Law Journals’ Policies On Empirical Articles

Browsing the website of the California Law Review, I came across two rules that pose something of a problem for folks writing empirical articles:

4) CLR does not allow the use of images or graphics in our published articles.

5) CLR will publish up to five author-created charts, graphs, and/or tables. All charts, graphs, and tables must be included in the manuscript by the end of the primary editing stage.

Both of these rules may get the in the way of coherent presentation of data, and I’m not sure what motivated the law review to promulgate them. (I imagine that no one actually follows these rules, or that they are negotiable, but why have them in the first place?)

This prompts a question: have people doing empirical work had particularly good or bad experiences working with student-edited journals? From what I’ve observed, editors stay far away from mucking with data or questioning regression methods, and journals’ graphics departments aren’t yet STATA-friendly. Is that about the norm?

[Update: Michael Heise reacts here and observes that “CLR’s submission requirements invite some level of risk to that Review.”]

You may also like...

8 Responses

  1. I wonder how recent these rules are. It seems unlikely, but perhaps they’re holdovers from the days when typesetting was harder?

  2. Michael Heise says:

    Even for those still inclined to publish empirical pieces in student-edited journals, many other journals without such silly requirements exist making the CLR easy to ignore in this context. But this is yet another reason for empirical legal scholarship’s steady migration to faculty-edited, peer-reviewed journals.

  3. anon says:

    Student-edited journals are probably not best suited for evaluating the quality of empirical work or for providing very useful editing of such work.

  4. Frank says:

    Perhaps one solution is to refer, in the asterisk footnote, to a website where you will host all the relevant data, graphs, etc.

  5. Ed Doherty says:

    Frank’s suggestion is so great that it should be applied in all cases, whether the journal will publish charts and graphs or not. I know that it helped with research a couple times back in undergrad.

  6. Anony says:

    Last year, I published an empirical article in a top-tier student-edited law review. The process was a headache to say the least.

    The student editors fancied themselves as experts in statistics and suggested that I restructure my statistical analysis to conform with what I later would discover was what they had learned in introductory statistics courses. My attempts to explain the statistical nuances of my analysis were for naught, and the articles editors ultimately requested that I have a statistics professor friend of mine review the piece and send them a letter confirming the validity of my methodology. I was glad to do so, but next time I think I’ll just send my piece to a peer reviewed journal.

    Law Review Articles Editors just don’t know enough about stats to be of much use in evaluating and recommending revisions to empirical pieces.

  7. Editor at Low Ranked School says:

    I know that our journal publishes tables if requested. However, I also know that trying to run them through the macro for the publisher is a major pain. Also, the publisher charges a surcharge for every table we have. It is a minor annoyance though for us since we have a harder time getting outside authors to publish with a Tier 4 school.

    With that said, we know that we are not experts and have none of that “top tier pretension.” So I can assure you that as long as the statistical method has some basis we won’t argue with it.

  8. hal p says:

    Dear Anony,

    As an editor at a top-tier student-edited law review, your assertion about not knowing enough about statistics has some basis in fact. Of course, the burden of persuading a lowly 2L that your methodolgy is correct should seemingly fall on your shoulders. Every empirical article I have approved for publication has had an author explaining their methodology meticulously and in such a way that a lay non-statistic peon like myself could understand. Your argument, while compelling, is applicable as a general critique of student-edited journals (i.e. law students don’t know if your piece contributes to the field since they aren’t “experts”). If this becomes so prevalent, student-edited law journals will not be a popular publishing arena for these articles. Until that happens, maybe you should take a harder look on how your piece (or you personally) explain your methodology and maybe consider reworking it to be tighter and more explanatory. Maybe a lay reader might understand it!

    It is not pretension that makes us question methodology. It reflects poorly on us as well if we approve for publication an article that becomes a punching-bag critique for methology issues. Any “pretension” comes from norms outside of law reviews.

    — Ed