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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Rankings of Law Journals: The View from the Customer (i.e., Author): Or, What's the bepress ranking of law reviews mean?

Libraryrows I posted the substance of this last May.  (So this may sound vaguely familiar.)  Given recent discussions I've had with colleagues about bepress' list of the "100 most popular general student law reviews," I think it's time to repost it (with slight revisions).

I've been following the discussion of bepress vs. ssrn over at prawfsblawg and orinkerr (and of ssrn  recently over at prawfslawg). 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 suggest 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.  Those that are diligent about getting good manuscripts can get some good press.

Here's the data I'm interested in:

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 data 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 fine journal; I enjoy reading their articles (including their recent symposium on the New Legal Realism--especially Thomas Mitchell's Destabilizing the Normalization of Rural Black Land Loss: A Critical Role for Legal Empiricism) 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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