Overcoming Articles Adversity

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10 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:

    Excellent advice.

    By the way, I thought the Bellia and Clark article you published was fascinating.

  2. young practitioner says:


    You mentioned the tension between high-profile and low-profile professors. What is the view (if any) toward articles by active practitioners — e.g., an article on the fourth amendment by a young public defender, or a biglaw partner’s perspective on a corporate or business law issue? Are these disfavored even more than a low-profile professor’s article? Are they considered in some editors’ “redistributionist agendas” ? Or are such articles so rare you never even really think about them? (If so, that’s a shame.)

    On a related note, I’m curious what the Chief Justice would think of law reviews if they published more “current” articles by practitioners in the field, rather than “big,” theory-based articles by “ivory tower” academics.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    y.p., you may want to check out the section publications of your state or local bar association, or of the ABA, if you want to publish — because the fact is, most practitioners, esp. at biglaw, don’t read student-edited law reviews. (I speak from POV of 25+ years of practice.) Go where your audience is.

    However, the bias against “small ball” articles from SELRs does seem like a real loss. No doubt there are lots of circumscribed, technical-seeming issues that could have great practical significance. Law clerks, I suppose, do read SELRs. Such articles were more common, it seems to me, 30 years ago. There’s a missed opportunity in today’s market — certainly there must be an editor who’d rather give the tax code a shot than help one more article about, say, what Foucault and Scalia have in common, or Deleuze & Guattari’s take on habeas litigation, to see the light of day.

  4. TJ says:

    y.p., obviously I’m not an article’s editor, but I did have the experience of publishing as a young practitioner myself. I would say there are three things at play (1) letterhead bias, (2) subject-matter bias, and (3) style bias. David has addressed the first two, and they can be overcome to some extent, and you will see practitioners publishing articles on corporate law or tax in law reviews, albeit not usually (but still occasionally) in the most prestigious law reviews.

    The third is something that you will not see overcome. What I call “style bias” is distinct from subject-matter bias in the following way. You can publish an article on why Section X of the Internal Revenue Code creates a huge loophole and courts should close it by adopting such-and-such interpretation (it won’t place very well, but you can get it into a law review). You will not find any takers for an article on how lawyers have not previously appreciated there is a loophole in Section X of the IRC and they should maximally exploit it to serve their clients’ interests. The latter style is more directly relevant to what lawyers actually do, but it is not “academic” in its style. You will see the latter type of style in practitioner-oriented journals all the time (and I published one such article myself).

  5. David Schraub says:

    I agree with TJ on the style thing as well, and for practitioners would doubly stress the “follow genre conventions” advice. A fair chunk of practitioner articles we receive are essentially converted briefs. I like reading briefs, I think they’re really interesting, but they’re not what we publish. Ditto with the “attorney-eye perspective on X area of law” — although we actually did have such a piece in our most recent symposium (but that piece really stood out precisely because it is exceptionally rare to see something like that).

    Practitioners rank higher than students but below low-profile professors (probably akin to law clerks on the submission hierarchy). They can be published (we published a piece by a Jenner associate last year), but again, they’re going to have to play by the rules. Essentially, a practitioner who is trying to become an academic and/or is willing to write an academic-style article can be published, but one who is writing for fellow practitioners is probably going to be in rough shape.

    As to the loss from not considering “small ball” articles, well, yes and no. If those articles weren’t being published anywhere, then there’d obviously be a loss, because such articles are really useful. But those articles do get published, just not in journals like Chicago. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with Chicago aiming for “big ideas” pieces, given the wide breadth of publication opportunities available for writers of legal scholarship.

  6. Guest says:

    What’s with all the guys? Are there no female law journal editors at Chicago?

  7. David Schraub says:

    Very few, and it’s a huge problem. We have a female EAE this year, which marks only the 5th female articles or executive articles editor in the past 10 volumes (69-78). The other editorial board positions tend to do a little better (the Managing Editor position was roughly 50/50 over the same period, though I’d guess that’s one of the best performances), and I know folks blame a pipeline problem (typically well over two-thirds of the incoming 2L law review membership is male), but I think it is a matter of serious concern.

  8. frankcross says:

    Interesting stuff. But I think the main point is to write a really good article on something of some significance.

    Then use these tips to maybe improve your placement.

    I’m intrigued by the semi-exclusive submission process. Does this happen much? Do you think it helps get your article attention?

  9. Semi-exclusive submissions seem to be a relatively recent innovation, and mostly we see them from younger faculty at top schools (an assistant professor at Columbia would be the archeotype). I think they do help get attention, and I certainly get their appeal — you get the perks of being before multiple journals, while still giving an incentive to journals to hustle and give your piece a look.

  10. Miriam A. Cherry says:

    Thanks for posting this – excellent advice.