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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Underneath the Law Review Submission Process: Part IV Interviews with Those who Reject Us

For my next post on the law review submission process (see intro, part I, part II on timing of submissions and part III interview if you are interested), is the second half of my interview with Senior Articles Editor at the Stanford Law Review, Andrew Prout.  The first half of his interview is here.

SB: So, now some nitty-gritty questions:

What do you think of the relative importance of the cover letter and CV in reviewing a manuscript?  And what kinds of things really stick out to you as important when reviewing these two documents?

AP: I used those documents to triage expedite requests.  If we had three articles to be reviewed within a few hours, I would look to the cover letter for the article's importance.  Some authors did a good job selling their pieces, and then I would make sure to give those articles priority.  Others didn't, so they would be reviewed later.

If I saw an author who I knew (or who had especially great credentials), I would give their submission a closer look, but I never told the editors who the author was.  Like I said, this process was just how I ordered our approach to expedites when there wasn't time for me to preview all the pieces first.

SB: Some of us law faculty can be pretty superstitious about the timing of the law review submission process. There are certain professors who swear by the importance of submitting on certain dates every year.  I've heard of February 1.  February 10.  Last day in February.  March 13.  And so on.  There is something to these theories.  Some professors believe that if you send your paper earlier in February, it is more likely to get a good read since the editors are less tired and that these articles are more likely to get offers than the later ones you receive that come in the deluge at the beginning of March.  Others believe that editors are much to selective at the beginning of February and are only willing to consider pieces from legal geniuses like Erwin Chemerinsky and only later do you realize that those blockbuster pieces are not coming and you are willing to consider pieces from others who are mere mortals.  Any truth behind any of this superstition? And is there any time that is truly a bad time to submit (in Spring or Fall)?

AP: We accepted a lot in February, but I think we just received better pieces then.  We're on the quarter system at Stanford, so our cycle will be different than others.

The problem with February is that it is so busy, it is easy for a piece to get overlooked--or taken somewhere else by a fast-expiring offer.  Exclusive submissions helped, but another approach is to submit off-cycle (but still during our academic year).  So April was a good time for us:  not many to review, still far from final exams, so more time for each submission.  October was similar, though we were accepting our last few at that point.

SB: Lets talk about Expedites.  These are a source of serious stress for professors.   We receive an offer, we often do not know which journals we should expedite to.  If we get an offer from a lower-top-50 school, do we expedite all the way to the top (ie to Stanford)?  Do we expedite incrementally so that you only see our expedites from top-20 schools? When you see expedites, which ones make you more likely to consider the piece?  Do you ever move a paper to final board review that does not come from an expedited review from another journal?

AP: For expedites, the journal matters.  When I see a top-25 expedite, my interest is automatically piqued.  That said, we did review a number of pieces at the full committee level without any expedite request (though that was mostly during the off-months).  But during the on-months--February, March, and September--we often received expedite requests within a day or two of the initial submission.  Under those circumstances, it was very difficult to move any article through our full review process that wasn't expedited.

SB: In receiving expedites, do you consider the volume of offers, even if they are from lower ranked schools?  What if someone has received 15 offers from schools between the top 30 and top 50, would this be something that would make you more likely to consider the piece?

AP: Not really.  Those updates were helpful only insofar as they meant more time for our review process (i.e., they were extensions).

SB: And I know this question is completely going to require a subjective response, but are there certain journals that you believe have a good nose for sniffing good pieces, and if so, which journals are they?

AP: It really varies by the year.  I remember a lot of action around U. Pa. L. Rev. and Cornell L. Rev. expedites during last spring.  This year, my successor tells me he has looked at a lot of Mich. L. Rev. expedites.  I think it comes down to individual taste and timing.

SB: Thanks Andrew!  This is fun.

AP: Thank you, Shima!  I hope this was helpful.  Reviewing all those articles was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun (and we learn a bunch to boot).

Next up...interview with editor-in-chief and two articles editors from the Vanderbilt Law Review...

Posted by Shima Baradaran Baughman on April 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM in Blogging | Permalink


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I, for one, love this series of interviews, because it reveals in what should be, to law professors, explicit and excruciating detail the utter absurdity and bankruptcy of the system of publication that their careers depend on. Consider this a Nelson-pointing-and-HAHAing comment.

Posted by: Anonsters | Apr 16, 2012 4:09:15 PM

Stanford's law school is on the quarter, not the semester, system. That was one of the changes Larry Kramer and the faculty put into place to encourage taking classes outside the law school. It just means that Stanford students have finals at different times than law students at most other schools, and hence pay attention to law review submissions at different times.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Apr 16, 2012 3:23:34 PM

What does it mean when a law review is on the "quarter system?"

Posted by: Anon | Apr 16, 2012 3:09:42 PM

If you want to know what's wrong with the process...I submitted via ExpressO in early February and received an offer (low end of Top 100) within 3 days. I expedited with a short time deadline via ExpressO. This weekend I received a "rejection" from a mid-tier Top 100 - yes in April even though the expedite deadline was 2 months ago!!! Something is very wrong with the system.

Posted by: ex-dist.ct.law.clerk | Apr 15, 2012 3:16:07 AM

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