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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Underneath the Law Review Submission Process: Part VII Expedited Reviews

In this next post on the law review submission process (see intro, part I, part II on timing of submissions,part III interview, part IV interview, part V interview and part VI interview if interested) I am exploring the expedited review.

Once a piece is submitted on Expresso, the waiting begins until an offer (hopefully) is received.  Once an offer is received, many authors will chose to expedite their submission.  This typically involves a note sent to all of the other journals that they prefer over the journal that they received an offer from (or sometimes similiarly situated journals) stating that they would like to hear back on their piece within a limited period of time.

Expedited reviews can be a source of stress for authors.  Sometimes they wonder, for instance, if they get an offer from a top-100 journal, should they expedite it all the way to the top upon receiving their first offer?  Or should they just expedite to the top 50 and wait until they receive another offer to keep expediting on up?  What should an expedite say?  Should it be short and sweet (ie the form email that Expresso provides) or should it try to sell editors on how amazing the piece is in addition to giving them a deadline?  There are many questions that expedited reviews raise that I of course have no answers to, but I think given my interviews with editors at Stanford, Vanderbilt and BYU (and a few other informal ones with editors at T10 schools), I may be able to provide a bit of insight.

So, a few tips:

1. Writing a personal email (that is nice) with an expedite does not hurt.  Editors receive a lot of requests for review and being nice or writing something personal to the journal is never going to hurt.  Telling the journal that you will take their offer immediately with an expedite has worked for some authors but it also has backfired by making you appear desperate. 

2. Writing a short note about how amazing/timely/relevant/citable your topic and piece are in the expedited review does not hurt.

3. Realize (and I didn't realize this until my interviews) that the person who is receiving your expedited review may not be an articles editor who is substantively involved in chosing articles.  At some law reviews, the editor receiving the expedites is a managing editor who makes assignments to various law review editors.  In these cases, writing extra nice notes #1 is not as helpful as #2 making them think your topic/paper is amazing.  In the #2 case, the managing editor may be more likely to pass your article on with a note stating that the articles editor should take a close look.

4. Be mindful that the schools most interested in your piece will be those in the general upward vicinity of the journal where you received your offer.  It seems that articles editors' interest is most piqued when an author has received an offer from a school within the general ballpark of the school they are seeking expedited review from. 

5. Be honest in your expedites. It is not even close to worth the damage to your reputation among faculty and law reviews to make up an offer to expedite on. I spoke with some editors at a T-10 law review that had a black list of authors that had faked expedites in the past that they passed on their faculty and new editors.  They had added an additional author this year because the particular author had faked an expedite from one top law review to another and the senior articles editors at those schools happened to be good friends.  Ouch.  (It may be smart for Expresso or individual journals to require some sort of verification to stop this from happening--I like Columbia Law Review's expedite system since they require the "phone number or e-mail address of a contact person" at the journal where you received an offer.  That would seem to act as a disincentive to create a fake expedite.)

That's all of the tips I have.  Any additional tips you have (particularly from you articles editors and former articles editors) would be great as well.

Ok, so next up...a quick post on fall submission timing and a post on best practices for law reviews (former articles editors from top schools who are now in the academy, feel free to email me if you are willing to answer a few questions).

Posted by Shima Baradaran Baughman on April 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Permalink


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Practitioners who would fabricate offers--i.e., engage in fraud--to try to get new offers should, in this practitioner's opinion, be subject to disciplinary review by the bar.
Why should the expectations and potential consequences for faculty be any lower?

A blacklist is too mild.

Speaking of blacklists, does anyone doubt that journals will hold it against you if you've previously turned down offers in the last year or so. I'd suggest they already keep shorter term lists that trigger automatic disinterest.

Posted by: b | Apr 25, 2012 12:48:37 PM

Frankly, it seems to me that making up an expedite would be evidence of the kind of serious character defect that ought to raise real questions about someone's qualifications to be a member of the academy. It's the faculty equivalent of the student who cuts material out of the books in the library. And in each case, ought the remedy to be expulsion?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Apr 25, 2012 11:26:29 AM

@TJ: So in effect you're saying we should always ignore expedite requests from professors with economics training? (Joke!) I mean, look, we're not Holmesian bad men. We're a community of scholars with norms of truth-telling, discovery, mutual courtesy. We should, and often do, serve as role models for our students. If we were wild west claim-stakers, then yeah, plan for expected-value-maximizing rampant cheating. But we're not.

I actually think it's harmful to everyone's interests to think of the submissions process in bad-man terms. Encouraging students to set penalties so than b < pv undermines our message of a community that has to rest on norms of mutual regard. That's why I've argued for years in posts & comments here for everyone to respect that norm.

On the other hand, I am also aware that you can't maintain a stable system of norms if participants come to believe that others are cheating without consequence. But, as I said, there are less dramatic ways of curbing cheaters. I would think getting a call or e-mail from a journal's advisor would be fairly scalding, and wouldn't have the disproportionate consequences of blacklists or more-public shaming.

Having said all that, the suggestion that expedite requests forward the offering e-mail is a good one, and seems like a best practice I'll adopt for myself going forward.

Posted by: BDG | Apr 25, 2012 9:46:17 AM

Any author making up an expedite telling some school "I rec'd an offer from school x and I need your review no later than (fill in date)" is cheating and hurting every honest author. The system is tough enough with law journals receiving 1000-2000 competing articles a year but imagine writing a great article only to have it rejected because slots are filled by fake expedites. Then people wonder why law reviews look at other factors such as author rep, prior article placement, number of cites. Of course editors need these factors to help them separate the wheat from the chaff. The list of blacklisted authors is correct - these miscreants need to be punished and being blacklisted is most appropriate.

Posted by: ex-dist.ct.law.clerk | Apr 25, 2012 4:48:29 AM

I'm with Aaron over Brian on this. Our concern should not be that this remedy is too harsh, but that it is clearly insufficient. Contrary to the main post, if the private blacklist is the only remedy then I would submit that any rational lower tiered author or those without any letterhead should ALWAYS make up fake expedites to the top journals. On the one hand, you have the benefit of placing in a top journal (if you get away with it). On the other hand, you have the loss of:

*the value of future placements in the same journal, but
*discounted by the miniscule chance you would ever legitimately place in said journal without dishonesty
*discounted by the miniscule chance of being caught

Lets plug in some (I hope reasonable) numbers. Suppose that an author has a 0.1% chance of getting an acceptance without dishonesty, and a 1% chance with the fake expedite, and he expects to write 20 future articles in his lifetime (all with these same odds). The chance of even one future placement in that journal without dishonesty is (1–0.999^20 = 0.0198) or roughly 2%. Discounted further by the chance of being caught (say there is a 5% chance, which I think is a wild overestimate) and the loss is a less than 0.1% chance of a future placement. An author is ten times better off to submit the fake expedite.

And note that I am being incredibly conservative here. First, I think a 5% chance of being caught is much higher than the real figure, probably higher by orders of magnitude. Our one example is the highly improbable event that senior articles editors across different schools are personal friends (said author presumably made fake expedites to numerous law reviews, but only got caught at two, and we don’t know how many other authors were not caught). Second, a top tier placement early in one’s career is worth far more than later placements down the line.

Posted by: TJ | Apr 25, 2012 1:31:56 AM

If most offers come in via email, why not revise the process such that an expedite request consists of forwarding the acceptance email, with an additional note above? (For phone offers, the expedite request can say "On [day] I received an offer from [person] at [law review] with a deadline of [date]; her/his phone number is [#].").

Posted by: newvap | Apr 24, 2012 10:48:38 PM

Certainly editors should take care to ensure that suspicions of system-gaming by authors are well founded. And that process should include a conversation with the author in close cases.

But if authors are indeed lying about offers in order to trigger expedited review, a private blacklist strikes me as a rather mild consequence. At the very least I'd hope the names of the offending authors are shared with other law reviews so they don't fall for the same stunt. Public shaming seems appropriate for repeat offenders.

Posted by: Aaron Perzanowski | Apr 24, 2012 10:09:57 PM

Obviously this process is messy enough without deception. But it is deeply troubling to learn that journals keep their own secret books of disapproved authors. From what little you've said, Shima, these "blacklists" appear to be based on students' perceptions of misdealing. But maybe the perceived bad acts are also the products of miscommunication, sloppy e-mailing, or bad record keeping. If the "blacklist" rumor is true, I think journals owe it to authors who they think have done wrong to afford something like due process, or at least a reasonable opportunity for explanation.

Even with something more like a fair opportunity to explain, I'd still be very troubled by blacklisting. I've encountered my share of journals I thought reneged on a promise I'd relied on (one just this past cycle). Some people make bad decisions. It ain't murder, or even jaywalking, really. And it's not as though the journals' secret penalty can give us specific deterrence, given that offenders don't even know they've offended.

In most cases, I think the more appropriate path in both directions is a word passed through the journal's faculty advisor.

Posted by: BDG | Apr 24, 2012 6:14:23 PM

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