Friday, July 25, 2014
In short, I think the law review submission and review process could be improved by at least two modifications.
1. Blind Review.
Currently, law review editors see, and in fact require, not only the author’s name and employer, but also the author’s entire CV. This is quite unlike the article selection process in other disciplines where all identifying information is supposed to be stripped.
If blind-review were adopted by law reviews, Josh Fershee claimed that it might still be possible to find the identity of the author through self-citations. Authors, however, do not always cite themselves and even if they do, law review editors would have to read pretty carefully to figure out the idenity of the author. Currently, it is simply not possible for law review editors to read closely all article submitted, so stripping the author's name would, at the very least, require the editors to dig into each article. Also, Authors could be instructed to remove, during the review process, identifying phrases like “in previous work I argued…”
This call for blind review by a Harvard law student in 2009 cites the gender bias, nationality bias, and prestige bias that can result from a non-blind selection process. I believe a few of the elite law reviews have adopted blind review from outside experts (Stanford Law Review is one), but it is certainly not widespread among U.S. law reviews.
In the comments, Josh said he thought blind review could work for at least some law reviews, but that the “expectations for promotion and tenure, would have to change” if we altered the system. I am not sure why the expectations for P&T would have to change if law reviews instituted blind review. It seems that all blind review would do is make the selection process more fair.
2. Exclusive Submissions (or Submission Limits).
One of the problems with the law review submission and review process is that most decent law reviews get hundreds, if not thousands, of articles to review in each submission cycle. Even if the law review editors were able to overcome the biases mentioned above, they simply do not have time to give each article anything close to a thorough read. The editors have to eliminate blocks of articles on easily identified things such as the subject matter of the article, the catchy titles, and the prestige of the author’s school.
If law reviews required exclusive submissions, the editors would have time to give each article a hard read before extending an acceptance. Florida State and Pepperdine have done exactly this in adopting exclusive submission windows for certain slots in their journals. This seems like a sensible move and I think more law reviews should follow suit.
If the exclusive submission requirement is too dramatic of a shift, I suggest ExpressO limit each author to 10 journals (or some other reasonable number) per article, per submission cycle. This limit would cut down significantly on the reading load for law review editors and would allow them to do more thorough review of the article submitted.
I welcome any thoughts on these suggestions.