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Category: Law School (Law Reviews)

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Spring Law Review Submission Season

A friend and colleague asked me to post a question about the timing of the upcoming spring submission season. Should he wait until March to send out the first wave of submissions for an essay he will soon complete, send it in the middle of February, or at some other time? This post last year by Orin Kerr says that “late February and early March” are the prime times, but I wonder if our readers can provide more specific advice or anecdotal information about turn-over in editorial boards. I’ve also heard of some journals moving to a rolling submissions process, but I don’t know how many use that system, or even whether such a transition would be viable if most of the market continues to accept pieces primarily in February/March and August.

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Law Review Citations and Law School Rankings

columbia_law_review.jpgThere’s no shortage of writing on law reviews or law school rankings, to say the least. So why not combine the two?

Questions about law review ranking abound. How does one compare offers from journals at relatively equal schools? Is it better to publish with a journal that is more frequently cited or with one at a higher ranked law school? Is it better to publish with a main law journal at a top 40ish law school or the secondary at a top 10 law school? Questions about law school rankings abound as well, particularly for schools outside of the top 30 or so. (Or so it seems to me.)

I’m partial to citation studies as a way of judging quality. I know that citations have lots of problems as a way of ranking journals (or individual authors). However, I like the objectivity citation studies provide. And so I’m partial to the Washington and Lee Law Library’s website, which provides comprehensive data on citations to hundreds of law journals by other journals and by courts. I’ve found it useful in trying to draw some comparisons between journals. Other people often draw comparisons between journals by looking to the US News ranking of the journal’s school.

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Swiftly Shrinking? Toward the Lilliputian Law Review Article

book-tiny1.jpgThis law review article submission season, a bunch of law reviews banded together to create a page limit for law review article submissions. According to the policy as announced by the Harvard Law Review and followed at several other law reviews:

In an effort to address the growing length of law review articles, the Harvard Law Review has adopted a new policy limiting the length of articles we will accept or publish.

The Review will give preference to articles under 25,000 words in length — the equivalent of 50 law review pages — including text and footnotes. The Review will not publish articles exceeding 35,000 words — the equivalent of 70-75 law review pages — except in extraordinary circumstances.

Eugene Volokh of the VC has some data on the effectiveness of the policy:

Here’s an early data point: Jean-Gabriel Bankier of Berkeley Electronic Press’s ExpressO submission service . . . reports that, based on “more than 1,000 unique submissions in both 2004 and 2005,” the averages were:

2003-69.1 pages

2004-73.3 pages

2005-64.0 pages

So that’s about 9 pages shorter on average. Thus, in total, this season saw over 9000 fewer pages of law review article text. Where did those 9000 pages go? That’s roughly 2.7 million words . . . vanished. They are lost forever, gone, never to be read and enjoyed. Oh, the verbosity!

9

A Modest Defense of Law Reviews

librarystacks.jpgIt is a pretty common place observation that one of the virtues of markets is that they manage to aggregate a great deal of disaggregated information. Obviously, folks disagree rather vehemently as to how effectively markets do this, but most people, I suspect, would admit that the market is frequently smarter than particular actors within the market. The same is true, I think, of law reviews.

The classical critique of law reviews is that they are staffed by dumb students who don’t know anything. Obviously, there is a lot of truth to this. However, I think that the case for the incompetence of law reviews can be overstated. While obviously no law review is doing a perfect job, citation studies suggest that the article selection process is far from random. All things being equal, articles that appear in top journals get cited more often than articles that don’t appear in top journals. Of course, it may be that law professors are simply dolts who are taking the name of the journal as a signal of quality. However, it seems at least equally probable to suppose that the law reviews — or at least the top law reviews — are identifying important legal scholarship considerably better than the classical critique suggests.

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