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Citations of Student Articles:

Last week I asked how often courts cite student articles, and how often they cite articles by nonstudents. So far, my research results are tentative -- I need to confirm them in a few ways, which I hope to do over the next several weeks. But my tentative answer is about 500 cites of student articles per year (the ones denominated Notes, Comments, and Casenotes, and not counting professor-written Comments), and 3000 cites of nonstudent articles. Every average weekday, two court decisions are citing a student article.

Moreover, it seems that there are about 3 times as many nonstudent articles published each year as there are student articles. It thus means that student articles are cited about 50% as often per article published as are nonstudent articles -- a higher ratio than I would have expected.

My estimate is also that there are about 15,000 cites of student articles per year.

Who came closest among the commenters? ElChato for the student articles, but he underestimate the academic articles by a factor of 3. Roger and guest314159265 came close for the professor articles, but they overestimated the student articles by a factor of pi. No, actually, by a factor of 10 for Roger and 5 for guest314159265. Dave N came closest to the right ratio, but underestimated both by a factor of roughly 8.

One commenter predicted: "You'll see lots more citation of student-written pieces in state-court appellate opinions than in federal-court appellate opinions." My tentative findings are contrary to this -- in my initial sample (and I'll go through the data in a somewhat broader sample in a few weeks), about half came from federal courts and about half from state courts. Of the recent decisions on Lexis, federal decisions made up about 40% and state decisions about 60% (though I'll have to recalculate this once I figure out how to omit the one-line orders), so the citation patterns seem roughly comparable.

Incidentally, less than a quarter of the state citations in my sample were to in-state articles focused on the law of the state involved; over 75% of the state citations were to articles dealing with nationwide (or out-of-state) issues.

elChato (mail):
Well even a blind squirrel finds half an acorn sometime. I am surprised at the prof-to-student ratio, but go figure. My thinking was that law reviews would be cited in about 1 in 100 opinions, and my guess was that most of these citations have to do with judges deciding state-law questions- i.e. a Florida court cites a midtier Florida school's law review that does a yearly recap of in-state appellate rulings, or something along those lines. In some states these articles are done by professors, so I expected there to be more professor articles. I guess I downplayed the number of non-student articles because non-student articles are so often about grand theories, which judges don't seem to like citing to.

EV: are you thinking of exploring the frequency of citations as a basis for an empirical article on a subject blogged on here not long ago (i.e., the often-remarked declining usefulness of law reviews to practicing lawyers and judges)?
6.4.2007 3:46pm
Matt L. (mail):
Not too surprising to me. Student articles are considerably more likely to be about, y'know, the law than are professor articles. A focused analysis of a specific doctrinal question is going to be more useful to a court than, say, a philosophical theory of contract. I would think casenotes and recent cases pieces would be particularly citeable.
6.4.2007 4:47pm
Dave N (mail):
I appreciated being recognized for having the right factulty to student ratio--but ElChato won fair and square. Congratulations to him.
6.4.2007 5:36pm