Friday, October 23, 2015

Thank Law Review Editors and Thoughts on the Law Review Submission Process

This week I thanked the law review editors at the West Virginia Law Review for their hard work on my forthcoming article. They seemed truly grateful for the thanks, which was well deserved, and it made me think that I should thank law review editors more often.

Law review editors put in a tremendous amount of time working on our articles, often well after-hours given all of their other commitments. Even when the process is frustrating, I think we need to be thankful and professional. Also, given that I have had a few rough editing experiences, I now state my preferences up front, which (at least this time) led to better results. 

Somewhat related, over at PrawfsBlawg, Andrew Chongseh Kim has a couple posts on the law review process: one on exploding offers and one on peer review of law review articles.

Personally, I don't have a problem with exploding offers, and I actually think more law reviews should use them. The submission game incentivizes submission to many journals and trading up multiple times. This process wastes an incredible amount of student editor time and they have every right to effectively shut down the expedite process.

As I have mentioned before, the exclusive submission window is an elegant solution to the expedite problem. Under this strategy, the law review promises a prompt decision and the professor promises to accept the offer if made. The only downside to the exclusive submission window is that the professor usually cannot shop the article during that window, so it slows the submission process. 

Maybe the solution is to allow multiple submissions, but prevent professors from trading-up. If that were the rule, professors would be incentivized to submit only to journals where they would be happy to publish and the process would be faster.

Finally, I can't have a post about law reviews without asking, again, why more law reviews have not moved to blind review. I cannot think of a good reason, but am I missing something?

Haskell Murray, Law Reviews, Law School, Research/Scholarhip, Writing | Permalink



I spent a year as a law review articles editor, and have been doing double-blind peer reviews for ABLJ as well as business/management journals for several years now. As I compare the experiences, the non-blind review serves one useful role. When papers have high potential but need substantial work, a successful publication record speaks highly of the ability of the author to accomplish the appropriate revisions. With my double-blind peer review experiences, there is that added level of uncertainty. But on the downside, non-blind review also facilitates 3L students' shortcutting the process--using pedigree as a substitute for quality.

In terms of the broader issues of law journal decisionmaking and governance, the turnover of leadership is annual, and there isn't much incentive to make substantial changes to procedures, especially if the immediate benefits to the journal are uncertain. Perhaps this is an issue of inertia, rather than a conscious decision by the collective?

Posted by: Michael Cummings | Oct 27, 2015 12:30:22 PM

I appreciate your comment Michael, but we seem to disagree about whether we should use past work while considering present work. The past work likely went through the same flawed process and may have made it to publication only with the significant assistance of the editors.

As to the governance issues, I agree and think the annual student editor turnover means we need strong, active professor advisers to these journals.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Oct 27, 2015 1:02:12 PM


We may not really be disagreeing about whether such a practice SHOULD happen. I was commenting more on the perceived utility from the perspective of student editors (and the resulting inertia). It certainly doesn't make for better scholarship/science. But then again, neither does the practice of accepting an article at the front end of the revision process. I think fully blind review makes a lot more sense if there isn't a relatively strong publication commitment after an initial submission. Only once did I ever experience an accepted article dropping out of the planned issue--and it was because the author pulled out (a practicing attorney who didn't have the bandwidth to make revisions on our timeline).

On the issue of faculty governance, I think I saw my law review faculty adviser once in a formal setting, and all decisions of substance were made by the student editorial board. I wonder if that was typical.

Posted by: Michael Cummings | Oct 28, 2015 10:28:43 AM


I do agree with you on the perceived utility from the student editor perspective, so maybe we are on the same page.

On accepting an article at the front end of the process, I think the hope is that the law review articles will be largely complete at the front end of the process because law professors seem to workshop their articles a good bit on the front end and have the articles reviewed by colleagues before sending the articles out.

In law school, I also did not have much contact with our faculty advisers (though I had a a bit more than in you). As a law review faculty adviser, however, I was more involved, and I know some other professors who are very involved as well. Granted, I provided only limited guidance on the articles, but I did provide some guidance on policies.

My suggestion is simply that the law review advisers should be more involved than most currently are. I don't think the advisers necessarily need to be choosing the articles, but they could, for example, encourage the adoption of blind review.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Oct 28, 2015 10:39:49 AM

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