Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Our friend Gordon Smith at Conglomerate has a nice post about one of his articles being selected as a top corporate and securities article for 2006. We congratulate him, but what caught my attention was his introductory comment about expecting the letter from Vanderbilt to be a rejection of his article submission "the old-fashioned way."
I still remember the incomparably funny Rob Biniaz, a year or two ahead of me at Stanford, describing at a panel discussion on summer jobs what we used to call "bullets": rejection letters from law firms. Rob, I think, had sent a letter to some glam outfit like NBC or CBS, and received back the following (by return mail): "Dear Rob: In a word, no."
We can, of course, rationalize and even joke about rejection from student-edited law reviews. I somehow persuaded the editor of a mega-university press that I had a book idea, but my mistake was sending him the manuscript. As a matter of learning and courage, I forced myself to read the reviews on which he based his rejection, but I still start to curl into the fetal position thinking about it. (Once you come to grips with the fact that they were right and it sucked things start to improve, psychologically speaking.)
I have spent the last couple weeks trying to persuade a very analytical colleague that NOTHING you receive from a law review other than something entitled "Offer to Publish" is meaningful. It is meaningless if the law review acknowledges receipt of your piece via ExpressO. It is meaningless if you get a nice acknowledgment letter. It is meaningless if the Articles Editor tells you he/she is looking forward to reading your article. It is meaningless if you get a little postcard saying that the law review has received your submission. It is comforting and fulfilling to have an e-mail dialogue with an editor whose last name you recognize, and discover she is the second cousin once removed of a student you taught during a visiting stint at Wossamotta U, but it is meaningless in terms of the likelihood the review will take your article.
Our incoming editor-in-chief here at Tulane is a brilliant and very nice young man, and ought to be a law prof someday (note to academy). We chat in the hallways from time to time. The piece I have into the reviews right now ponders fundamental assumptions in contract law, and plays with analogies to number theory. I like number theory, even though I can barely make my way through the symbols. When I was seventeen, I managed to place in a mathematics competition in Michigan by getting one proof out of five on an incredibly difficult exam (I answered this: prove that the expression "n squared + 1 can never be divisible by seven"). I mention it to Haller, our new EIC, and he immediately said, "oh, you can do that in mod 7 arithmetic," bursting my bubble, because that was my "brilliant" insight. Anyway, the point is that even this personal kind of exchange is MEANINGLESS: within a couple of days, I received an e-mail beginning: "um, highly awkward moment here. . ."
Alan follows this up with his own rejection thoughts above.