Category: Law School (Law Reviews)


Law Review Submissions Open Thread

Reading the (increasingly nervous) comments on Prawfs at the hiring thread,
you can really get a feel for how incomplete information can sometimes feel worse than ignorance.  Nevertheless, I figured that now might be a good time to get a sense of where the law reviews are in their submissions season.  If you are a law review editor, please post below your book status, i.e., full, open but working through backlog,  welcoming more submissions, etc.  If you are interested, please also post when during the week you typically make offer calls, so that those readers who are waiting will know when to feel most anxious!

For those readers who are juggling multiple offers, consider using Concurring Opinions’ Customer Service Rankings ™ as a way of making the tough choices.


Iowa Law Review, Volume 94, Issue 4 (May 2009)

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Saving Facebook
James Grimmelmann

Attempt by Omission
Michael T. Cahill

Strange Bedfellows: Criminal Law, Family Law, and the Legal Construction of Intimate Life
Melissa Murray

Insider Trading and the Gradual Demise of Fiduciary Principles
Donna M. Nagy


Corporate Liability for Violations of Labor Rights Under the Alien Tort Claims Act
Wesley V. Carrington

The Right and Wrong Ways to Sell A Public Forum
John C. Crees

Searching for a Solution: A Proposed Change to the Code of Iowa Chapter 808A
Morgan N. Engling

Nonprofits: Are You at Risk of Losing Your Tax-Exempt Status?
Gina M. Lavarda


Concurring Opinions Book Reviews

book28aSandy Levinson has a thoughtful new essay lamenting the dwindling number of book reviews of books about the law — The Vanishing Book Review in Student Edited Law Reviews and Potential Responses, 87 Tex. L. Rev. 1205 (2009).  He discusses how the Michigan Law Review used to run 30 to 40 book reviews in its book review issue but now is running only about 10 to 15. He notes that among the top 20 law reviews, in 1987-88, they published about 125 reviews; in 2007-08, they published only 42 reviews.

Brian Leiter notes, in the title of his post about Levinson’s article, that “academic law needs more fora for serious book reviews.”

Beyond law reviews, the number of book reviews in newspapers is rapidly diminishing.

This is why we’re starting a new project at Concurring Opinions — we’ll serve as a forum for book reviews.

We will accept submissions from our readers — law professors, lawyers, law students, and academics in other fields are welcome to submit reviews.

The reviews we envision would be approximately the length of a New York Times book review — somewhere between 500 to 2000 words.

We will try to accept as many reviews as we can, but we will exercise editorial discretion if we think a review isn’t appropriate for our blog.  We’re aiming for serious reviews.

If you’re interested in writing a book review for us, we recommend that you first email us with a brief description of what book you’d like to review and your background, as we don’t want you to go through the work of writing a review only for us to think it doesn’t fit with our blog.  Emailing us in advance won’t guarantee acceptance, but we would hope to give you a good indication of whether we’d be interested in your review.

We believe that there’s a need for serious yet short book reviews, ones that aren’t as long as those published in law reviews.  That’s why we’re starting this project.  We expect it to be ongoing, so if you’ve read a law-related book recently and want a forum to publish your views about it, please think about doing a review for us.

If you publish a book review here, you keep copyright in your work, so you can use it, publish it, and disseminate it later in whatever way you desire.

So please email us if you’re interested.


August Submissions Window

Over at Prawfs, Carissa Hessick has a thread going on when people think that law review editors are accepting submissions.  This is useful, and Orin’s comment over there isn’t to be missed.  But how about the supply side? If you are submitting in this window, when are you planning to do so? Take the survey (which includes the option to identify yourself as an early bird, who has already submitted).


Sample Law Review Submission Cover Letters

law-reviewsFollowing this post are four sample law review submission cover letters I have used in recent seasons.   I provide them after detecting an absence of any samples existing on the Internet and reviewing various posts and comment threads addressing the subject that leave readers conflicted about what a cover letter might accomplish. 

There is considerable Web commentary on many aspects of the law journal submission process, which Dan Solove helpfully collects here.  Few address cover letters directly, and those are humorous, sarcastic, or questions without comments.There is a  sample cover letter on page 288 of Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing, but I could not find a single one on the Web.

When discussed, there are conflicting impressions and advice. Co-op guest blogger Elizabeth Nowicki urges writing “a crisp one-page cover letter” though Trevor Morrison and my GW colleague Orin Kerr, disagreed, opining they are useless.   Scott Dodson opined that, if a famous professor read and admired a piece, to say so in the cover letter, but an articles editor said that will not be believed unless the famous professor communicates that directly.   (Some other conflicting views appear in this thread addressing more general issues.)

What should a cover letter say? All the wrangling aside, some consensus appears as follows:

Basics. Obviously, submissions must indicate author’s name and contact information (mailing address, phone, email) and article title. Unless submitted in an electronic format that transmits this information, the cover letter is the place.

Word Count. Many journals request stating the piece’s word count, including footnotes. In addition, many journals since 2005 have express word count limits or preferences, and request cover letter explanations for approaching or exceeding the guidance.

Brevity. Keep it short, usually a single page of three paragraphs, never more than two, and then only if justified by background research and context otherwise not evident from the piece.

Main Point. State the piece’s thesis, explain its uniqueness and importance.

Prior Work. Reference your prior works, when relevant, not necessarily journal prestige, although not holding this back when relevant. (Those without prior publications may need to explain a bit more why they are pursuing scholarship, perhaps even referencing relevant credentials.)

You. Mention brief biographical data only if relevant to the piece, such as your role in the relevant discourse (or the foregoing caveat for new scholars).

Style. The cover letter should be thoughtful and sober.  You can try to entertain, but beware that attempted humor can backfire. Above all, avoid gimmicks, including strong sales pitches, exaggerated statements of importance or things unrelated to the piece. Read More


Sidebar publishes response to Judging the Voting Rights Act

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Columbia Law Review’s Sidebar is pleased to announce the publication of a response to Judging the Voting Rights Act by Adam B. Cox and Thomas J. Miles.

Professors Cox and Miles’ study found that judicial ideology and race are closely related to findings of liability in voting rights cases. In their response Professors Staudt and VanderWeele argue that, because Cox and Miles failed to investigate the possibility of dependencies between the variables they were studying, their results may be biased. Staudt and VanderWeele develop an alternative approach for exploring the effects of judicial attributes on voting using causal directed acyclic graphs. This methodology can help empirical researchers investigate the relationships between variables in order to posit statistical models with appropriate controls and to identify true cause and effect relationships when they exist. While this methodology has become popular in a number of disciplines—including statistics, biostatistics, epidemiology, and computer science—and is widely believed to be a valuable tool for empirical research, it has yet to appear in the empirical law literature. Staudt and VanderWeele offer a brief introduction of the method in their response in order to initiate discussion as to its worth in empirical legal studies.


Iowa Law Review, Volume 94, Issue 3 (March 2009)

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Cause for Concern: Causation and Federal Securities Fraud
Jill E. Fisch

Twombly, Pleading Rules, and the Regulation of Court Access
Robert G. Bone

Values and Value Creation in Public–Private Transactions
Nestor M. Davidson

Green Is Good: Sustainability, Profitability, and a New Paradigm for Corporate Governance
Judd F. Sneirson


A Newsworthiness Privilege for Republished Defamation of Public Figures
Matthew J. Donnelly

The NLRB’s Oil Capitol and Toering Decisions and Their Effects on Unionization and American Labor Law
Michael J. Hilkin

Stuck in a Bind: Can the Arbitration Fairness Act Solve the Problems of Mandatory Binding Arbitration in the Consumer Context?
Joshua T. Mandelbaum

Extending Refugee Definitions to Cover Environmentally Displaced Persons Displaces Necessary Protection
Kara K. Moberg


The Legal Workshop


A group of law reviews have created a new website called The Legal Workshop. The law reviews include Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, NYU, Northwestern, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. According to the press release:

The Legal Workshop features short, plain-English articles about legal issues and ideas, written by an author whose related, full-length work of scholarship is forthcoming in one of the participating law reviews. But The Legal Workshop does not house a collection of abstracts. Instead, it offers an engaging alternative to traditional academic articles that run 30,000 words with footnotes, enabling scholars to present their well-formulated opinions and their research to a wider audience. In addition to making legal ideas understandable, The Legal Workshop seeks to house the best of legal scholarship in one place—making it easier for readers to find the best writing about all areas of law.

Over at Legal Theory Blog, Larry Solum offers some thoughtful reactions:

The first innovation of “The Legal Workshop” is that it transforms long-articles into short-form online pieces. It seems likely that the short-form versions will reach a wider readership. Bravo! I hope this succeeds!

Second, I am a bit skeptical of the ambitious claims in the press release about reaching “the general public.” . . . . This prose is not aimed at the general public and will be incomprehensible to general readers. (This is not intended as a criticism of the writing, which does an exemplary job of reaching the general audience of legal academics.)

UPDATE: Doh! I didn’t realize that Nate already beat me to the punch and wrote about The Legal Workshop here.

Final Ranking]"> 17

Final Ranking]">The Best and Worst Law Reviews, Based on their Customer Service [Final Ranking]

Brian Leiter has been playing with the Condorcet Internet Voting Service to measure law school rank and law review rank by prestige. As Brian notes, there is a striking correlation between USNWR rankings and those for his polls of law schools and law reviews. (The latter, at least, isn’t surprising.)

Let’s try something different. As the comments to this post suggest, authors have some odd experiences when dealing with law review editors (both peer and students). Some journals are very professional in their dealings, others never get back to you. Some journals are bluebook fiends, requiring citation of obvious points. Others barely touch the editing pen.

I’ve created a poll which asks you to rank law reviews by their relative quality in back-of-the-office operations: do they do a good job communicating with prospective authors; are they good, value-adding, editors; do they create useful online fora to discuss articles post-publication; do they publish on time, etc. While it’s probably the case that customer service isn’t something that authors care much about when choosing between journals of very distinct prestige ranks, it ought to matter in close cases.

Go ahead, take the poll. Leave comments about particularly good or bad law review customer experiences below.

[For the final results, click on through to the next page.]

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Law Reviews and Institutional Knowledge

Dave’s post and the comments about law reviews and customer service reminds me of a little something I picked up working with folks from the non-profit world. If you run something, don’t make it about you. Document what works and what doesn’t. Preserve institutional knowledge. Talk to the incoming folks about what you learned too. The new people will want to try new things, and they should. Nonetheless, the more a review/journal finds best practices and shares them with the incoming editors, the better it can mitigate the problems the high-turnover rate inherent in the system can cause. So if you ran a symposium and found out that one should plan five months or more in advance, need to book food/alcohol service in a special way, or there is some other quirk of bureaucracy to overcome, write that information down. Create a walk through of every aspect of taking an article in for review and finally publishing it. Analyze the way editors are trained.

You get the idea. The more you can capture and share the way your review works, the more the next group can build on what you accomplished rather than re-inventing the wheel. Last however one creates these documents (wikis, word files, etc.) be sure to save iterations. Knowledge can be lost while moving from version 1 to 2 or 3 or 4.