Proposals & Post-Tenure Publication
More on introducing pitches / proposals to legal academia:
One thing I think worth mentioning is that by a proposal, I don’t mean a sentence that says “I have a new idea about torts.” I mean a document that outlines the argument and the research that will go into it. ( In fact, doing this might be healthy discipline for some scholars). With a deadline. All the usual stuff. Book proposals and feature length magazine pitches are the models I have in mind.
Another: The proposal system is definitely good for established professors, no question about that. And not so good for unknown but talented professors. But first of all, I’m not saying that all of academic publishing should be this way; I am saying that some should be. Second, why shouldn’t prior performance be weighed? In any other area of publishing, the first thing an editor does is see what you’ve written before. I’m guessing that, Political Liberalism or Order without Law weren’t blind reads.
The real reason I think a proposal system might help legal academia is that it might encourage more production from good, established people who frankly (if secretly) can’t be bothered to go through the submissions system. Who knows whether professors are rational actors or not, but in the submissions system their reputation, earned through years of work, is worth nothing. While they’d maybe never admit it, I think its a factor. It leaves many professors just to abandon the whole law review system, which is a pity.
Say you are Professor X, tenured, at a decent school, well known in your field. For the first 10 years or so of your career, you wrote a series of well-regarded, single-authored pieces. It was exhausting, but worth it, and you have established voice in your field — say evidence.
Given that reputation, Professor X will now begin attract a steady stream of requests to do writing. Symposium requests, as described above. Co-authorships with juniors who will do much of the work. Offers to write for edited volumes. Book deals — which offer not just a professional editor, copy-editor, and indexer, but also an advance of some kind. Specialty journals in their field that reach policy makers and lawyers. For some, popular writing opportunities, and trade press book deals.
So in the face of all of this, different people react differently. There are many professors who nonetheless keep plugging away at the law review submission system. But other Professors – everyone here can name a few — become comparatively uninterested in a system where their reputation and record counts for zero. And where, in fact, less people, not more, will read their work. So they either abandon the whole law review world, or become lifetime co-author / symposium writers.
I can accept that the former attitude is the right one. But I think many professors are not so much lazy but rationally prefer systems where their accumulated reputational capital is worth something. Hence the proposal for proposals.