« Laptops in the classroom: Now a word from our students | Main | The President's stem-cell-research statement »

Monday, March 09, 2009

Blind Submissions Revisited

As law review submission season rolls around again, perennial questions about under-representation of women and minority authors in law reviews come up.  I am reminded of a passage from Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, describing the dramatic results when orchestral auditions became anonymous:

Screens were erected between the committee and the auditioner, and if the person auditioning cleared his or her throat or made any identifiable sound - if they were wearing heels, for example, and stepped on a part of the floor that wasn't carpeted - they were ushered out and given a new number.  And as these new rules were put in place around the country, an extraordinary thing happened: orchestras began to hire women.  In the past thirty years, since screens became commonplace, the number of women in the top U.S. orchestras has increased fivefold.

I don't want to suggest that the analogy is perfect - the nature and experience of those selecting pieces/performers is different and maybe the "sound" of a law review article isn't as ungendered as an orchestral piece (see past posts on Prawfsblawg for a discussion of the "audacity factor").  But it does lead me to wonder about the blind submission practice of Harvard Law Review and a few other law reviews.  They have been much discussed, but have these policies had any effect?  And, if so, on what?  A wider variety of author affiliation or seniority?

Posted by Verity Winship on March 9, 2009 at 01:03 PM in Gender | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Blind Submissions Revisited:


Hi Jamison -- Volume 117's EIC, Dara Purvis, discussed these issues last year on this blog: http://tinyurl.com/cw8wr5. We ask all authors to submit pieces without any identifying information. If they do, they are read 100% blindly until we accept or decline. If they include identifying information, the first Articles Editor to read the piece will know the identity of the author and will remove such information for the other members of the Committee.

Posted by: Anthony Vitarelli | Mar 11, 2009 3:15:51 PM

A "blind" review is one that goes from beginning to end without intervention of author-identity considerations. Right? If Yale does that (Harvard and others do not), I'd love to hear them state that clearly and directly. Last year when this thread was opened, several of them evasively suggested that their process is blind -- and, when pressed, that it has "blind" steps . . . which is obviously not the same thing.

Posted by: Jamison Colburn | Mar 10, 2009 10:35:08 PM

Hmm. My experience as an HLR editor was that the first reads (the rotopools) were largely blind, but that the vote by the body (0-reads?) were not blind.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Mar 9, 2009 3:09:48 PM

Harvard Law Review does not review submissions blindly. Yale Law Journal does, or claims to. Not sure if any others do.

Posted by: former HLR editor | Mar 9, 2009 2:21:34 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.