Submission Strategies in Response to the Shrinking Law Review Article Offer

Lawbooks5a.jpgOver at the VC, Orin Kerr examines the desirability of the increasing trend of law reviews to give “exploding” offers — offers that expire in 1 day or 2 days. The law review submission process involves authors submitting simultaneously to multiple law reviews. Once the author gets an offer, she requests higher-ranked journals to conduct an expedited review. To make it harder for higher-ranked journals to conduct an expedited review, journals are giving out offers with shorter time windows. The effect: Whereas before journals had a week or two week to conduct an expedited review, now they have just a day or two.

Orin believes that this is problematic:

If this is in fact happening, I worry that it is on balance a bad thing for journals. First, I suspect that the perceived advantage to individual journals is mostly illusory: Journals might want to make fast offers and give a very short window to try to limit expedites, but my guess is that other journals are likely to respond by speeding up their expedite processes accordingly. And on a broader level, I’m concerned that journals that decide extremely quickly are likely to focus even more on the proxy of author/school prestige and less on the quality of the article. . . . On balance, then, tighter windows would seem to make the rich richer; it may be harder for excellent articles by lesser-known authors to break in to top journals.

I agree with Orin. The shrinking windows for law reviews to consider articles just rushes the process and threatens to make review more cursory. It is also a race to the bottom.

Check out Orin’s post for some interesting comments.

My question is about submission strategy. The strategy for authors used to be to send to a bunch of law reviews, get an offer, and then slowly expedite in stages, working one’s way up to the top law reviews. This strategy is deeply flawed today. Given the number of exploding offers, one has to expedite all the way to the top. And because many top law reviews have an extensive review process, if you want to be considered by them, there’s often no way for them to review it in a 1 day or 2 day window.

So what should the strategy be for authors who want to maximize their placements?

Perhaps the following: One should submit in stages, with the top journals first, then followed by another group of journals a week or so later, then followed by successive waves at weekly or bi-weekly intervals, slowly working one’s way down the rankings. In light of the ever-shrinking law review offer shelf life, is this the best strategy?

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9 Responses

  1. Aaron says:

    A race to the bottom? I think that’s a bit of an extreme position. Journals work hard to find the best work to publish. Professors don’t like exploding offers because it takes advantage of risk aversion.

  2. Anon says:

    Your question about the effect of short fuses on submission/expedite strategy is a good one. I want to ask T40 law review editors, is it better to expedite from a less prestigious offer with a long window (two weeks), or to hold out for a better offer that may have a deadline of a week or less? I’ve seen a comment on one these threads indicating that you’d prefer the extra time for review, with the idea that the author can always update you if a better offer comes in during the review period. On the other hand, if expediting does become less staged — and instead one offer means you expedite a good ways up the ladder — is that going to be more harmful than helpful to the author’s chances? In other words, will law review editors who want the extra time be less likely to use the competing journal as a proxy for quality?

  3. Jason says:

    Journals work hard to find the best work? Since when? I was going through the reject pile in my office recently and all the comments were things like, “CV isn’t great” and “Short publist.” That’s dedication to finding good work? No, that’s dedication to finding work that might get cited a few times, regardless of whether it’s any good or not.

  4. TwoL says:

    I’m an articles editor for my school’s law review, and I feel that when an author takes a shotgun approach to applying to law reviews, it really puts a negative spin on my attitude when reading the article (aside from showing a little lack of faith in their writing quality).

    Authors should apply where they want to be published, and then go from there. Unless law reviews start bidding on eBay or in an auction for the rights to the articles, authors should be more selective as to where they are applying and recognize the quality of their own writing.

    [who knows how high law reviews would bid on a Northwestern Professor’s article v. a Harvard Professor’s article v. a Wayne State Professor’s article v. a Florida Coastal Professor’s article]

  5. anon says:

    law profs take a shotgun approach to submitting because many journals take a shotgun, cursory approach to selecting articles, as TwoL helps point out …

    Our careers as law profs depend upon publishing in law reviews, especially top ones. It is disconcerting to know that many law review editors are not really reading our articles. Yes, many are conscientious, don’t get me wrong. The reality however is that there is no real institutional memory among law reviews. How can there be when editors’ tenures are so short? That was my own experience on law review.

    The fact that law reviews won’t do blind reads (except for a few at the very top) is an admission that many law rev editors don’t really know how to choose pieces other than on author’s rep, and that cite-o-meter concerns rule.

    Consider this analogy: Imagine if law professors started to grade their students’ exams based on the submitted resume of the student? “Hmm, this student went to a top college, has a good job lined up for 2L summer, good clerkship, has top grades in other courses … She goes to the top of my course curve. Let’s see, this other one won’t be clerking, has middling grades … I’ll put him in the middle of the curve.” I’m sure most students appreciate that their exams (which their careers depend on) are blind-reviewed!

    Tis time to get more faculty involved in the law review editing process, and time to institute widespread blind review. Otherwise, this whole process suffers from accusations that it is just a grubby grabbing at status.

  6. tim zinnecker says:

    When I see postings and comments on this topic, I’m always reminded of an interesting article published (I believe) by The Green Bag a few years ago in which the author questioned what would happen if clerkship offers were handled the same way as publication offers. E.g., “Hi, I received an offer from Judge Smith earlier today and I’m wondering if Judge Jones could expedite the review of my application materials? I’ll need an answer in four days. Thanks.” All very interesting.

    Query what might happen if all interested parties agreed to the following structure of article submission: All manuscripts are submitted within a specific period (e.g., August 15-September 15) to a central agency, which assigns a unique identifier to each manuscript. Law journals can peruse manuscripts through this central agency only after the submission period concludes; manuscripts do not mention the author’s name or law school. Authors must accept or decline an offer within a specific time period (e.g., one week). Authors and journals have no direct contact with each other until after an offer is accepted. Pros? Cons?

  7. Editor from T40 review says:

    Replying to Anon’s query: “Is it better to expedite from a less prestigious offer with a long window (two weeks), or to hold out for a better offer that may have a deadline of a week or less?” From my review’s perspective, you’re better off expediting from a less prestigious offer and then continuing to update us on new offers that come from higher in the chain. That way, both you and us get the benefits of both strategies: we get the (admittedly unreliable) quality signal of knowing that your article is successfully working its way up the expedite chain, and you ensure that we have time to actually review your article instead of making an up-or-down decision based on your CV and abstract.

  8. anon says:

    I vote for Tim Zinnecker’s idea. Seems reasonable, and I like the blind review.

    We need to get bepress involved, because otherwise such a move would be against their interests.

  9. Anon Editor says:

    Cons to the proposal: A little thing called the antitrust laws?