Monday, January 26, 2015

Law Review Submission Season - Spring 2015

PrawfsBlawg has posted its Submission Angsting thread, which prompted me to write this post to ask our readers (including my co-bloggers) two questions:

  1. In your opinion, what is the ideal date to submit a spring law review article?
  2. When deciding between offers, how do you evaluate specialty law reviews?

Ideal Submission Date. When I first started as a professor, I heard that March 1 was the date most people thought was the best for spring submissions. The ideal date seems to be moving earlier and earlier, and I have heard February 1 or February 15 mentioned with increasing frequency. Some might suggest not worrying about the submission date -- just submit when your article when it is ready. While I agree that you should wait to submit an article until it is ready (whenever "ready" is...), I have had colleagues who seemed to seriously under-place articles because they submitted at a poor time. Admittedly, most of these professors submitted well outside of the traditional windows.

Evaluating Specialty Law Reviews. The question about how to evaluate specialty law reviews reoccurs every time I submit an article. The conventional wisdom is - find out how your P&T committee values those journals and follow their lead. That is good advice, though I imagine some readers would like to hear how the market, in general, values specialty law reviews. Personally, I have published in a number of specialty law reviews -- for two main reasons -- (1) readership (e.g., I used to see the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law on my judge's desk regularly) and (2) name recognition (the Harvard Business Law Review is probably going to go much further with many readers (and my P&T committee) than many flagship law reviews). I've heard formulas to rank specialty journals like -- take ~25 spots [the PrawfsBlawg post in the update below says +25 to +50] off the publishing school's rank if it is a specialty journal (this doesn't work well when a top journal in your area is published by a low-ranked school) OR the top 10% or so specialty journals in your area are roughly equal to a 31-100 ranked flagship journal; and you should take a top-30 flagship journal over virtually any specialty journal. I know different schools will treat the question of specialty journals differently, and ideally we wouldn't have to play this game (because the articles all end up on WestLaw), but I am truly interested in the different approaches.

Update: On the second question I found this helpful post on PrawfsBlawg from 2011, but I am still interested in other thoughts. 

Feel free to share thoughts in the comments, or e-mail me directly.

Haskell Murray, Law Reviews, Law School | Permalink


I am probably not the right person to ask, but i will offer the following.

1. I have had an article accepted the first week of April, but it was many (over ten) years ago. I have not done many spring submissions since. But I always say, "If you don't ask, you don't get." If it's a good article--high-quality thesis, research, and writing--it just might be accepted as the last piece by a journal that's being dragged along by offerees who don't accept.

2. A junior (untenured) colleague recent expressed the view that the world would be better off without specialty journals. I am not quite in the camp, but I am skeptical. I do think certain specialty journals give a voice to work that is meritorious but, for various reasons, will not get picked up by high-quality general law reviews. But I also think there are journals out there publishing and editing at a low level of quality.

Given that, the conventional wisdom you cite really is a good guide. I am not sure there is any general market principle or formula relating to general versus specialty law journals. Faculty conceptions of quality publication records differ significantly and evolve, in my experience, as the composition of the faculty changes.

Posted by: joanheminway | Jan 26, 2015 9:11:39 PM

Nothing much to add to what you've already said. I understand the conventional wisdom is to submit in late February or early March. But that's just general advice. What you want is to know when a law review's eBoard is turning over. If you submit too far in advance of the board turning over, you're article is going to sit in a drawer (most likely) because the old board doesn't want to prevent the new board from making its own choices. If you submit too late, all the slots are filled. While you could invest in gathering the information on a journal-by-journal basis yourself, it hardly seems worth it. Stick with the conventional wisdom and you'll probably be fine.

Re: specialty journals, advice seems decidedly more mixed. Some focus on the Wash. & Lee law review rankings. Others give the -25 rule of thumb, etc. You read in your field, so you should know which journals are top notch and which are not. But, it seems to me, you really ought to think about your objectives. For example, I want to get tenure and I want to make an impact with my scholarship. But at some point, I may have to make a choice. Some journals are more widely read in my field (corporate bankruptcy) and articles placed there will make a bigger impact. Other journals will be better regarded by my faculty and so are more likely to get me tenure. Think about your goal and go from there.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Jan 28, 2015 5:26:16 PM

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