Friday, April 24, 2015

Advice for Law Review Editors

I recently finished my law review submission season, placing two articles: The Social Enterprise Law Market at Maryland Law Review (on jurisdictional competition and social enterprise entity forms) and An Early Report on Benefit Reports at West Virginia Law Review (on data collected last summer on statutory reporting compliance by benefit corporations).

Below, I share a few words of advice for my new law review editors and any law review editor readers. I share this advice acknowledging that I disregarded much of it when I was an editor on my school’s law review. Also, as mentioned below, I fully recognize and appreciate the work law review editors put into our articles.   

Consider Blind Review. I still haven’t heard a good argument against law reviews moving to blind review of articles. A very few, maybe two, of the top-ranked journals appear to have made the move, but the vast majority have not. 

Consider Peer Review. I understand, a bit better, the pushback against a traditional peer-review system, but consider involving your faculty in the process more heavily and consider obtaining outside faculty reviewers (as some of the elite journals are already doing). 

Consider Exclusive Submission Windows. A few journals are doing this, and it seems to be a smart move for many journals and authors. The editors have many fewer articles to review -- from authors who are serious about their journal -- and the authors get the assurance that their articles are receiving more attention in the review.

Respond. Typically, 40-50% of the journals I submit to never respond. Some of those journals are starting to get reputations for never responding. While we realize that law students have plenty on their plate, divide and conquer with your editorial team and try to respond (at least to the expedites). Even a form response, saying that the journal is full or expects a certain delay reviewing articles, is appreciated. 

Express Excitement. When extending an offer, show that you appreciated and are excited about the article. Both Maryland and West Virginia did this with my articles, and I chose them over some similarly ranked journals that sent boilerplate acceptance e-mails.

Call. Extending an offer to publish over the phone is often much more personal and effective than an e-mail offer.

Provide an Editing Schedule. Providing an editing schedule early in the process can be helpful.

Edit Lightly, if at All, on Style. I violated this rule repeatedly when I was an editor, but I now see that edits that appear to be style-based can often change the very precise message that the author is trying to communicate. If a sentence is unclear or poorly written, simply note this in a comment – perhaps with a suggested revision in the comment – rather than rewriting the sentence in the text.

Edit Heavily on Bluebook and Typos/Clear Errors. Editors typically know the Bluebook better than authors, so do not be afraid to edit heavily on Bluebook issues. Also, attempt to catch any typos or other clear errors. Some editors who claim to “respect the author’s voice” do too light of an editing job on Bluebook issues and clear errors. 

Not Every Sentence Needs a Footnote. Be reasonable on whether a sentence actually needs a citation or not.  

Provide Redlines. In the past, a few editors have not provided redlines, which makes it incredibly difficult to check what has been changed. Also, on occasion, editors have not provided complete redlines – They provide redlines, but I found changes that did not show up on the redline, which reduces confidence and slows the process.

Stick to the Editing Schedule. As much as possible, stick to the editing schedule. Authors need to honor the schedule as well. Of course there are emergencies and those are understandable, but editors might want to build in some additional time in the schedule for these unpredictable occurrences. 

Communicate. Much can be forgiven if editors communicate clearly, promptly, and respectfully with the authors. 

Twitter. Post-publication, Twitter can be a great tool to promote the journal’s articles. Many, but definitely not all, journals now have Twitter accounts.   

All of that said, I vividly remember the hard work and long hours of editing – on top of classes and interviews and internships and other responsibilities. We professors appreciate all that law review editors do, and we probably should express our thanks more often.

My co-bloggers and readers likely have additional thoughts – as many are more experienced than I. All are encouraged to share in the comments. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2015/04/advice-for-law-review-editors-.html

Haskell Murray, Law Reviews, Law School | Permalink

Comments

I completely agree. Having recently published (my first) article in the specialty peer-reviewed Connecticut Insurance Law Journal, I can’t say enough about the communication aspect. The Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Mastrianni, was my contact throughout the process, and was extremely respectful, ridiculously prompt in his responses, and showed great enthusiasm from the first offer to the last thank you email, many months later. In turn, because of his responsiveness and willingness to engage, I spent many days on each draft, kept to my timelines without fail, all to ensure the process was as smooth and professional for his editors as possible. Additionally, while the editing schedule did get delayed, he amended with great candor and apologies.

I can't envision working without redlines, although they can't be depended on completely.

I do think law reviews need to especially focus on the errant typos in the footnotes (contact v. contract, for example), since the focus does seem to be so much on the bluebooking, and not the substance of the footnote. And definitely use some judgment on what is considered general knowledge for that subject matter, thus not requiring a footnote—I think my editors did a great job of this.

But you are right—a high level of communication and responsiveness makes the process much more enjoyable!

Posted by: Marcos Antonio Mendoza | Apr 24, 2015 7:15:08 AM

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