Friday, May 5, 2006

Rankings of Law Journals: The View from the Customer (i.e., Author)

This is a post about some data I'm interested in seeing.  I've been following the discussion of bepress vs. ssrn over at prawfsblawg and orinkerr.  And that, in addition to a question from a reader about what I make of the bepress list of 100 most popular reviews, has caused me to do a little searching around the bepress website.  They're the folks who run ExpressO, which is a service that will (for a pretty modest fee) submit your article to a bunch of law reviews.

Comments I've seen on the web (like Dave Hoffman's quick study) and conversations I've had with colleagues at the University of Hawaii this semester and friends at other schools suggests that people are increasingly using ExpressO.  Sure makes life easy to pay someone a few hundred dollars (preferably from your expensive account) rather than mailing or even emailing a bunch of journals on your own.  I'm sort of old fashioned (and notoriously cheap) so I tend to do this on my own.  Maybe that's not such a hot idea.  I'd be interested in hearing what propertyprof readers think.  So if you're an author: ExpressO or Express-No, as my colleague Dan Filler asked earlier this year.

I did, however, find some interesting statements on the bepress website, which I think are important to users of ExpressO (that is, authors and law reviews that receive their submissions).  In addressing law review editors, ExpressO is trying to get them to use their service.  They make the revealing--and I think true--statement that "Law reviews not on the delivery route run the risk of being overlooked."  If you're a law review editor, I think it's a mistake to turn down submissions--you probably ought to take them via email, US Postal service, ExpressO, courier--any method that gets the manuscript in your hands.  Law reviews should not be turning away good manuscripts.

Here's the data I'd really be interested in, if I were a law review editor:

ExpressO provides useful statistics such as the median number of submission for other law reviews in your subject area, where your law review ranks in volume, and to what other law reviews your authors typically submit.

Now that's some data I'd like to see.  It has the potential to tell a lot about what authors think about different journals.  Of course, it's only useful to the extent that representative people are using ExpressO and in a way that is representative of their submission patterns.  There's some reason for thinking that the submissions through ExpressO aren't quite representative of the submissions process in general.  Why do I say this?  Take a look at this table, which lists (it seems) the 100 most popular law reviews based on submissions through ExpressO.  It's called the "100 most popular general student law reviews."  Hmm.  Wisconsin is number 1, Stanford is number 42, Columbia is number 45, Harvard is number 57, Yale is number 60.  Wisconsin's a very, very fine journal; I enjoy reading their articles (including their recent symposium on the New Legal Realism) and I'd be honored to publish with them.  But most popular in terms of submissions?  In terms of recent citations by journals, they're behind 37 other strong performers, like the Houston Law Review.

Don't Overlook Ranking Law Reviews by Citations
I think it makes more sense to focus on issues like law review citation rankings and the US News reputation rank of the review's parent institution.  I have a paper on that here--and the executive summary here.

There's a lot of useful information at the ExpressO website, including a number of tips on submitting to law reviews (here, here, here, and here).  Some of the advice is to move towards summer submissions for at least some reviews and towards submitting later in the fall for some.  Important, if true.

Alfred L. Brophy
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Some authors might leave off the very top-tier law reviews for some submissions, which might explain why Wisconsin is so high. For what it's worth, here's what I did for my most recent publications: For my short essay on Lingle v. Chevron, I only submitted to journals by ExpressO, and left off the top 25 or so journals. For my article on Home as a Legal Concept, I submitted by ExpressO for journals that accept it and did mail submissions for a few that don't. I really like ExpressO, and would prefer to us it for all my submissions.

Posted by: Ben Barros | May 6, 2006 11:53:45 AM

Very interesting observations, Ben. If it's true that people are selecting themselves out of the race at top journals, that's important and probably deserves some more discussion--especially when they're submitting work that's as important as your Lingle article.

Posted by: Al Brophy | May 6, 2006 12:02:46 PM

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