Attention Law Review Editors

I had a delightful hour yesterday afternoon here at the AALS with one of the proprietors of this blog who suggested I use the space to pitch a piece for publication, and, well, why not? So if you are not a law review editor, feel free to skip the rest of this post. Indeed, PLEASE skip the rest of this post because the combination of shameless and humiliating huckstering, self-aggrandizement, and groveling is likely to make you lose your lunch.

Here’s the deal. Over the summer, I posted a 9,000 word essay on SSRN entitled “Memo to Lawyers: How Not to Retire and Teach,” providing observations and advice to the long-time (or not so long-time) practitioner who might be contemplating a move to the academy (the first piece of advice being never to utter the disqualifying words: “I’d like to retire and teach.”) Based on feedback from colleagues, I feel confident in saying it is one of the resources, for better or worse, along with Brad Wendel’s classic “The Big Rock Candy Mountain: How to Get a Job in Law Teaching,” to which aspiring legal academics turn.

As of yesterday, it had been downloaded well over 1,300 times, making it the number 8 all-time paper in the Legal Education journal. At one point over the summer, it was number 4 in all of SSRN. I regularly get e-mail notes from academics (including several law school deans, one of whom told me how much he/she enjoyed it but hoped I was also doing serious work) and practitioners about the essay.

I’ll pass on trying to explain (because I don’t understand the rationale) why it was deemed not eligible for submission to the one really natural specialty journal. I will note that I submitted it broadly to general law reviews via ExpressO in the August submission season, and completely struck out. (This was not up there with the – deservedly – pitiless trashing of a book manuscript I foolishly and prematurely submitted to a major university press – see blog posts to come on learning to fail well – but it was not a highlight of my life either.) I’ve now had several questions here at the AALS meeting (including from my virtual host) about where I placed it, and my sheepish reply is that I did not. I will also pass on the rest of the rationalizing about why, and simply say that the article is still on the market for a law review that would like a gift that keeps on giving (in reprints perhaps if not in citations).

Any law review editor looking to fill out a volume with something that people actually read and spare me any more sheepish responses ought to drop me a note at

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4 Responses

  1. tim zinnecker says:

    Jeff, I’m one of the folks who have read your thoughtful essay. Here’s my question — why would (should?) a law review offer to publish your essay when via SSRN the paper has been so widely disseminated? Isn’t that sort of like serving leftovers? One reason I hesitate to post a paper on SSRN before submitting it to law reviews is that I wonder why a law review would publish a paper already available to the world. Do law reviews use SSRN (particularly number of downloads) as prima facie evidence that the paper is “hot” and worthy of publishing? (Query the merits of numbers which can be so easily manipulated.) On the other hand, I hesitate to post my papers on SSRN after acceptance because I worry that I might be violating the law review’s copyright (should I insist on an SSRN carveout?) or somehow undermining the law review’s goal of being the initial distributor of accepted articles (again, see my “leftovers” argument).

    Maybe, though, my greatest fear is that the “zero” downloads of my paper will only confirm what I already fear — no one wants to read a paper on UCC Article 9!

    So, Jeff, can you convince me to give SSRN a shot?

  2. Jeff Lipshaw says:

    Tim, I won’t argue for or against placing on SSRN, but I will make some observations. I think the thing that law reviews value is the same thing professors value, which is citations. If the article has a broad readership it is likely to be cited, and the citation back to the law review ultimately won’t depend on whether the reader read it in the law review or on SSRN.

    I have never had a problem placing an article because I had previously posted it on SSRN. Indeed, I have gotten a couple unsolicited inquiries.

    And, yes, I always note a carve-out for SSRN in the contract with the law review.

    Finally, a couple of us were talking here about manipulating of download counts. I’m told there is now a check in place to keep that from happening, but that’s beside the point. Manipulating one’s SSRN count is a sign of the apocalypse.

  3. For what it’s worth (since I’m not a law review editor), I really enjoyed your article. However, I think that the impediment to its publication is that it focuses a little too heavily on your own experience. I think that perhaps, if you recast it as a piece on the history of legal pedagogy, maybe threw in more footnotes on trends and made your experience tangential at best, it would sell better. I’m basing this on my own experience, as I’ve had two “practical” type articles published in law reviews. My first, “When Helping Others Is a Crime: How 18 USC 205 Prevents Government Lawyers from Doing Pro Bono” grew out of my personal protest at the limitations that my government position placed on my ability to handle pro bono cases against the US or DC government. I didn’t write about my own personal experiences, but tried to give a history of the statute and caselaw and why it no longer made sense. My article was accepted, almost overnight, for publication in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, after which some “real” academics also addressed the topic, eventually leading to a change in the law. A year later, I wrote “Why Law Firms Can’t Do Pro Bono,” arguing that law firm pro bono programs mis-allocated resources, and that it was more efficient for firms to simply give money instead. This article had even less of a scholarly basis than the first, so I footnoted as many trends as I could. This one was published in the Alabama Journal of the Legal Profession.

    The other suggestion that I would have is that perhaps you could convert your article into a book – use your article as a preface, and make the rest of the book a very practical how-to piece. You could give advice for finding a job as a legal writing professor (something that many women would like to do once they have kids and find law practice too demanding), getting a job as an adjunct, finding a position after retirement from a career, whether getting an LLM is worthwile and getting a teaching job straight out of law school. You could also profile a few professors in the book who came to law school teaching from different backgrounds. It would be a really neat book to write and a very worthwhile (I did some searches online and didn’t see any books on this topic) Of course, as you know, I have a book coming out, so I am partial to books over other written medium these days.

    Anwyay, please let us know if a law review picks yor article up!

  4. Jeff Lipshaw says:

    I want to thank those of you who have offered me public and private advice. I actually think I understand some of the dynamics of law review placement, both in terms of subject matter and length. Moreover, I didn’t write the essay either as scholarship or for placement in a law review. It really was meant, as it says, to be something law professors could hand long-time practitioners who uttered the fateful words. The submission was indeed a cost-less flier (as was the post), because I had already gotten a whole lot of satisfaction out of the response to the piece. It’s a little bit of a Web 2.0 moment to realize that my attempt at over-the-top mocking self-pity can be read as real self-pity, a trait I do not admire in others, and detest in myself! Trust me, my ego remains intact.