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More on Ranking Law Reviews

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5 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    I worry that the number of submissions metric might end up enhancing the “Matthew Effect;” the rich get richer, the poor poorer. People might stop bothering to submit to the journals with few extant submissions.

    Following on Jonathan Mermin’s ideas (in Remaking Law Review, 56 Rutgers L. Rev. 603 (2004)), I think that prospect could be ameliorated if law journals started specializing a bit in the types of articles they took…if only by a) running more symposia and b) calibrating a portion of acceptances to the expertise of a faculty member who would run a seminar for articles committee members to discuss and critique the law review articles they are reviewing.

    This would be a version of the type of “competition among law reviews” suggested by the following review piece:

    http://www.aallnet.org/sis/allsis/newsletter/25_2/LRevReview.htm

  2. Frank says:

    PS: here’s a nice article on the Matthew Effect in general:

    http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/merton/matthew1.pdf

  3. John Armstrong says:

    Actually, I’d suppose that a sort of “reverse Matthew effect” has been in play. The reason that Harvard and Yale are missing is that many authors don’t even bother submitting to such prestigious law reviews.

    For example: I’m converting my dissertation (in math) into papers now. Do I submit them to the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (general scope, very prestigious) or to the Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications (generally read only by the one small subfield)? Obviously the latter, since I’d just be wasting my time to run my new work up against established powerhouses like John Conway, no matter how wondrous I think my ideas are.

    One problem in the analogy is that I can only submit to one journal at a time, while (if I understand it) law articles can go to many journals simultaneously. Still, I think some part of the effect carries over.

  4. John,

    I don’t think your analogy works in law. There’s no reason not to submit to the top law reviews, so most people do even if they expect to get rejected. Law schools pick up the cost of submitting articles, so there is little cost to a professor in trying to get the best possible placement.

    Given the incentives, most top law reviews would receive the same or similar numbers of submissions. If you’re submitting to Yale, odds are 99.9% that you’re also submitting to Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, etc.

    My sense is that Charlie is largely right in his earlier post that law review ranking largely tracks US News ranking. But there are some notable exceptions where there’s a divergence.

    Ultimately, law review ranking is really a matter of collective perception in the academy. Maybe the best way to assess law review prestige is to poll a representative sample of law professors.

  5. John Armstrong says:

    Thanks for the insight, Prof. Solove. I suppose in that case i’m stymied as to why the supposedly top law reviews aren’t in the top ten for submissions. Is there a behavioral economist in the house?

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