The Original Law Journals

“The Original Law Journals”

Green Bag 2d, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 187-217, Winter 2009
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 09-15

ROSS E. DAVIES, George Mason University – School of Law, The Green Bag

Commercially speaking, law journalism was a risky business in the early Republic. According to Frederick Hicks, of the 30 legal periodicals that went into business before 1850, 24 also went out of business before 1850. And of the six that survived into the second half of the century, five expired by 1866, leaving just one to carry on over the long term. (That one is the Legal Intelligencer of Philadelphia, which is still in operation today.) A simple recitation of Hicks’s body count does not, however, reveal the full intensity of the semi-Hobbesian existence of those early journals. A few features of their experience merit a bit more attention. First, the very short lifespans. Second, the total number of failures. Third, the persistence of failure despite enthusiastic support from pillars of the bar. And fourth, the depths of obscurity into which those failed journals have tended to fall.

Source: LSN Law & Rhetoric Vol. 2 No. 33,  04/28/2009

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