Sunday, September 2, 2007

Advice to Law Journals: Part 6

Rodin_public_domain Up until now, my advice to law journals has largely been suggestions of ways to get more and better pieces.  Now I'm going to turn to some things to avoid--or at least be wary about.

6   Approach “big idea” pieces skeptically.

Everyone's always interested in big ideas--rethinking takings doctrine, Johnson v. M'Intosh.  Every once in a blue moon something comes along that warps up out of our ways of thinking.  Richard Epstein's Takings and Frank Michaelman's "Property, Utility and Fairness: Comments on the Ethical Foundations of 'Just Compensation'," are two that come immediately to mind; Lindsay Robertson's Conquest by Law is another.  Sure, you may be reading the next two tiered theory of article III.  And a lot of times those pieces get citations; however, there's also some reason for being suspicious of the new.  We can all think of pieces that aspire to something large and that are a flop. Big think pieces ain't easy to write and it's uncommon for everyone to have been wrong all along about a major theory.  So the big think pieces--fun as they are to write and read--may not be successful.  In fact, I think they're rather unlikely to be successful.

It's time to do some empirical work on how often big think pieces are successful (for example, in terms of citations).  But for the time being I'd wary of them, while recognizing that some are very, very good.  Of course, even if wrong, they may be great "Thought Starters" and for that reason along may be something you want to publish.  So there's good reason to give them a hard look, as we say in administrative law.

Endnote: The public domain version of Rodin's The Thinker is from our friends at wikipedia.

Alfred L. Brophy
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