Monday, April 4, 2016
A Constructive Resolution to [What Otherwise Would Have Been] Another Ugly Law Review Experience . . .
Imagine this: You open an email message late in the evening from a law review managing editor. The message includes as an attachment the edited version of an article being published by the law review--or, more precisely--reprinted by the law review. So far, so good.
But also imagine your surprise when you open the attachment and find that the edits are extensive--more extensive than you had expected. So, you dig right in to see what's amiss. The first three modifications are changes to footnote citations. They are incorrect edits. As you review the edited draft, you find that most of the suggested changes are erroneous or unnecessary. Some are even undesirable or undesired (e.g., edits to the text of quoted passages that deviate from the source quoted). In frustration, you wonder whether you should complete your review of the edits or just, based on what you've read to date, throw in the towel and ask the law review to start all over, reminding the law review managing editor that the article already has been published and, in the process, edited by you and the other journal's editors and staff.
I experienced a version of this law scholar nightmare recently. What did I do? I completed my review of the edits (which took six solid hours) and sent the law review managing editor my responses under cover of an email message that explained (1) my likely-to-be-interpreted-as-curt tone and (2) the nature of the changes or reversals of changes I made. I tried to educate through these materials. But I was worried that the managing editor (with whom I had exchanged productive emails on other subjects, including the reprint permission and the publication agreement) might be angered by or otherwise negatively predisposed against my comments.
What happened next was absolutely super, however. Later that day, I received a message from the managing editor reading as follows, in relevant part:
Hello Professor Heminway,
Thank you so much for such a detailed and quick response! I understand your concerns, and we will work through the comments and suggestions that you have made. . . .
Your explanations and feedback throughout this process have been both educational and humbling. I appreciate your attention to detail as well as your willingness to ensure that you thoroughly explain your basis of thought behind certain suggestions and concerns. There's no doubt that your students have a lot to learn from you. Thank you for everything.
I was blown away.
I offer this correspondence and this entire story not to toot my own horn for having made the right decision to "stick it out" and offer explanations for my dissatisfaction with the draft that was returned to me by the law review. Rather, having earlier vented here about the law review editorial process and read similar blog critiques written by others (like this one or this one), I want to offer, as Haskell recently did here, a net positive view of the law review editorial experience with a student-edited publication. Bloggers here and elsewhere have made many suggestions on how the student editorial process may be able to be improved (see, e.g., here, here, and here). In the mean time, however, I continue to believe that a bit of patience and good communication can extend the learning experience for student editors in meaningful ways.