Publishing Student Work

I run a seminar each Spring and I often get terrific student papers. I encourage my students to publish their work, frequently referring them to Eugene Volokh’s extraordinarily helpful guide (and, yes, encouraging them to buy it!). I’m now trying to boil down some advice for them into a draft memo.

I’m inserting a rough draft of it after the jump. I’d love to hear any advice from readers about ways I could improve this memo…particularly if you know particular journals that welcome the work of students from outside their home institution. And, of course, if this humble effort can be of any aid to your students, please feel free to distribute it (with the caveat that it’s just a draft!).


To: Students

From: Prof.

Date:

Re: Publishing Your Paper

Congratulations on completing an excellent paper! I have written up this memo to give you some advice on the next steps you might take toward publishing it. While publication is never guaranteed, there is usually a venue that will agree to make your insights on timely issues available to the world. This memo focuses on

A) Why you should publish your piece.

B) How you can get it ready for publication.

C) Where you can send it to be published.

D) When you should have the piece prepared and submitted to journals.

A. Why Publish?

Publishing is both in your self-interest and in the public interest. First, if you start looking at the websites of successful lawyers, you will notice that many of them mention the books, articles, and practice guides they have written. A publication indicates that you have thought deeply about a subject, proposed a solution, and had both your analysis and conclusion validated by an external reviewer.

Moreover, to the extent you can believe in your conclusions, you are helping the world by publishing your piece. If your paper just sits on your hard drive, no one can access your thoughts. Publishing allows you to influence the course of events via original argument. Your ideas can matter, if you take the few extra steps mentioned below in order to disseminate them.

B. How to Publish?

Although the academic legal community does a great deal of substantive good in the world, it is also, for better or worse, obsessed with form. The most important step you can take now to assure publication of your paper is to make it look like a law review article. That includes the following steps.

1. Isolate a thesis that can be stated in a sentence.

2. In the paragraph of the introduction where you state your thesis, describe each section of the paper in a sentence.

3. Format the article like the attached sample article (you can use this document as a template—just type in your own title and name, and copy in the text of your article).

4. Write a brief letter describing your piece and requesting publication.

When you’ve got all this together, you can electronically submit your piece to most journals.

You should read the following document before you submit your work:

http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/writing/a25.pdf

If you think it would be helpful, check out the entire book from the library, or purchase it yourself.

If this all sounds like too much work, you might just send in the paper as it is and take your chances. But note that the law reviews don’t like looking at the same piece twice, so it’s advisable to make your first effort your best.

C. Where to Publish?

1. Here is a service that allows you to simply check boxes and send your piece (and a letter of submission) to law reviews via email:

http://www.nku.edu/~chase/libesubmission.html

2. Note that this service is both over and underinclusive. It is overinclusive because it includes the main law reviews of each school. You will probably find that the main law review of each law school only publishes pieces from professors and students on that law review. It is underinclusive because it fails to mention some journals of “Law & (some other subject).” You therefore might want to independently submit to journals of “Law &,” such as journals of law & technology. The following URL’s can give you some leads on these journals:

http://stu.findlaw.com/journals/

http://stu.findlaw.com/journals/ip_and_cyberspace.html

http://stu.findlaw.com/journals/health.html

Some of these journals require hard copy submissions, but virtually all the technology ones conduct their business via email.

D. When to Publish?

There really is no hard and fast rule here, but you should try to submit it in September/October, or March/April. If circumstances prevent you from doing so, feel free to submit it later on. Just know that some journals fill up as the year goes on.

Frank Pasquale

Frank is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland. His research agenda focuses on challenges posed to information law by rapidly changing technology, particularly in the health care, internet, and finance industries.

Frank accepts comments via email, at pasqresearch@gmail.com. All comments emailed to pasqresearch@gmail.com may be posted here (in whole or in part), with or without attribution, either as "Dissents of the Day" or as parts of follow-up post(s). Please indicate in your comment whether or not you would like attribution, or would prefer your comment (if it is selected for posting) to be anonymous.

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15 Responses

  1. David Zaring says:

    I really like Volokh’s guide, too. It’s a Strunk and White for academic legal writing with plenty of practical tips, too.

  2. MR says:

    Sad but true, but the best advice may be to wait until graduation, when the chances go way, way up that the same piece will get published.

  3. The NKU “link” appears to be broken.

  4. Anthony says:

    A few random comments from a student who’s been through this process two times now:

    — I’ve found that this site is much better than the NKU and Findlaw sites for finding law journals; it lists a lot more journals, has them broken down into more categories, distinguishes between student-edited and peer-reviewed, states whether email or print submission is required, and pretty much everything else you could possibly want to know

    http://lawlib.wlu.edu/LJ/index.aspx?find=192

    — You need to make it VERY clear that if your students can’t get their work published as a note in their own journal, where they’re just competing with other students, it’ll be very tough to get published as an article in another journal, where they’ll be competing with professors, practitioners, etc. Not only is the quality of submissions so much higher, but so many (probably 50+%) journals will autoding them simply for being a student (and if they don’t know they’re a student, ie. because they didn’t include a CV, they’ll still be at a disadvantage because journals will just assume they’re either a student or a recent graduate, both of which are at the bottom of the prestige totem pole). The exception, of course, is if their piece is rejected for note publication on their own journal for purely structural issues (e.g. the paper is about animal law but they’re on the journal of gender studies, and your school’s law review doesn’t accept note submissions from students not on law review).

    — Many professors can get away with submitting to as few as 25-50 law reviews, but most students are going to have to submit to 200+ if they want any chance of getting even one offer (I personally submitted to something like 265 journals this past cycle) — unless you go the peer review route you’d be a fool not to submit to 200+ journals simply because such a huge number of journals are going to autoding you for being a student (and you won’t know which ahead of time!) that you’ll have to submit to such a huge number just to get one offer (and even then you might get shut out – when I submitted my first article last spring I got dinged at the 150 or so student-edited journals I submitted, and got my only acceptance from a peer reviewed journal). As people pointed out on the Volokh thread on law review submissions a month or so ago, each of these places get 1000-2000+ submissions a year for 12 slots — so even if the journal isn’t actively discriminating against students, there’s a good chance a student won’t get an offer simply because there are so many other good pieces out there.

    — Submitting to journals — whether it be 50 or 250 — is going to either take a lot of time or a lot of money for a student. If you decide to spend time and save money, you’ll have to literally spend many many MANY hours manually emailing your article (and cover letter and abstract) to those 50-250 journals; however before you do that you’ll have to find out which journals accept email submissions (and finding out the correct emails, since a lot are outdated, even at the NKU and WLU sites), and which only accept print submissions. For the print submission journals (and there are quite a few of them – probably 30% of all journals only take print submissions) you’ll still have to spend some money printing out your submission and sending it through the postal service (though you could probably save on the printing costs if you print from your law school or journal office for free, which is what I did — however I still had to pay $2+ for postage, and that definitely added up). Now, if you want to save time and spend money, you can submit through ExPresso, which is very fast and automated and won’t take much work, but will cost you something like $2.50 per email submission and $6.50 per print submission – so if you’re submitting to 50-250 journals we’re talking about hundreds of dollars in fees.

    — You might want to encourage your students to consider submitting to blind submission peer reviewed journals. Because most peer reviewed journals will not autoding the author for being a student, and because their reviewers (assuming blind submission) will not know their identity or anything about their background, they’ll be far more likely to be judged on the merits of their article rather than their student status. The downside is that most (but not all) peer-reviewed journals require exclusive submission, so they wouldn’t be able to submit their paper to other journals (probably not even their own, unless they get rejected there first). Then again, peer review will probably be their best shot at getting published outside of their own journal, though it’ll definitely take longer.

    — For those who do want to submit to student-edited journals, you should discuss how (or if) they should reveal their student status on their cv or author footnote or cover letter. IMO this is the weakest part of Volokh’s otherwise great book, since he pretty much ignores this whole issue, other than to tell his readers not to lie. Given my experiences, I’d lean towards not including a CV or doing anything else to indicate that the author is a student, since it’ll provide no benefit but result in lots of autodings.

    — Keep in mind that a lot of journals that claim to take submissions from students (whether for articles or notes) don’t consider them in practice. The Georgetown Law Journal, for example, claims on its website that it takes note submissions from non-GULC students, but in practice it only accepts them if GULC student comment submissions are so awful that they can’t fill every note slot from that pool.

    I’m also compiling a list of journals that autoding submissions based on student status, as well as journals that consider submissions from students (and actually do in practice!). I’ll email it to you or post it here when I’m done.

  5. Anon says:

    Many schools subscribe to ExpressO as a submission service and permit the school’s own students to submit under its site license. This allows students to avoid the e-mail fee, although probably not the print fee.

  6. Alex Little says:

    Just an FYI for those in the international fields. The Georgetown Journal of International Law considers (and publishes) excellent Notes from non-Georgetown students. Our website has the details.

  7. Anthony says:

    Yup Anon, that’s a very good strategy, though it varies heavily from school to school. I tried that at my school but my request was denied. It probably comes down to whether the school has an “unlimited” institutional account or a “each faculty member gets $XXX worth of electronic submissions per year” institutional account (my school had the latter). In any case it can’t hurt to ask (or perhaps Prof. Pasquale could work something out with the administration at his school?).

  8. Frank says:

    Wow–those are some great comments! Anthony, thanks so much for your advice on this. The Washington and Lee site is superb. The “anonymous submission” tip is also good–it’s how I got something accepted when I was a clerk, and really ought to be a universal policy, especially given some excellent work done by Funmi Arewa, Christine Hurt, and others on “letterhead bias.” (I hope I have the authors right there!)

    As for Expresso, I plan on lobbying for an institutional subscription soon, as I submitted two articles this Spring and felt a little burned out by endlessly re-configuring submissions to different journals; rules (re spacing, abstracts, anonymizing, etc.)

  9. Seth R. says:

    My Law Review was one of those “autoding for being a student” publications (I don’t know what the policy is now). However, we did take submissions from practitioners as well as academicians.

    Note that excluding your student status from your accompanying resume or cover letter is completely futile. A journal that autodings students will look for the indicators that show your professional and scholarly status (since it’s an easy way to weed out work).

    Whenever I got a submission that didn’t say what the author was, I would simply send an email back asking for a resume including the needed information. Trying to hide student status made no difference, in the end, except to create additional work and irritation for me.

    Another thing I tended to look at, as an editor was the footnotes. A quick scan of the footnotes was an easy way to determine the academic quality of the paper. Quantity matters (yes, I know it’s a superficial way to judge). Unless you’ve been writing all the hornbooks on the topic in question for the last 10 years, you have no business submitting a paper with only 10 footnotes in a 20 page paper.

    This goes double if you’re a student. Unless you’ve got the external credentials that make it obvious why I should care about your opinion, I want to see, on average, about 5 to 10 footnotes per page. And no, footnotes consisting solely of more commentary from you don’t count.

    Once you have the footnotes there, they had better be pretty close to bluebook quality. Sloppy writing is a privilege that tenured professors have earned. Students and legal practitioners have no such entitilement (unless the lawyer in question single-handedly funded the new law library) and their bluebooking needs to be air-tight. I am much less likely to consider a student/lawyer submission that is going to generate hours of work for the editors.

    You do not submit a “rough draft” in this process. Your initial draft is your final draft.

    And answer email communication. You irritate your editors, you risk get booted regardless of how nice and shiny your article is. Being Editor-in-Chief of Georgetown Law Review entitles you to – absolutely nothing, regardless of the status of the school you’re sending to.

  10. Anthony says:

    Wow, I’m surprised that a journal would get so many very short and heavily under-footnoted rough drafts from students… You’d think if a student was going to go through the trouble of submitting a paper for publication s/he would at least have the thing properly Bluebooked. Seems pretty counterintuitive. I don’t think anyone would blame a journal for rejecting pieces like that.

    What I did find irritating this cycle was the large number of rejections I received shortly after submitting my work explicitly because I was a student… Now I understood those rejections the first time around, but this time around I had multiple publications in peer and student-edited law journals on my CV, so I wasn’t exactly completely unknown… yet I actually got *more* dings for being a student this cycle than last! That just seemed odd, especially in a couple of cases where the journal said I should resubmit my paper after graduation because it would probably be accepted then (apparently I was supposed to find the prospect of delaying publication for two years just so my author footnote can change from “J.D. Candidate” to “J.D.” appealling).

  11. Seth R. says:

    I’m not sure I agree with our journal’s decision to reject student work now that I look back on it. Some of the pieces were quite good and I found myself perusing some of them in my spare time.

    But that’s all hindsight. It was a coping mechanism, plain and simple.

    The fact is that everyone is using Expresso now and spamming every law review in the country indiscriminantly (whether they intend to publish with the journal or not). The volume of submissions, even for small-time schools, is unmaneagable.

    Rejecting student submissions made my semester SO much more maneagable.

    Not exactly a morally compelling argument, but probably a practical inevitability when the amount of submissions goes through the roof.

  12. Ian Best says:

    Isn’t the publishing process described here somewhat archaic and obsolete? If a law student creates his own blog or website and publishes his work online, doesn’t that get around all of these unnecessary complications? More importantly, online publishing makes his finished product available to a much broader audience. (See e.g. http://3lepiphany.typepad.com/3l_epiphany/locations/index.html.) Law students should be encouraged to publish their work online and go beyond the limitations of the traditional law review submission process.

    I predict that eventually law students, law professors, and attorneys are not going to bother with this outdated procedure of submitting their work to numerous law reviews and journals simultaneously. They will simply post their finished work on their blogs, and invite hard copy journals to find them and publish them. That is a simpler, more convenient, and more efficient method for all concerned.

  13. CBH says:

    This is a wonderful post, and the comments are very helpful too.

    While still in law school, several of my friends and I submitted for publication papers that we had written for seminars. Realizing that our ultimate goal was simply to get the paper published and realizing that many journals do not want to publish articles written by students at other law schools, we elected to submit only to those journals which we believed would not receive many submissions — i.e., specialty journals and general law reviews at schools lower in the rankings.

    I found that submitting to the specialty journals in the area in which I wrote and the general law reviews from schools in the U.S. News Tiers 3 and 4, you can publish an article while spending only around $40 in postage. (Caveat: This experience occurred before the rise of ExpressO, so those law reviews may now receive many more submissions.)

    No one expects a student to publish an article in the Georgetown Law Journal or any place comparable — many professors can’t manage that feat. What matters is that you wrote a good paper and showed the initiative to go and get it published.

  14. Matt says:

    Seth,

    I find the foot-note fetish funny. Law Reviews, as you probably know, are made fun of by most other fields and are not really taken all the seriously by people working in other discipines. One thing that’s often mentioned is that absolutely absurd number of foot-notes. I know that editors want proxies for quality, but this is, frankly, a stupid one that should be avoided. Really. Having nearly as many pages of foot-notes as text is a bad thing and should be avoided and not encouraged. It in no way is indicative of the quality of a paper. In no way at all.

  15. law reviewer says:

    how do you know if something is supported without a footnote? I’m always curious when I read history books etc that make claim after claim with no references….how do we know that the Puritans thought X without some reference to their writings or something?