Strangest Law Review Story Ever
posted by Nate Oman
Law review submission season is upon us, and accordingly, I have a bit of advice to law review editors: If you wish to make an offer of publication to an author, inform him or her of the fact. This makes things less awkward. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Last year I submitted a manuscript to a number of journals, but not getting the sort of interest I had hoped for, ultimately decided to revise it and see if I could get it placed in a more speciality, peer-reviewed journal. Fast forward several months, and I get a very odd email from the editors of one journal. The email contained the edited and subcited version of my manuscript. Students had clearly been busily at work on the piece. The odd thing, however, was that this was my first contact from the journal. I had no idea that they were even considering the manuscript, let alone that they wanted to publish it and were already well into the editing process. I had certainly never received an offer of publication, let alone accepted it. Some of my colleagues, with whom I discussed the situation, initially suggested that perhaps this was a new strategy on the part of law journals. Constructive acceptance they called it. Others wondered if perhaps the editors were setting themselves up for an unjust enrichment claim if I refused to publish with them. (I am pretty sure that I would be protected by the officious intermeddler doctrine.) Eventually, I got the situation hashed out with the current editor-in-chief of the journal. It seems that the previous editorial board had decided they wanted the manuscript, and had informed the incoming board that it had been accepted. They failed, however, to tell the new board that the author (me) had not actually been contacted with an offer. The new board set diligently to work, and then sent me the results of their labor. Alas, at this point my plans for this manuscript have moved on, and I refused the journal’s offer of publication (which is how I chose to construe the edited version of the manuscript that they sent me).
So, incoming boards, make sure that there aren’t any loose ends left dangling by your predecessors, and make sure that you always inform authors of your intent to publish before you start editing.