Law Review Article Submissions Outside the “Windows”

window3a.jpgFor law professors submitting law review articles, it has become common knowledge that there are two good times to submit — in late February/early March when new law review editors are selected (the “March window”) or in late August when law review editors return from their summer vacation (the “August window”). There has been a lot of discussion about when, precisely, the sweetest spot in a particular window is, but I want to raise a different question in this post. What are the merits of submitting pieces outside of the two windows?

I assume that submitting a piece in the mid-to-late fall wouldn’t be wise, as most journals are nearly full. On the other hand, suppose a top journal has been particularly picky and is left with an open slot or two. Submissions have largely dried up, and then your piece comes in. The editors might think: “Well, it ain’t great, but we’re not likely to get anything much better at this late juncture, and we need to fill the space, so . . . .” If this is true, then submissions beyond the fall window are a risky gamble, but they could pay off big.

What about submissions during the summer? Suppose one were to send in a piece in late April, or May, or (gasp!) even June or July? What would happen? I wonder about this. The optimist thinks: “This is an ideal time. The journal editors are no longer inundated with millions of submissions, so they can take a bit more time to read the piece. They have already seen a bunch of submissions, so their expectations are more realistic (i.e. they expect lower quality). Therefore, it’s a good thing to submit when it isn’t rush hour for submissions.” The pessimist thinks: “This is a terrible time. The editors will be busy with summer jobs and will not want to bother discussing pieces during the summer. Therefore, they will be less likely to suggest a piece for a full committee read during this time.” Who is right, the pessimist or the optimist? Is it better to submit during a window or at another time? Does it matter? And is one window better than the other?

Answers from law review editors will be especially appreciated.

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6 Responses

  1. articles editor says:

    Based on my experience as an articles editor at a top law review, I think the pessimist is quite right about summer, but the mid-to-late fall submission can sometimes be effective. This year there was a shortage of good stuff at the end, though I think this was partly due to the quick transition to shorter articles without a complete transition in our acceptance rate.

  2. soon-to-be retired editor says:

    All your points are valid. For me, it’s about expectations. I expected to read a ton of articles in March and late August/early September. This isn’t going to change much, or will only change slowly, so I didn’t mind reading a few during summer or outside the usual times. As long as it’s a few.

    I’m an optimistic. I agree with the above comments that the Fall season last year wasn’t that great. It’s unknown whether this was due to shorter articles; I don’t have enough information to figure that out. But a “bad” season just means that if you’re article is great, it stands out more and is more likely to get snatched.

    As to this upcoming season, my law review selected our board early – so please submit away!!

    There is no “window” for particular types of articles as far as I’m aware.

  3. Amy says:

    I’m an recent ex-articles editor now submitting to journals, and I’m planning to submit some time next week. I think it’s really hard to generalize, not only from journal to journal but even from year to year within each journal, but there seem to be few disadvantages to sending something out early – at worst, it sits on someone’s desk for a week or two, and you have to negotiate a slightly longer period to respond to an offer. By contrast, I think there are advantages to putting your piece in front of editors when they are fresh and enthusiastic, and when they likely have many slots available.

    As for off-season submissions, they seem like a high-risk high-reward strategy. We never reviewed articles over the summer, but there were other “unpopular” times (say, late April or early December) when we were looking for something to fill up an issue and the right piece just happened to arrive at the right time. I’d say the benefit of off-season submission is that you’ll probably get more attention if there are still slots open; the downside is that it’s unlikely that there will be slots open.

  4. Amy says:

    I’m an recent ex-articles editor now submitting to journals, and I’m planning to submit some time next week. I think it’s really hard to generalize, not only from journal to journal but even from year to year within each journal, but there seem to be few disadvantages to sending something out early – at worst, it sits on someone’s desk for a week or two, and you have to negotiate a slightly longer period to respond to an offer. By contrast, I think there are advantages to putting your piece in front of editors when they are fresh and enthusiastic, and when they likely have many slots available.

    As for off-season submissions, they seem like a high-risk high-reward strategy. We never reviewed articles over the summer, but there were other “unpopular” times (say, late April or early December) when we were looking for something to fill up an issue and the right piece just happened to arrive at the right time. I’d say the benefit of off-season submission is that you’ll probably get more attention if there are still slots open; the downside is that it’s unlikely that there will be slots open.

  5. retiring AE from top 20 LR says:

    We did not look at any articles during the summer, and we did not wait until non-peak times to fill the slots, so we did not review articles then either. I think the March window reflects finals too–the end of April is too close to finals.

  6. Seth says:

    Unless you’ve got truly impressive credentials, I think you are just as likely to get passed over at either time and just as likely to get a fair reading.

    True, some editors are probably too busy with their summer internships to pay much attention.

    But, on the other hand, they are unlikely to be any less busy in mid-October and you now have to compete with loads of other submissions.

    Really, it just comes down to how conscientious the editor is.

    Some editors are really excited to be a part of an academic journal. Some simply regard it as another tick on their resume (to be completed with the least hassle possible). The former will probably be a great audience for early submissions. The later will probably select more on your reputation, than any particular content in your article anyway simply because it’s the easiest way to make a selection.

    I know that at my 3rd-tier, rural law school, summer was a GREAT time to be a submitter. I read a lot of those submissions. By mid-October though, I was getting pretty ruthless.

    The equation is, no doubt, completely different at Duke, or UCLA.