It is a pretty common place observation that one of the virtues of markets is that they manage to aggregate a great deal of disaggregated information. Obviously, folks disagree rather vehemently as to how effectively markets do this, but most people, I suspect, would admit that the market is frequently smarter than particular actors within the market. The same is true, I think, of law reviews.
The classical critique of law reviews is that they are staffed by dumb students who don’t know anything. Obviously, there is a lot of truth to this. However, I think that the case for the incompetence of law reviews can be overstated. While obviously no law review is doing a perfect job, citation studies suggest that the article selection process is far from random. All things being equal, articles that appear in top journals get cited more often than articles that don’t appear in top journals. Of course, it may be that law professors are simply dolts who are taking the name of the journal as a signal of quality. However, it seems at least equally probable to suppose that the law reviews — or at least the top law reviews — are identifying important legal scholarship considerably better than the classical critique suggests.