Wednesday, September 21, 2005
One of my colleagues sent out an article this morning via ExpressO. Half an hour later, she had an offer in hand. No gimmicks were involved -- it wasn't previously available on SSRN or online anywhere, and she had no prior connection to the school or the journal making the offer. The journal simply read her piece hot off the presses, and then immediately accepted it. (And yes, I've looked at the e-mails substantiating both the submission and the offer.)
I can say that she did many things right with her piece -- it had a great title, a clean argument, timeliness, and a very reasonable length. But even with those factors in her favor, I can't say that I ever expected her to get an offer in half an hour. After all, she's just barely starting to get the "we have received your article" acknowledgements from most journals. Kudos to the editor who pulled her piece off the printer and read it on the spot. Among the pieces I know of, half an hour from submission to offer is -- by a large margin -- record time.
Not that I'm jealous or anything.
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Tracked on Sep 21, 2005 7:50:41 PM
I wonder if "read" can really be applied in this case if it really was a half hour- assumedly there was some time spent in writing messages and the like, too. I don't know what you mean by "reasonable length" but unless it was 5-10 pages or something I'd deeply suspect it was at best skimmed. Maybe that's fine, but it seems pretty weird. I suppose I'm just deeply skeptical that the paper was read, at least with any seriousness, and given that it seems to be a pretty bad mark to that journal that they accept a paper they cannot have read, at least with detail.
Posted by: Matt | Sep 21, 2005 6:15:06 PM
I think I'm with Matt on this. This kind of response time isn't exactly indicative of a good deliberative process either. When I was on journal, we tried, and in most cases, successfully, to get some faculty reads too. This may be another argument in the litany we've rehearsed regarding peer review...
Posted by: Dan Markel | Sep 21, 2005 6:37:29 PM
It's in the 50-60 page range, so you're probably right that it was read over quickly. Given the subject matter (not highly technical or difficult to follow), I can believe that the journal editor read the text of the article in that time frame. S/he probably didn't read all of the footnotes, I suspect.
Posted by: Kaimi | Sep 21, 2005 6:39:21 PM
I can guarantee the 3L editor didn't read the footnotes. That's why there are 2L cite-checkers.
Posted by: John Jenkins | Sep 21, 2005 11:02:08 PM
I guess if you can read a 50-60 page article, even w/o the footnotes, in well under a half hour (to leave time for the processing) you're a much faster reader than I am. A much less careful one, too, I'd guess. (By 'you' here I mean the "editor".) If this happend to me I guess I'd be happy to have it accepted so quickly, but I'd be a bit emberassed about the process since there was pretty obviously no quality control at all.
Posted by: Matt | Sep 21, 2005 11:26:03 PM
Well, lets not forget the confessions from anon law review editors in this post on volokh. Among the highlights: "By the end of the year, my method was to look at the list of outstanding titles and pick anything that sounded interesting. Occassionaly, I might just pick articles randomly off the shelf."
So who knows how this one got picked. Ouija boards could've been involved...
Posted by: Paul Gowder | Sep 21, 2005 11:51:52 PM
My guess is that law reviews that are lower on the pecking order must give out vastly more offers than those higher up, since many of their articles will get plucked away by the higher ups. Thus, if Yale Law Journal gives out an offer, there's a pretty good chance it'll be accepted. The number of offers given out to get an acceptance is probably very low.
A law review from a lower ranked school must make many more offers to get an acceptance. So perhaps the strategy for the lower ranked law review is if an article looks good from reading the introduction and skimming the rest quickly, then give out a quick acceptance. Why put in so much time and effort into reviewing the article when the odds are if it is really good it will be plucked away by a higher ranked law review? Moreover, since so many offers must be made, it is very time-consuming to put in a lot of time into the review. So my guess (and this is speculation only) is that the strategy is to screen to see if the article is "decent enough" and then send out the offer.
In contrast, the top law reviews have the opposite approach. Quickly determine if the article is not good enough and reject on a skim. Then take the ones that look promising and do a more thorough review.
So the higher ups will be quick to reject. The lower downs will be quick to accept. Big surprise!
Posted by: Daniel Solove | Sep 22, 2005 3:53:54 AM
I hate to put a negative spin on the good news of a law review acceptance, but nonsense like this is why my fellow social science faculty members don't consider my law review publishing to be serious scholarship. Thus, I have to do it in my spare time - given that I receive no credit for such publications.
Posted by: none | Sep 22, 2005 6:23:33 AM
Not to pile on, but I agree with Matt and None: no disrespect to the author or to the many hard-working law review editors that try to do their jobs in good faith as best they can, but this is another example of what's wrong with law review publishing and why folks that publish in peer-reviewed journals often don't take law review publishing seriously.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Sep 22, 2005 9:55:47 AM
The assumption here is that no law student editor could know in under 30-minutes whether an article was worthy of publication. Maybe so.
Or perhaps the law-student decisionmaker developed an expertise in the area the article covered. While a 2L, I could have spotted a winning article on most section 1983 topics, or on a post-Lopez/Morrison constitutional analysis. Maybe the editor had his stuff together, actually studied a discrete area of law while in school, and thus was able to quickly spot excellent work in the field.
Given that many law students, during the summer before 2L, work with law professors on treatises (some even ghost write), it wouldn't surprise me if the student who selected the article recognized cutting-edge work in a given field.
Posted by: Mike | Sep 22, 2005 2:00:18 PM
No disrespect, but . . . 30 minutes? As a law prof., I've been an outside reviewer for peer-reviewed journals, analyzing articles in my areas of specialization. I suppose one could decide that an article did *not* merit publication in 30 minutes or less (fortunately, I haven't been given one that clearly bad). But I find it hard to believe that anybody -- law student, prof., biggest expert in the world on a topic -- could reasonably decide that an article *did* merit publication in 30 minutes or less, assuming that the article (i) was 50-60 pages long, and (ii) was competing with hundreds to thousands of other articles for a few spaces.
Further, I understand that somebody could correctly see that an article was dealing with a cutting edge *topic* in 30 minutes, but I don't see how that amount of time would allow a deterimination that the substance, research, and argument of a 50-60 page piece was cutting edge.
Again, this isn't blaming law review folks in general; they have to play the ball where it lies. But it lies in a weird place in some ways, and stories like this make it seem even weirder than it needs to be.
Posted by: Joseph Slater | Sep 22, 2005 4:08:02 PM
As you might expect, I have to agree with J.S.'s point. The logical extension of Mike's point would be that the peer review process in other disciplines (where the vast majority of peer reviewers are experts on the paper topic) would cash in at 3-5 hours, tops. Trust me, it's much longer than that; 3-5 months is a very quick turnaround (with Revise and Resubmit review time included).
Posted by: none | Sep 22, 2005 4:25:08 PM
Just a note re: the comments about time to reject articles:
We may choose to *reject* some articles in a short space of time (sorry guys) but I think that our review on the other end of the process is never so cursory. I can imagine one person could read an article in 30 minutes (maybe) and fall in love, but I feel like the major QC we have at Michigan is that our pieces are read by multiple people, with input from faculty members.
Rejecting an article in a short space of time is easy, but I agree with everyone else that this seems like really cursory review. That being said, it also might be something a lot more like stars being aligned.
Posted by: Heidi | Sep 22, 2005 9:11:54 PM