Modern Law Review

More than eighty years after it was first published, the MLR remains one of the leading academic law reviews in the world.

The Modern Law Review (MLR) was first published in June 1937. More than eighty years on, it is one of the leading academic law reviews in the world, continuing to uphold the founding editors’ aim of publishing scholarship which ‘deals with the law as it functions in society’.  As well as publishing six issues of the law review each year, the MLR organises lectures and supports seminars, scholarships and prizes in order to promote legal education and the study of law. The MLR was founded by a group of like-minded legal scholars from LSE and across the University of London, though under its first general editor, Lord Chorley (editor between 1937 and 1970) it became increasingly associated with LSE.  In an essay published in the MLR celebrating fifty years of the journal, Cyril Glasser vividly portrays the early twentieth century context against which the journal was founded.  In this period, legal scholarship, for the large part, lacked in critical engagement with contemporary issues and focused on ‘technical aspects of the law treated from such varying points of view as the historical, analytical and descriptive’;  legal education predominantly sought to serve the profession; and the idea of law as a modern social science was seen as radical and potentially subversive. By the mid-1930s, however, a more progressive approach to legal teaching and scholarship was emerging, which was greatly catalysed by the arrival of Jewish scholars fleeing the Nazi regime. This group included Otto Kahn-Freund, who was a founding member of the MLR. These two groups, respectively, make up the ‘Radicals’ and ‘Refugees’ in the title of Glasser’s 1987 essay.

From the beginning, the MLR sought to ‘usefully supplement’  other legal academic periodicals, by taking a ‘modern’ and unconventional approach to legal thinking. Accordingly, the Review sought, as it still continues to seek, to publish the highest quality scholarship covering diverse legal topics in a way which reflects the social conditions in which law operates. The impact of the extraordinary scholarship which has been published by the MLR over the last eighty years can be usefully traced in four virtual issues of the MLR on labour law legal scholarship, international legal scholarship, and in tribute to the ground-breaking scholarship of Professor Simon Roberts. Alongside all of the MLR content from 1937-1997, these four virtual issues are freely available online. 

The first virtual issue of the MLR fittingly addresses the labour law legacy of Otto Kahn-Freund. Kahn-Freund had been a labour law judge in the Weimar republic, and he fled Germany in response to persecution by the Nazis after his judgment regarding claims for unfair dismissal in the ‘radio case’. The issue opens with the first English translation of that pivotal judgment in the Berlin labour court in 1933, followed by an expert commentary provided by Professor Mückenberger. The subsequent contributions are devoted to the modern contextual approach to the study of labour law which Kahn-Freund introduced, and which he nurtured in the pages of the MLR. 

Today, the MLR goes from strength to strength. It is published six times a year, with sections devoted to articles, reviews, book reviews, cases and legislation. It has recently added an online Forum to facilitate the discussion of MLR content past and present. The present Editorial Committee is made up of legal scholars from six different universities, though a majority are still from LSE. A distinguished Editorial Board provides support to the Committee. The current General Editor, the eighth in the MLR’s eighty year history, is Professor David Kershaw.