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Friday, April 06, 2012

Underneath the Law Review Submission Process: Part I (Timing)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I hope to get underneath the law review submission process a bit this month. I've done several interviews with articles editors and editors-in-chief at different law reviews and will post those as soon as they are all complete. I don't want to bias the remaining interviews by posting the ones I've already done (indeed, I'm trying to be very scientific about this inquiry).

For today's post, I want to discuss timing of submissions. Law professors are of various minds about submissions. Some are eager to submit articles as soon as the new boards switch--some as early as mid-January. Others like to wait until the law review editors get a feel for reading the articles or until almost all of the new boards are functional and submit mid-February (most of us). Yet others submit towards the end of February and the beginning of March (I'm typically in this camp). Another sizable group of professors seems to submit articles in the middle to end of March. The theory with later submissions is either that the piece is just not done yet (I'm guilty of this one) or there is a theory that at this point law reviews may be scrambling to fill their last spots before finals and may be giving a lot more offers at this point than before.

I have a few thoughts on the timing issue that I want to share, and a little data.

I used to be in the submit at the end of February or beginning of March camp but I may switch it up for next year based on what I learned from the BYU Law Review this year (special thanks again to the BYU Law Review for helping out with this).

This first chart illustrates when the articles that received offers from the Law Review were submitted. As you can see, most of the articles that received offers were submitted between February 1-9. Now these offers were not all given at the same time and the review process on these articles took up to two weeks given the several stages of review, but I still thought this was very surprising that there were quite a few offers given on the first wave of articles.


It may be that we learn nothing from what just one law review does and of course BYU may be an outlier here. A comprehensive study on this issue with a lot of law reviews would be really interesting. But, given what the information we have, there may be something to learn: that many law reviews give offers out in waves and submitting your article in the first wave or second wave may be advantageous. If you notice in this chart, there were several offers given on the articles received in the first week of February, then a slight lull and then another large set of offers given. BYU actually had so many people accept offers in these first waves of offers that they ended up not giving offers on articles submitted past March 2.

Again, I would need to do a similar analysis with a good sampling of law reviews to determine any principles that apply to all law reviews but I was definitely surprised by these numbers. What I take away from this is (which may or not be extrapolated to other law reviews besides BYU): 1. There may not be as much credence to the theory that some of us have that law review boards are extremely picky with articles at the outset and become more realistic as time goes on. 2. Letterhead bias may not necessarily be more of a problem for articles submitted early on as those submitted later on. A good number of the articles that were given offers of publication were not from professors at top-tier schools but still were determined to be top quality articles.

So, there may not really be any take-aways here on this next chart but I thought it would be interesting to show a chart of all of the articles submitted to BYU Law Review between Feb. 1 and March 3 to show roughly when most articles were submitted.

I'd be interested to see if anyone else is surprised about any of this information (or if this confirmed what you already knew and I'm just a bit behind the curve on this, which could be true given that I just saw the Charlie bit my finger youtube video for the first time last week. Wow. I know.). Interviews and other interesting submission details to come soon...


Posted by Shima Baradaran Baughman on April 6, 2012 at 07:52 PM | Permalink


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Great! When can we expect the follow up? I'll be waiting for it. This project is truly facinating!

Posted by: NSmith | Apr 10, 2012 10:20:20 AM

NSmith--I would really like to do a follow-up in the fall. I think there is more mystery in the timing there.

John--this is part of a series of posts that include information from a few law reviews. So rather than speaking specifically about BYU law review or Stanford or Vanderbilt, I've decided to include all of the posts under the same title.

Posted by: Shima Baradaran | Apr 9, 2012 11:13:15 PM

This post should be titled, "Underneath BYU's Submission Process". To broaden the scope far beyond what was studied is misleading, and bad empirical work.

Posted by: John | Apr 9, 2012 10:43:21 PM

Hello. I really like this study. I am curious - will you be doing a similar analysis of the July/August/September cycle? I'd be really interested to know if your results are similar in that cycle. Thank you!

Posted by: NSmith | Apr 9, 2012 2:30:51 PM

I think BYU is a bit of an early bird. I've placed two articles in the past two years -- both as a lowly practioner -- in a top 50 and a top 100 main law review. Both were submitted in March, and the better placement wasn't submitted until March 9 (if memory serves). If all law reviews filled up so quickly, I doubt that would have been possible. (Plus, I think I recall getting a really quick rejection from BYU one of the years, which adds support to the theory that it is an outlier, temporally speaking).

Posted by: Joe (not that one) | Apr 9, 2012 2:04:39 PM

Another great observation TJ. Thanks.

Posted by: Shima Baradaran | Apr 7, 2012 8:29:57 PM

An additional note that one should be a little careful with the dates here. The first group shows Feb. 1-9, which is 10 offers over a period of 9 days. The third group shows Feb. 20-26, which is 8 offers over seven days. So the editors actually made more offers per day in the third group than the first group. Now, there were also more submissions in the third group than the first group, but I think one can easily be misled by the impression that editors were making more offers earlier (the post seems to reflect this in saying "most of the articles that received offers were submitted between February 1-9"). In fact, they made the most offers per day during the Feb. 20-26 period.

I would suggest ensuring each group has the same number of days to ensure an apples to apples comparison.

Posted by: TJ | Apr 7, 2012 7:14:03 PM

Bepress is actually not that forthcoming with their data, DH. I've asked for and been refused lots & lots of stuff; they just refer me to the things they posted on their website in 2005.

Incidentally, BYU is something of an unusual player, in my experience, in that their strategy (based on talking to authors and a couple of other journals) has seemingly been to make a large number of very quick offers. So this data may be biased to the early side.

Posted by: BDG | Apr 7, 2012 3:32:55 PM

I believe that bepress puts out comprehensive statistics fairly regularly on this topic, which aggregate across law reviews and are illuminating. Have you thought about contacting them before proceeding further, so you don't duplicate your work?

Posted by: dave hoffman | Apr 7, 2012 2:28:01 PM

TJ, you are probably right. I'll get back with the editors to try to figure out what the acceptance rate actually is.

Posted by: Shima Baradaran | Apr 7, 2012 11:25:09 AM

Maybe it was .9%, which may be more accurate if they get a bunch of submissions in March that were rejected. Even that would mean 2700 submissions, which seems high.

Anecdotally, I published in BYU a couple years ago, and I was in the Feb. 1-9 group. Seeing these numbers has me feeling pretty good about it.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Apr 7, 2012 8:11:36 AM

But even over the entire year, a 0.09% acceptance rate is difficult for me to believe. Given 27 offers (and assuming no more offers for the entire rest of the year), that would require 30,000 submissions to get a 0.09% acceptance rate. The form rejection letters we all get usually say that the journals receive "thousands" of submissions every year, not "tens of thousands."

Posted by: TJ | Apr 7, 2012 6:11:15 AM

I should have been clear, the acceptance rate is the overall acceptance rate calculated by Expresso. It isn't just based on this one month sample that I have depicted here.

I agree that we need to figure out more about the fall submission cycle. That one is truly a mystery to me.

Posted by: Shima Baradaran | Apr 6, 2012 11:14:45 PM

Acceptance rate of 0.09%? Where does that figure come from? From a quick eyeball, I count approximately 650 submissions and 27 offers, which translates to a roughly 4% acceptance rate. Granted, my count of the submissions is a rough estimate. But it is not likely to be off by two orders of magnitude.

Posted by: TJ | Apr 6, 2012 10:35:44 PM

The figure I've always been interested in is not the raw number of acceptances, but the *rate* of acceptances. Admittedly the data above is thin (one board, small number of acceptances), but it's interesting anyway. The rate varies between 2.79% and 5.56%. Although it trends downward, it's not a precipitous drop. Sure there's fewer offers extended to articles submitted in late February/early March. But there's also a much smaller pool of competitors.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Apr 6, 2012 9:57:53 PM

What about this alleged fall submission window?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Apr 6, 2012 8:37:29 PM

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