORA is established at SLS, create an network of publications at law schools across the country to encourage dialogue and exchange between an increasingly interconnected national law community using SLS as the networking nexus. This concept truly could allow SLS to step forward as the leader of the national legal academic community in this new century; leading in ideas, the quality of legal and interdisciplinary discourse, and unlocking the doors of law to a greater number of citizens. With its placement in the Silicon Valley and the entrepreneurial spirit of Stanford University, SLS can and should step forward as the preeminent leader in this area. AGORA is a means of accomplishing that goal.
Letter from the Founders
The Stanford Journal of Legal Studies (the Journal) was founded in 1999 by five Stanford Law School students dedicated to creating a law journal appropriate for the academic and technological developments of the twenty-first century. Such a journal will utilize the astronomical growth of the Internet to create a forum for the rapid exchange of ideas across law and other academic disciplines, and in the process, do away with the artificial barriers dividing the professional world of law from the intellectual world of the humanities, the social sciences, and other disciplines.
The separation of the professional schools of law, business, and medicine from the rest of the academic community has perhaps carried over to the realm of intellectual discourse. To address this problem, the Journal was formed to bridge the gap between the study of law and other academic disciplines. The cross-pollination of different academic perspectives furthers a broader and deeper understanding of the relevant problems, questions, and interpretations facing modern society and human existence. Indeed, approaching an issue from different analytical and substantive frameworks is vital to a more total understanding. Accordingly, the Journal selects publications based on their interdisciplinary contribution to the study of law as well as their appeal to scholars in the social sciences and the humanities.
Recognizing the limitations of print publishing, the wide-spread availability of Internet access, and the trend towards online accessibility of academic and news media publications, we decided to use the Internet to widen our readership and rethink the traditional approach to law journal publishing. Not only is our publication timeline significantly shorter than hard-copy journals, but we also publish pieces that are shorter than traditional law reviews, more fun to read, and targeted to an audience that is interested in intellectual discussion of legal issues rather than exclusively in research. Our format enables us to offer interactive publication through the use of video and audio clips and other multimedia tools. By enabling readers to send responses to Journal articles for timely publication, we create a source of great potential for peer review, constructive criticism, and most importantly, speed of change in academic thought. We expect to publish symposia on the intersections of law with other academic disciplines by soliciting and encouraging notable scholars to write short works on a particular topic, so as to create an interesting, unusual, and lively journal.
Within a few years we expect a significant percentage of paper journals to have an Internet publishing arm. As more journals and other intellectual publications change format, gradually universities will recognize the importance of the digital format. We have confidence that the Journal will one day become the prototypical law journal for the twenty-first century.