It’s Not Me, It’s Them, Right?: Negotiating With Law Reviews, and a Fastest Finger Quiz

An article I wrote goes to the printer on Monday. The journal has been great in almost all ways, but when, close to the end of the process, I asked them for a copy, print out or other indication of all of the Bluebook and other changes they had made since the document left my control, the response was surprise and an inability or unwillingness to respond. So, I want to know: Am I the only one who likes to see every letter that was changed? And if this is not my eccentricity, what other similar terms should authors lay out in advance? (I’m not talking about the number of reprints or who holds the copyright). In order to bias any comments in favor of placing stringent demands on student editors, I offer you this quiz, designed to make you very afraid of what might happen to your piece when the students get ahold of it. The quiz combines the fastest finger question of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire show with the citation studies done so well by Brian Leiter and Michael Yelnosky.

From highest to lowest, put these internal editorial notes in the order of the frequency in which they appear in the published versions of articles, according to the Westlaw JLR database:

A. “Add Cite”

B. “Need Cite”

C. “Make Up Cite”

D. “Insert Cite”

The answer is:

B. Need Cite

A. Add Cite

D. Insert Cite

C. Make Up Cite

For each, I searched for “cite” and “citation,” and for B, “Needed” as well as “Need.” Also following the Leiter Survey methodology, I looked at the first 20 results for each search to find false positives. For example, many Uniform Laws use the phrase “insert citation to Section” whatever in their drafts, and such usage of course is not an error. The numbers came out this way:

Need Cite: 144 total, 5/20 False Positives=108 net

Add Cite: 27 total, 13/20 F/Ps=17.55 net

Insert Cite: 31 total, 15/20 F/Ps=7.75 net

Make Up Cite: 0 Total

In fairness to the law reviews, many of these errors come from published CLE materials not journal articles.

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11 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    You’re not the only one. Fortunately, the journal with whom I’m currently working seems to do just this, at least in the first round of edits – they’ll send me a copy of the article with every single change they’ve made, which I’ll approve or not.

    I’ve yet to see whether this will be a massive time suck (I think it might not – my Bluebooking was pretty good beforehand), but I’m happy that I’ll be to blame for any silly errors.

  2. anon says:

    Jack, you are so right. I think I will make a condition of acceptance not only the retention of copyright but also a strict requirement that all changes be approved by me through word track changes. I have spent countless hours wasting time on fixing their errors and then I’m horribly chagrined when I see that they they create new ones in the “final” version. Gah!

  3. Chris Bell says:

    On one hand, showing every change is not so easy. My journal makes changes in “waves” – treating each “wave” like a fresh article.

    On the other hand, how hard is this for you to do yourself? Just ask for a current copy and use Word to merge it with your original version.

  4. Calvin TerBeek says:

    I’m had a *terrible* experience with a certain second-tier law review. I made my final changes and sent the article back. Well, they didn’t incorporate the changes (nor did they proof it) and sent the article to the printer and Westlaw etc. with all the typos, etc. in it!?! Now we’re in a process of getting Westlaw to post the proofed article. Perhaps because Im “only” a judicial clerk and recent law school grad did I get the second-class treatment.

  5. anon2 says:

    When I was editor in chief of the law review, I made it a point to send the authors a “redline” or comparison copy, which tracked all of the changes from the author’s original to the newest version. I hope they appreciated that.

  6. whoah! says:

    As noted above, several programs allow you to create your own redline if you have the finished document and the first draft. It would be easy for either you or the law review staffers to use such a program. The problem with this is that it might not be that helpful. In my experience as an editor at a top law review, the footnotes have always been edited substantially. So much so, in fact, that basically the entire below the line part of the article would be redlined, meaning that the redline itself won’t give you much new information. You’d almost be better off just checking the final document for errors.

    Thus, you could ask the staffers to prepare some sort of document that summarizes all of the changes that they’ve made. But doing so at the very end of the editing process, just before the article goes to print, is a tough demand to make. At least at our law review, when an article is about to go to print, we are busy doing a final round of proofreading. Given that we also have schoolwork to attend to, it’d be tough for us to also create a new document summarizing all of the changes we’ve made that late in the game.

    But at our law review, you hopefully wouldn’t demand such a document, since we send you redlines that indicate all of the non-bluebooking changes that we make in each round. We don’t normally track through redlines the bluebooking changes, but I suppose if the author cared enough, we would do so. I imagine that many other journals do something similar. If this procedure (or the procedure used by the other journal) isn’t enough, and you instead want us to provide you with more information, I would expect you to tell us well before the article is about to go to print.

    Basically what I’m saying is that you cannot only blame the editors. If you wanted to have more feedback into their bluebooking changes, you should have told them sometime well before the article is about to go to print. (Of course, I’m not exonerating them either; they should have instituted more robust bluebooking procedures and/or clearly explained their editing process.)

  7. For the past dozen or so years, I’ve insisted that law reviews publishing something of mine agree to make no changes without my okaying them first. They agree, but they often don’t really believe that I mean it. A law review recently added more than 100 footnotes to an (already heavily footnoted) article of mine, most of them citing to sources I hadn’t cited elsewhere, which meant that I had to cite check the new footnotes myself. The majority of them turned out to cite sources that offered poor or only indifferent support for the propositions in text. When I complained to the editor in chief, though, she explained that adding new footnotes and new sources was one of the ways her law review distinguished itself from other law reviews at similarly ranked schools. I was, she assured me, the first author she was aware of to object.

  8. Don Clarke says:

    Stick to your guns, Jack. And don’t buy the idea that “mere” bluebooking changes don’t need to be checked. I have had law review editors change an author’s name simply because the name as I (correctly) wrote it didn’t seem like a name to them, so they guessed I must have meant a different, more common name. (Needless to say, they did not bother to check the source itself to confirm.) They also changed my romanization of a Japanese word despite not knowing any Japanese. 🙁

  9. Peter Spiro says:

    An example of the phenomenon Don highlights: elevating Gouverneur Morris to “Governor” Morris.

    The law review editing process is the worst of all possible worlds, except perhaps compared to the alternatives. I’ve been finishing up a book with an academic press and have been surprised at the amount of time the production process is requiring, in large part because there isn’t an army of second and third year students proofing the manuscript. With law reviews, as long as one is clear up front about some ground rules (in my case, “no stylistic changes, however small they might seem to you” and – and getting burned once with a mauled last sentence – insisting on checking the final, final version), the headaches can usually be minimized, if not always avoided.

  10. art. ed. says:

    With law reviews, as long as one is clear up front about some ground rules (in my case, “no stylistic changes, however small they might seem to you”

    If everyone insisted on this, my job as an articles editor would have been significantly different. A significant percentage of law professors, it turns out — even the “top” publishers — are brilliant thinkers and scholars but middling-to-terrible writers (or at least submitted drafts that were ineptly or inelegantly written). Unless a submission was unreadable (which some were), I looked at the substance first and assumed we would be able to correct the stylistic problems in the editing process. If the widespread rule had been “no stylistic changes,” the number of articles I would have been willing to promote to a “full read” and subsequently vote to accept would have been much lower.

  11. man. ed. says:

    I agree, Articles Editor. This would be an absolute nightmare for my staffers. Fortunately, it also seems to hold no appeal for most of the middling-to-poor writers we accept, most of whom seem happy to cede control over their article and give a lot of notes to the editing process like “Sure, change whatever you want in this paragraph.” (We agreed to it this year with one author who specifically asked for it on the grounds that he has a lot of detailed statistical work that’s easy to inadvertently introduce errors into.)