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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4 Responses

  1. Dave Hoffman says:

    At AALS, I heard that the submission time was moving up to mid-Feb., but I’ve decided to ignore that information. Last year, I submitted an article in late-Feb. and had around half the boards notify me that it was premature, and that turnover wouldn’t occur until the second or third week of March at the earliest. It isn’t clear to me, in any event, that off-cycle submissions are at a real disadvantage.

  2. Alan Tauber says:

    I recall from my days in law school (not so long ago) that the transition took place in the third week of Feb, and it takes a couple weeks for the new board to get up and running.

  3. Seth Rogers says:

    I think it depends on the school.

    I screened article submissions as articles editor last year. Primarily, this meant taking email submissions.

    The slowest period was during the summer, with traffic picking up rapidly through September and early October. During the rush, I’d sometimes get 20 submissions in a single day and we were only a “third tier” school.

    For the Spring issue, I’d agree that February and March were the rush periods.

    A few things to consider:

    1. Early birds can sometimes get more attention. During the summer months, I paid much closer attention to the articles that came across my desk. We didn’t have anything nailed down at that point and were rather concerned about making sure we managed to snag some good articles before they were snatched up by other law reviews. This gave the early birds an advantage.

    2. During the rush, you’ll need fairly good credentials, presentation, and substance to stand a chance. The volume is, quite simply, too much. The fact is that too many writers simply spam EVERY law review in the country with their article (very easy with the uniform email submission system nationwide) – even the ones they have no intention of accepting under any reasonable circumstance (a somewhat incourteous practice for the editors who have to deal with the submissions).

    I had to set some fairly arbitrary and unfair screening procedures simply to keep my head above the flood (this equation is quite different with more prestigious law reviews who have a large cadre of underlings to handle this stuff). Many law reviews apparently do Lexis/Westlaw searches to see how many times a particular author has been cited in legal publications and rank authors that way. We never bothered with this method (after all, we didn’t get even half the volume of tier one schools). But we did arbitrarily reject every student submission, and we really scrutinized those from “non-professors.” We also didn’t pay much attention to stuff that wasn’t a great fit with our own legal community (the primary consideration of a small local school).

    3. Submissions after the “rush” can also be timely if you happen to catch a law review that had a couple authors “flake out” on them (happens more often than you’d think).

    4. If the law review in question is doing a symposium for this issue, it won’t matter what you do if your article doesn’t match the subject matter of the symposium (unless you’re Erwin Chemerinsky …). This kind of thing is usually determined by editorial boards months in advance.

    5. Take the time to skim through the law reviews that you are most serious about. This will give you an idea of whether your article is really relevant to the publication.

    On a final note … Please make the effort to be prompt in your email communications. It’s plain common courtesy, but you’d be surprised how many attorneys and professors didn’t bother to respond at all to publication offers or blew off draft deadlines. This kind of behavior can really poison the editorial board’s attitude toward your article and it can ruin your shot at publication.

    Best of luck.

  4. Kaimi says:

    So _you’re_ the one who dinged my masterpiece, Seth Rogers. You’d better be watching your back, buddy! I know where you live! Or, at least, where you blog comment.