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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ask Redyip

I do not know Redyip.  I did not work with Redyip.  Redyip is not a friend of mine.  But let's just say that I've entreated him (it?) often enough that I know how to get urgent communications to his aerie.  (And no, it's not by tweeting.)

Many of you have questions about the law review process.  Who knows?  Maybe I can get you answers.  Post them here, and let's see what happens.  (I also have some small acquaintance with Bla'a K'hole, the mechanical guardian of planet Peer Review.  Place your questions for him on a punchcard and I will feed them into the appropriate slot.  Warning: answers may be provided in binary.) 

Also feel free to pipe in with your own views. 

Posted by BDG on August 17, 2013 at 04:55 PM in Law Review Review | Permalink


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Hi there,

I'm a young law professor at a Canadian law school (top 5), with a Canadian JD, but also a PhD (cognate discipline -- not law) from a top US university, a fellowship at a top 5 US law (as well as an LLM), and a few publications in both Canadian and U.S. law reviews (for US-- mainly specialty journals at top 10 US News Law Schools).

I am wondering how submissions from "foreign"/international scholars and academics are perceived in the law review process? Is it a tough uphill battle, like submitting from lower tier U.S. law school (ie are international law review publications discounted? Or is the view somewhat better-- maybe like a second tier school?

Any advice, particularly for a young prof at a Canadian law schools, much appreciated!

Posted by: AnonymousCanuck | Sep 3, 2013 2:25:51 AM

Ding :
Iowa, Fordham

Posted by: Anon | Aug 24, 2013 10:25:23 PM

@tax: by "feedback" I mean editor comments. E-mail me for the other thing.

@PhD: Placing the first article takes some patience. Look at lots of articles that place in the venues you want to be in and see how they present themselves. Write an abstract that captures an editor's attention with a short, clear declaration of its central contributions (without overstating things). Write a similarly crisp cover letter. Send to lots of journals, and expedite as appropriate. My first piece started with a "Tier 4" offer and ended up coming close at two top 10 journals. So it can be done, but there isn't any magic. It may also be useful to explain in the cover how your additional academic training provides some perspective that adds value to the piece.

Posted by: BDG | Aug 23, 2013 9:39:09 AM

@ BDG - What do you mean by "special handling"?

Posted by: tax anon to BDG | Aug 22, 2013 11:44:17 PM

Some questions:

1. Whats the best strategy for non-professors to get published in decent venues? Should you try later than the start so law review editors frustrated with losing good pieces to better journals give yours a serious look, or should you send stuff out at the beginning of a window when there are the most places available?

2. I am a PhD student with a JD, any special considerations for framing my submissions in a way that they'll be taken seriously if thats possible?

3. What are the dates of the spring submission window now and when would the optimal time be?

Posted by: Anon PhD Student | Aug 22, 2013 10:29:29 PM

Some questions:

1. Whats the best strategy for non-professors to get published in decent venues? Should you try later than the start so law review editors frustrated with losing good pieces to better journals give yours a serious look, or should you send stuff out at the beginning of a window when there are the most places available?

2. I am a PhD student with a JD, any special considerations for framing my submissions in a way that they'll be taken seriously if thats possible?

3. What are the dates of the spring submission window now and when would the optimal time be?

Posted by: Anon PhD Student | Aug 22, 2013 10:29:29 PM

When you say "better feedback" at Virginia, do you mean that you get better comments on the articles during the editing process, or do you mean that VTR still has a "glow" over FTR?

Posted by: tax | Aug 22, 2013 4:55:22 PM

As I've mentioned on a previous "angsting" thread, my view of tax journals is that: 1. Tax Law Review is an excellent placement for those without direct ties to the NYU LL.M. program; though it looks on expresso as though you can submit as per normal, it's peer-reviewed and special handling is required for the submission to be taken seriously; 2. Florida and Virginia present tradeoffs: both used to be peer-reviewed, but Virginia has gone to a student model, with uneven results, which I think has diminished the value of the signal there; but my impression is that this view is not universal and that one gets somewhat better feedback at Virginia; 3. we have every reason to think Columbia will be a good journal but the track record is short -- early selections are promising; 4. Tax Lawyer is not very selective but has a wide practitioner audience; 5. Tax Notes is evern less selective and has an even wider audience, reaching into policy circles. So if I were a very junior person I would go with Florida, and I'm kinda surprised they don't require exclusive submission.

Posted by: BDG | Aug 22, 2013 4:44:12 PM

Thanks, Hmm. I think I will follow your advice.

Posted by: Research Fellow | Aug 22, 2013 2:31:48 PM

Research fellow - the prevailing view seems to be to go with US News rather than W&L in such situations. With a gap as big as T14 to T50, I'd agree with that view. Anecdotally, I had an issue like this arise once, where I received an offer from an HYS specialty that was only ranked something like 25th in the discipline. The advice I overwhelmingly received was to go with the HYS offer over other offers from lower ranked schools but whose journals were more highly ranked on W&L. And I have to say that since it has been published, I've gotten a lot of mileage our of the HYS aspect. FWIW.

Posted by: hmm | Aug 22, 2013 2:24:48 PM

Any difference in perceived quality between the Tax Lawyer and the Florida Tax Review? It seems like the Tax Lawyer may be slightly more popular with practitioners, and the FTR may be slightly more popular with academics, but they essentially contain similar articles and largely reach similar audiences.

Posted by: tax | Aug 22, 2013 2:06:54 PM

I have an offer from a t14 specialty journal and a t50 specialty journal. However, the latter is higher ranked by W&L. Which should I choose? Thanks.

Posted by: Research Fellow | Aug 22, 2013 11:13:36 AM

Of course, TSSO, whatever works for you. And good luck!

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 20, 2013 11:58:52 PM

Orin Kerr,

Thank you for your offer. I posed my question to someone at my school whose opinion on these things matters most, and am satisfied with the response, so maybe I can take a rain check depending on what happens in the next week or so? I am hoping to live vicariously through others and read about stories of wild success while I stew and complete various organization projects.

Posted by: Thick Skin (Sort of) | Aug 20, 2013 9:03:04 PM

Is there a consensus view on which is better between an offer from a US News Top 50 school's law review and an offer from a (just outside) Top 50 general law review that is much better ranked by Washington and Lee?

I was considering them peers, but wanted to canvass people with more experience than me.

Posted by: New Guy | Aug 20, 2013 5:38:31 PM

I'm very inexperienced at this, but for what its worth, it would seem to me that the most logical way to approach a scenario where lower ranked journal X says the offer expires on the 25th and substantially higher ranked journal Y is taking a final vote on the 27th is, rather than begging X, trying to negotiate by offering to withdraw from all by the Y ranked journals or all but Y...instead if the prospect of a Y publication is too important and likely, write "Dear Journal X, I am sorry but I would not be able to make a decision until the 27th"

If you ask X for the extension then they might figure, why expose themselves to the unpleasant risk of losing the article to a higher ranked journal, while giving an extension for the sole purpose of allowing an author to try to get a better placement? That has to feel terrible to them. This then is likely to tempt a gamble the other way: they'll say no extension so they don't feel bad. They might also figure that the mere fact that you asked for one means you won't pursue your offer from Y without their okay.

On the other hand if you say, without giving a reason (though they know the reason, but its face saving not to save it) that you can't make their deadline, then its up to them. They can either accept an answer when you can give it to them, or they can opt out of the article. Its no longer a matter of them trying to work out which is the better gamble and choosing the one thats likely to be the least bothersome to them - by extending the deadline they would then only *increase* their chances of getting the article since, if they refused, they wouldn't get it for sure.

You might even consider saying you need a couple of extra days the very day of the deadline. Then if the better journal rejects the article, write back and tell them its still available regardless, do they want it? Now if they actually filled their volume with another article, they won't want it - but if they were just trying to impose an artificial deadline in the hopes of getting a preferred article, then it would be pretty silly of them not to take it after their deadline. Of course they might not, but, it seems like a better set of risks to take if you're serious about the better placement.

Posted by: Anon PhD Student | Aug 19, 2013 11:04:48 PM

I recently had an article accepted within 24 hours at a specialty journal ranked ~ 200 in W&L, with a one week deadline. Given that it was early August, not enough time to obtain meaningful expedited review from journals in the 50-100 range. What about submitting only to T 1-50, going forward, to avoid the exploding offer? Would you recommend doing that and then submitting to 50-100 if no offers ensue?

Posted by: anonymous | Aug 19, 2013 4:28:15 PM

A few comments so far reference (I think) a practice of submitting to a journal with which one has no intention of publishing (e.g., for leverage value only), or of the practice of pulling an article because the only offers are too low (e.g., the leverage failed to work). I'd be interested to hear if these practices reflect a norm and, if so, whether folks view that norm as appropriate.

I personally do not ascribe to these practices, and I agree with much of what quandry says. I assume that journal editors who make an offer on my submission have invested time and effort to undertake a good faith review of my work at my request. In return, it is my practice to submit only to journals with whom I would publish my article. If I only get one offer, I take it, no matter where it is. (And I have never asked to get out of an offer that I previously accepted, though I think there's no harm in asking.)

I have made two exceptions. One is that if I determine after submission that the paper has such flaws that it is not suitable for publication without substantial revision, then I may pull the article at that time to give it the attention it deserves. I have done that once, in which I received thesis-altering comments at a workshop of a paper that I had submitted.

A second is if my only offer comes with such a short deadline that I would have to forgo realistic opportunities for a better offer. I also have done this once: I allowed a 12-hour overnight deadline to expire because the paper had final votes at four other journals within 48 hours of the expiration of the offer. Even then, I allowed the offer to lapse only after telling the offering journal of the situation, begging for an extension, and even offering to withdraw from all other journals other than the four giving it final votes.

Posted by: Scott Dodson | Aug 19, 2013 3:43:53 PM

On expiring, withdrawals, etc. I've written about this extensively before, but the short version is that IMHO:
1. Since there is no conceivable remedy that authors can provide if they break a commitment, efficient breach principles do not apply. If you accept an offer, you accepted it. This promotes reliance interests, trust, etc.: all the good stuff you teach in contracts.
2. You should not submit to journals you would never publish with. Journals understand that you'd prefer to publish with Yale. But if there is zero chance you'd accept, you shouldn't submit.
3. Letting offers expire is not optimal, but not unethical -- again, my opinion (assuming that this isn't simply an excuse to walk away from an offer you never wanted in the first place). Journals play hardball with timing, and sometimes if they won't grant extensions it's reasonable for the author to decide to take her chances elsewhere. Unless the journal makes clear in advance its deadline policies (e.g., Penn's one-hour off expedites), I think they accept the possibility that this will be a subject of hard bargaining.

Posted by: BDG | Aug 19, 2013 3:42:48 PM

Almost newb, i think it's putting it mildly to say that would not be cool. It hurts not only the journal, and your integrity with the journal, but also does irreparable damage to authors who the journal rejects in reliance on your acceptance. If the journal is reluctant to extend your decision by two or three days, a common negotiation move is to offer to withdraw your article from all journals but some specified range in which the other journal reading your piece falls. Example, you will withdraw from all but the top-30 US News. Or if that isn't sufficient, agree to withdraw from every journal except this one you know is still reviewing it. It would be shocking if the journal won't give you a few more days in exchange. But once you accept an offer, it is incumbent upon you to withdraw from all other reviews so that you're not wasting students' time and so that you don't end up with a moral conundrum.

Posted by: quandry | Aug 19, 2013 3:16:52 PM

Hi Angsting. Yes, I asked the first journal for more time but they said no.

Posted by: Almost newb | Aug 19, 2013 3:14:01 PM

Almost newb -- have you asked the first journal for more time? In my experience, most journals are happy to grant a few days...

Posted by: angsting | Aug 19, 2013 2:58:02 PM

Are there any consequences to reneging after accepting a journal's offer?

I have an offer expiring on the 25th but know another (better) journal will not complete their review of my article until the 27th. If I accept the offer on the 25th and then get another acceptance on the 27th, can I politely back out of my earlier acceptance?

I suspect I would not go through with the plan due to moral concerns, but would care for Redyip's views nevertheless.

Posted by: Almost newb | Aug 19, 2013 2:31:55 PM

Another omnipresent question: publishing in a low ranked journal - better than nothing or harmful?

Posted by: Acrossthewater | Aug 19, 2013 1:58:19 PM

Thick Skin,

It depends on the circumstances. If you want to e-mail me with the two journals, I'd be happy to offer my thoughts. (Feel free to do it anonymously if you want; up to you.)

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 19, 2013 1:45:02 PM

Two questions: how do we find US News rankings averages over the past several to ten years? And how would you weigh an offer from a secondary journal at a higher-ranked school vs. an offer from a main law review? Thanks so much for agreeing to field these questions that I'm happy to be in a position to ask!

Posted by: Thick Skin (Sort of) | Aug 19, 2013 1:20:12 PM

BDG, many thanks. Not to step on your next post re: fall submissions, but is it accurate to say that there's little risk in pulling something out of fall because of a less than ideal placement and submitting again widely in the spring of the same school year, on the theory that in most cases the reviewers for the same journals will be different?

Posted by: jr prof | Aug 19, 2013 9:54:27 AM


As a practical matter, when we try to rank journals for prestige, we're are really trying to figure out how the people we're trying to impress rank journals for prestige. In my experience, the W&L rankings are important to journal editors and known by junior scholars but mostly unknown to more senior scholars. So I would go with average U.S. news ranking over the last 10 years or so as a more reliable ranking than the W&L ranking. It's a more accurate guide to prestige in the legal academy as a whole (and among appointments committees and the like).

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 18, 2013 11:13:01 PM

How come no one ever talks about Sheetbird? He is the foul fowl who chooses unworthy articles over yours. Or am I confusing him with O'hz A'hoale?

Posted by: MC Prof | Aug 18, 2013 10:39:23 PM

Point taken re W&L vs US News. But what if an offer is from a journal ranked significantly higher (30+ slots) in W&L than US News? Should it still be seen as its US News ranking? Or would schools (for initial hiring or later lateraling purposes) be likely to know such a journal significantly outperforms its school? Would rather not identify the journal but several fall into this category so others may have the same question. Thanks!

Posted by: applesandoranges? | Aug 18, 2013 9:55:24 PM

Here's an expedite omnibus response. (Rankings will get their own post, I think). Probably half or more of the offers I've accepted have come off of expedites of one form or another, so they're pretty significant in the process.

Conventional wisdom, as I'm sure most readers know, is to expedite in "waves." That is, you inform the next n+x ranked journals that you have an offer ffrom journal of approximate rank n. This method of course requires you to have some sense of n, and given the messiness of that it's never going to be too precise.

I guess the rationale for the wave theory is that we think the journal editors are more impressed if the screening offer is from a better journal. One hears anecdotal support for this from editors. I also personally wouldn't want Columbia to know that I thought so little of my article that I had submitted it to Southeast Nowhere Law Review; having some intermediate offer would allow me to omit that fact.

However, I detest the wave strategy for lots of reasons. Most of them are systemic / involve externalities, so I'll keep 'em to myself here. But for the rational self-maximizer, note that it can leave you in the position of "anonyprofs," where you have an offer you don't really want. It also chews up a lot of time, which is a scarce resource in the Fall (and for journals with long processes, such as HYS & Chicago). And thanks to the delights of our multiple submission-web-sites world, it's now an enormous pain in the tailfeathers of record-keeping and web form completing. (I'm trying to channel Redyip here...)

Long story short, I suspect most experienced authors who already have solid publications on their c.v. do not need to use the wave. Any offer from a top 80-ish journal could be expedited to everywhere. Newbie authors may find the signal of quality a little more important and so might find the wave approach useful in some cases.

Posted by: BDG | Aug 18, 2013 5:27:38 PM

My question is how often do the following things actually happen: (1) An offer within two or three days of submission? (2) Offers off of expedites. I've had both things happen, but not as often as one would be led to believe based on the angsting threads that appear here.

Posted by: Grizzlish | Aug 18, 2013 4:29:07 PM

So, "quality" articles are to be distinguished from those directed towards practitioners. No wonder our scholarship has so little relevance to the real world and we suffer from so many accusations about being overpaid.

Posted by: ManicMonday | Aug 18, 2013 3:43:58 PM

As a fellow junior law prof, I'll go ahead and give my view, Manic. First, I think W&L ranking is worth very little - since very few law profs (junior or otherwise) are knowledgeable about these rankings and the year-to-year vacillation within them. I do think US News is quite an important metric though any one year can be misleading. I think a 5 (or possibly 10-year average) is a more appropriate way to gauge how other people likely view a certain school. Many think US News' peer rep metric is the way to go, though again I would want to be looking at a 5-year rolling average to have a sense of how people are likely to view that faculty that doesn't just happen to occur in a certain year (based on which deans and associate deans and newly tenured faculty, etc. get surveyed). No matter what metric you use, you should ask around to see if there is reason to think the law review is better or worse than its US News rank would otherwise suggest. Some law reviews are notorious for publishing articles directed toward practitioners (and thus may be seen as less theoretically sophisticated and possibly less likely to be cited), while other law reviews are well-known for being good judges of quality (and these often get poached by law reviews higher up the food chain). So, any proxy is just that - a starting point for thinking about the quality of a particular law review.

Posted by: BAA | Aug 18, 2013 3:17:33 PM

Also, another question for BDG -- when speaking of law review ranks, which do you believe is most reliable, in terms of perceived quality? USNews? W&L?

I don't mean to ask which rank is actually "better," in any meaningful sense. Rather, the question is what ranking should a junior prof use to select among competing offers. Assume, perhaps unrealistically, that the home institution is indifferent to the rankings. (Otherwise, the obvious answer would be to look at your own school's culture or guidelines.)

Posted by: ManicMonday | Aug 18, 2013 1:51:42 PM

BDG, thank you for the thoughtful response.

anonyprofs -- It blows my mind that only articles published in a certain rank of journal "count" for tenure or similar purposes. Would you mind sharing the rough rank of your school?

My impression was that some T3 or 4 schools had requirements that you publish in a school ranked higher than your home institution, but T50 seems like a difficult threshold.

Posted by: ManicMonday | Aug 18, 2013 1:49:17 PM

I got bad advice and submitted early - first week in August. I have now expedited all the way off a T60 offer that expires in a week. My institution requires T50 minimum. What is the best way to leverage the T60 into a T50? If there is no good way, should I withdraw and resubmit?

Posted by: anonyprofs | Aug 18, 2013 11:09:33 AM

Two questions:
(a) is there a difference between the cycles of general law reviews and specialties? It seems reasonable that the latter start earlier, but this doesn't seem to be the case in practice...
(b) the 50k question: expedites all the way up, yes or no.

Posted by: Acrossthewater | Aug 18, 2013 10:10:24 AM

The $25,000 question! Fall is a difficult submission season, not least because it seems to be short, the slots are fewer, and journals do not coordinate well in their timing. I'll have a longer post about these problems next week.

First, though, your question. In the past, my sense was that early September was ideal for those who wanted to maximize their chances at a good general interest journal. Many journals did not begin reading until the 21st or so (e.g., Yale & Harvard would say they would not read expedites before the 14th or 21st). There's been some creep towards earlier. This year, Harvard was open for business on August 5. Mid-tier journals seem to have recognized that the relative quiet at their competitors' offices created an opportunity; you will see some shops that make snap decisions and offer 1-week deadlines starting August 1 or earlier in the hopes that few other journals will be able to make offers (BYU and SMU are well-known for this, but no doubt there are others).

There are risks and rewards for many different timing options. For sure, good placements can happen very early or very late in the season, as the competition is thinner on both sides. In the spring, for instance, I often favor slightly after peak season so that the ms. has a chance of being read without an expedite, but the fall seemingly isn't long enough for that. So your odds of getting the maximum number of eyeballs on the page seem best to me starting from now through early September.

Other views on this question would be welcome.

Posted by: BDG | Aug 18, 2013 9:54:30 AM

What's the sweet spot/date for submissions in the Fall cycle? No realistic possibility of T20 placement, so essentially asking about T20-60.

Posted by: ManicMonday | Aug 17, 2013 9:57:18 PM

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