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Friday, January 29, 2021

Submission Angsting Spring 2021

This is the post to share information or ask questions about submitting to law reviews.

The comments can be used to share information, complaints, praise, etc. about which journals you have heard from, which you have not, and so forth.

Additionally, a spreadsheet to gather information is here (and embedded below).

I won't update or watch the spreadsheet. You can go ahead and add your own information by going to the spreadsheet here. The spreadsheet is editable by anyone, except that a few columns and a row (the ones highlighted in yellow) are locked, either because they auto-calculate or because tampering with them has caused a problem in the past. (If something about them needs to be changed post a comment, and I will change them, but please be patient.)

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on January 29, 2021 at 11:48 AM in Law Review Review | Permalink

Comments

If your hiring committee is hiring in area X without doing its due diligence on which journals are leading in that specific field, you're gonna have a bad time.

Posted by: AnonTT | Apr 4, 2021 5:00:13 AM

@AnonProf: When I said "colleague", I mostly meant a colleague in the same law school. Most law schools have at least one tech law scholar who would know.

Sorry to hear you and your hiring committees are so lazy. The ones I've sat on haven't been so.

Posted by: AnonTech | Apr 4, 2021 12:21:42 AM

“ it's literally an email to colleague who ‘does’ write in the field, who can say ‘oh, yeah, BTLJ is far preferable to a T75.’”

Right. Hiring committees will be so thrilled to stop what they’re doing and reach out to experts in the field to give them the skinny on all the various speciality journals. Wrong! Instead they quickly assess the hundreds of applicants they see based on their own knowledge, which frequently will not include awareness of which particular speciality journals are the best in the various fields. Hence, publishing in general law reviews is much safer.

Posted by: AnonProf | Apr 3, 2021 10:59:42 PM

@1234 -- I mean, it's close, for sure, but maybe just to keep it very simple --BTLJ is the most cited of all tech law specialties (and they brag about that fact on the masthead). That's why they lead on WLU rankings -- more cites. Seems like a sound metric when the question is close about who is #1.

I also get the earlier debate about T75 vs BTLJ, but honestly, I think it's bad advice to tell a young tech law scholar, who wants to become known and read in their field, to turn down an offer from the #1 or #2 specialty in their field for a T75, which is far less likely to be cited and read by tech law scholars, out of the possibility that some future hiring committee may be constituted by people entirely clueless about your field, and don't take any steps to educate themselves about the top specialties.

I've sat on hiring committees. This isn't rocket science. It's literally an email to colleague who *does* write in the field, who can say "oh, yeah, BTLJ is far preferable to a T75".

I mean, is that the "expert advice" a junior scholar is going to get from an "ExperiencedProf" on here or elsewhere? If so, I agree, be wary!

Posted by: AnonTech | Apr 3, 2021 7:40:12 PM

I think Harvard jolt and BTLJ are the best tech journals. Then Stanford; and then Yale.

Posted by: Hjjj | Apr 3, 2021 5:39:17 PM

Seems like there are a few T10s still going. Penn has accepted a few articles over the past week and Stanford has been totally silent since re-starting reviewing last week.

Posted by: AnonAnon | Apr 3, 2021 3:22:58 PM

Is Berkeley Technology Law Journal (BTLJ) really preferable over all HYS tech specialties? BTLJ ranks higher in W&L, but presumably the "HYS" brand carries some weight.
The conclusion from the discussion below seems quite clear (pick BTLJ !), but I'd be eager for more guidance.

Posted by: 1234 | Apr 3, 2021 2:22:38 PM

Nonaon, I submitted to all three of those two months ago and have never heard anything from them. Note that according to the spreadsheet somebody got a stealth ding from BC about nine days ago.

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Apr 3, 2021 7:36:50 AM

gatorbite: That's helpful and funny. Thank you. Anyone have word from Ohio State, Boston College, Washington & Lee--are they still actively reviewing?

Posted by: nonaon | Apr 2, 2021 10:54:46 PM

UF is still active. They dinged me within the past two or so weeks. Emory is also active. They are clearing everyone out, as we speak, via stealth mode. To quote the matrix, "Lieutenant, your men are already dead."

Posted by: gatorbite | Apr 2, 2021 9:00:37 PM

Does anyone know if the University of Florida or Emory flagships are still reviewing?

Posted by: Finalfew | Apr 2, 2021 2:38:45 PM

Which of the T25 are still reviewing and making offers?

Posted by: wonderwoman | Apr 2, 2021 1:25:50 PM

The problem with accepting an offer from a speciality journal that is well regarded in a certain field is very risky as an aspiring prof because, if nobody from that field is on the hiring committee, then they’ll just assume you went with a speciality journal only after failing to get offers from decent flagships.

Posted by: AnonProf | Apr 2, 2021 7:23:50 AM

I dont post on SSRN for a variety of reasons. Many do post but I know many like me who do not - again be careful accepting advice from the "experts" here. The advice Ive seen given regarding which journals to take is IMO often wrong but it does depend on your institution.

Posted by: ExperiencedProf. | Apr 2, 2021 6:30:59 AM

I recently saw a twitter post where the scholar noted a (very) top journal placement, a few other (top) placements, but no link to the pieces and they do not seem to be on SSRN. I am a very junior and wondering if it is best to wait to post on SSRN until the final product, or post the draft? I know reasonable minds can differ on this so curious to hear different perspectives. It seems like many people post on twitter to share the draft?

Posted by: junioranon | Apr 2, 2021 4:05:01 AM

For those of you who are tenured profs at law schools and who primarily publish in law reviews, what do you consider a successful year in terms of publishing? One T100 placement? Two of them? One T50 placement? One T14?

Posted by: aspiring | Apr 1, 2021 10:31:46 PM

Honestly surprised by these answers. I'm not a tech person so had no idea that BTLJ stood out, did know about UPenn. Guess that people who submit to BTLJ would know its value, and those who don't, don't? Am personally wary of this kind of insider knowledge, but my job market trauma is still fresh...

Posted by: JAnon | Apr 1, 2021 8:23:25 PM

Wow, okay, interesting. Thank you all!

I did not expect this. Lots of love for BTLJ. (I thought the consensus would be that I go with the flagship.) No love for UPenn J Constitutional Law. They're ranked almost as high as BTLJ on W&L, but I gather you all might discount/disregard that?

Posted by: Sam | Apr 1, 2021 8:03:17 PM

Samantha G -- Agree with AnonProf, I would take Berkeley Technology Law Journal as a no brainer. It's arguably the top law and tech specialty journal, published in regularly by the leaders in the field. It is certainly the most cited. Washington & Lee rankings have it at around 30 among all U.S. law journals, rivaling top flagships in terms of citations/impact.

The only other tech law specialty that comes close is Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, with Stanford Technology Law Review next.

If it's a tech law piece, it's going to get read and be cited far more in the BTLJ than any T75.

Posted by: AnonJuniorProf | Apr 1, 2021 7:22:41 PM

I am a law and tech scholar - not taking Berkeley Tech would be foolish. It is one of the most competitive and most-cited journals out there.

Posted by: AnonTT | Apr 1, 2021 5:51:13 PM

Samantha, I’d have taken the T75. I’d have resubmitted in the fall before taking one of those speciality journals.

Posted by: AnonProf | Apr 1, 2021 5:42:41 PM

Samantha G, tough call. Could also depend on your circumstances. If thinking of how placement would be evaluated by a hiring committee, a committee without a tech person (which may be more common for places looking to hire someone doing tech) might be less appreciative of Berkley's standing in the tech community and prefer Columbia's brand name or the T75 flagshipness

Posted by: JAnon | Apr 1, 2021 5:34:06 PM

Samantha G - I would have gone with Berkeley. It's one of the best tech journals and they regularly publish famouse authers in the field. I picked them once over a T40 journal, just because I wanted to publish there once.

Posted by: Googoo | Apr 1, 2021 3:52:55 PM

Hi all--question about rankings.

T75 flagship vs. UPenn J of Constitutional Law vs. Berkeley Tech Law Journal

How would you rank these (which would you choose) if you were a junior prof building your CV for tenure review?

Posted by: Samantha G | Apr 1, 2021 2:42:54 PM

AngstingProf, that makes sense. So I've reached out many times and typically law reviews will ignore you unless they're interested. And even many of the law reviews who do respond with "Ok, we're going to review it ASAP" will then reject you a day later. The point is that law review editors aren't so malleable that random scholastica message will bend an offer out of them! But can be an effective way of at least getting read if you show a genuine interest in their law review versus hitting them with a copy/paste message.

why angst, I've been wrestling with this question for a few years now. It's largely just vanity, I guess. If I envision my life now and my hypothetical life if I was the top scholar in my field, I don't think my life gets an iota better--just perhaps busier and more scrutinized. In fact, I would like to base my future publishing decisions more on who seems genuinely excited to publish my work rather than slight jumps in USNWR rankings. But that said, the ambitious part of my personality is hard to turn off.

Posted by: Axel Foley | Apr 1, 2021 1:37:35 PM

While an innate sense of competitiveness encourages me to strive for "the best" journal placement in each cycle that I subject myself to this, I admit that I don't really know what function placement serves (now that I've secured a TT position), other than incredibly lame bragging rights.

- I want people in my field to read and respond to my work, but my work reaches them through conferences and informal networks (and usually well before publication).
- I want the respect of my colleagues at my institution, but they already see drafts, etc., and know the caliber of my work.
- I want tenure, but I'm in a law school. Failing to get tenure at most law schools (including mine) is extraordinary. I'm productive, therefore unconcerned.
- I want good editors to get my work in the best shape possible, but my work really improves with comments from peers rather than from students who rarely know much about my obscure corner of the law.
- If some fancier school wants to poach me someday (or if none do), I assume it will be based on the substantive strength of my work. I cannot imagine that an established reputation, good or bad, would just be reduced to the names of the journals I've published in.

What am I missing?? (I ask seriously, no snark intended for those who are angsting!)

Posted by: why angst? | Apr 1, 2021 1:24:17 PM

Axel, thanks for the feedback, but my last three articles were published in the T50-T60 range, so I don't think law reviews in that general vicinity are being deterred that I have a bunch of older T10-T20 pubs. I also have never actually reached out to a law review about a submission as that feels vaguely sketchy to me (Maybe that makes no sense, given it's not anonymous review, but I'm still not very comfortable with the power dynamics of law professors pitching articles to law students).

Basically at this moment I feel like an old man who just doesn't understand the way the game is played these days.

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Apr 1, 2021 12:15:21 PM

FWIW, I received an offer not off an expedite from a T30 on Tuesday. Keep in mind that the spreadsheet is highly unrepresentative of acceptances. That said, the season for top 40 law reviews must be winding down.

Angsting Prof, have you tried specifically reaching out to law reviews in the 50-99 range about why your article would make a good fit for them? If your publications record is strong--which you have suggested--the #70s of the world are probably skipping over your article on the assumption that you wouldn't publish there.

Posted by: Axel Foley | Apr 1, 2021 12:06:52 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong but there's basically zero chance that an article submitted two months ago is now going to be looked at by anyone without an expedite, correct? If so, this fact would seem to involve a sort of Catch-22.

I'm on the verge of just yanking it at this point and starting over in August. I'm still kind of shocked -- by then a national magazine will have run a version of the article reworked for the general public. Maybe that will get a law review interested! (Plus the magazine actually pays its authors).

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Apr 1, 2021 11:53:00 AM

Last 6 days: no acceptances reported on the spreadsheet, but I know you all are still refreshing email like it's going out of style.

Posted by: game over? | Apr 1, 2021 10:04:03 AM

I scrolled down the peer-review bashers but RTDS is correct - the system of selecting US law journal scholarship is debased and is simply a game won by networking, strategic timing and is essentially corrupt. I am reasearching a topic that I want to develop into an article and located a recent co-authored law review article published in a premier top ranked law review (a very well-known and prestigious venue). Immediately I saw the connection between their home school (also a T14) and the people in the flagship's University. I am familiar with the players and understand why it was accepted (connections and prior collaborations). I know how the game is played and truthfully networking is a fact of life and it cannot be rooted out. But here is the rub - one would at a minimum expect a very high quality paper. However, with all due respect to this eminent law review and its prestigious authors, the paper is verbiose, repetitive, and the novel point it ostensibly makes is easily rebutted - which the authors themselves admit! A paper that admits there is a hole undermining the entire article! Anyone else submitting this grandiose and very wordy paper would either be rejected or of course the paper would not even be read. Does it make a meaningful contribution in the topic? As someone who has done multipe peer-reviews the answer is a resounding "no". If peer-reviewed the reviewer would have asked the authors to explain as the authors themselves admit it is a stretch and there is no back-up for their claim. It is simply mind boggling as they admit this defect. I am all for novel ideas but if there is a flaw the authors must explain why the hole in the argument does not undermine the entire paper. The irony is that great papers from post-docs and junoir faculty dont stand a chance; submissions that may have insightful, stimulating scholarship to share and advance the literature are ignored. As RTDS explains, there is virtually zero chance at transforming this system as there are too many interests well-served by the existing structure.

Posted by: RTDS Is Correct | Apr 1, 2021 8:20:48 AM

X,

Longtime appointments chair here, at what is probably considered an elite school. No, nobody pays attention to placement with that level of precision. There is an impressionistic sense of journal prestige that matters a little in the screening process. Not self-consciously, but over many years I've come to accept that it creeps its way into borderline judgments about who to consider for getting pulled from the stack. After that very first screening moment, however, it matters very little. Sure, some people get impressed with fancy pubs here and there, but by and large once people are reading your work it is standing or falling on how people assess it independent of its placement.

Posted by: anonymous | Mar 31, 2021 10:00:35 PM

Interesting point on timing. But New Hampshire and Louisville, and a handful of specialties, just opened right before April 1. It doesn't make sense to open early just to do a lot of wheel-spinning, i.e., article screening for higher-ranked schools. That's wasted work. I suppose opening on Feb. 1 "likely" will be wasted work if you're in the 100-150 range, and much MORE likely to be wasted it work if you're in the RNP range. In other words, certain journals have to work well into April anyway. I don't think it cuts their workload down by opening on Feb. 1. Or am I missing something here?

Posted by: Michael Cicchini | Mar 31, 2021 7:33:21 PM

Michael Cicchini,

If schools open that late, submissions duties will peak right when students are gearing up for exams. It's hard enough asking editors to read submissions during interview season in August -- asking for reviews at the end of the semester, when grades are on the horizon and assignments are due, would be much worse.

Posted by: Muskrat Muskrat | Mar 31, 2021 7:20:37 PM

Flip it,

Being an AE is fine if you're at a top school. I imagine it's not so fine if you're in the USN 51+ range, as you have to make many, many offers just to land a single article. And the further down the USN ranks you go, the worse it gets.

Of course, any individual journal can fix that, even without implementing any meaningful reform, simply by opening later. If I were an editor at a RNP school (formerly 4T), I wouldn't open until April 10. If I were an editor at the USN 101-150 range (formerly 3T), maybe open late March or April 1. Problem (largely) solved on their end. It'd be a cold day in hell that I serve as a screening mechanism for the so-called elites. Of course, this only works if they CLOSE their scholastica accounts until the date they truly start reviewing. Don't forget that. That would save us all a lot of money.

Posted by: Michael Cicchini | Mar 31, 2021 6:38:53 PM

How is it not a wonderful time to be an AE? They are under no obligation to review all the submissions they receive. It doesn't matter if they get 500 or 10,000 submissions. They can do whatever they want. Their only objective is to get a few good articles into print (and no one will even know if they succeeded at the "good" part until a few years go by and the articles start getting cited or not). They can scan and pick based on letterhead, CV, abstract, intro, secondary indicators (SSRN buzz; expedite from another good journal; etc.), or a full read if they feel like being the only people in the world who actually read law review articles. Granted, sometimes they make offers and the authors don't accept. So what? They can just extend an offer to the next one they like. This is a buyers markets, and AEs are the buyers.

Posted by: flip it | Mar 31, 2021 5:53:33 PM

I am seeing T10, T14, T20, T25, T30, T40, T50, T65, T75, T90...does anybody really pay that much attention to rank at that level of precision when judging placements? I'm going on the market next year and I'm sort of freaking out.

Posted by: x | Mar 31, 2021 3:16:53 PM

I am seeing T10, T14, T20, T25, T30, T40, T50, T65, T75, T90...does anybody really pay that much attention to rank at that level of precision when judging placements? I'm going on the market next year and I'm sort of freaking out.

Posted by: x | Mar 31, 2021 3:16:52 PM


It's amusing to me that the people who are critiquing my peer review reform proposal point out the flaws in peer review systems while ignoring the reality that the current system is utterly corrupted and indefensible on any grounds relating to the aims of legal scholarship publishing -- a contribution to legal knowledge, advancing the public interest, etc.

Of course there are flaws in peer review systems. Sometimes blind reviewers can determine, incidentally or intentionally, the identities of authors. Sometimes authors can determine the ID of peer reviewers. Sometimes you get poor peer reviewers. Sometimes letterhead bias seeps in at the front end. Faculty reviewers from top schools may have outsized influence on publishing decisions. Students of Kuhn's work on Scientific Revolutions know that sometimes peer review systems can suppress truly innovative work.

The amusing part is that even if you had ALL of these problems, and they were rampant, you'd still end up with a better system than the current one, even with expedites eliminated, because it is a system corrupted by biases unrelated to merit of good scholarship (letterhead bias / bias of past placements / CV bias). Great and/o innovative scholarship, is likely suppressed in the current system almost as a matter of course, given that these biases are real and empirically documented.

Moreover, a lot of these flaws in peer review systems are easily mitigated with basic improvements to the peer review process -- it's why top journals in other fields regularly invite multiple peer reviewers for publishing. There's a joke among researchers in social sciences about "Peer Reviewer Three" always being bad/mean/horrible. But the system works, because you still get decisions/explanations/recommendations from two other subject matter experts/peers reviewers. It seriously reduces systemic biases and similar challenges, but will never be perfect without flaws.

Finally, one other benefit of peer review systems is that the pull/prestige of top flagship law reviews will also inevitably reduce, and law journals focused on specialties areas will rise in pull/prestige, which is a natural result of a system built on expertise and scholarship -- you publish where you get the best expert feedback/peer reviewers and experts reading/citing your work.

Of course, those that oppose these painfully self-evident common sense reforms are almost always those that benefit from the current system -- elite letterhead, good past placements, elite schools on the CV, placement in law journals of elite home institution -- which is why reforms should probably come from the bottom -- lower tier schools should get together and move to a full double blind peer review.

Don't wait for the top schools to make this change. They never will. The Faculty there benefit from the labor of lower tier schools, and benefit from the prestige of placements via corrupt practices (letterhead bias, home law journal publishing via student editors, etc).

But these things are anathema to scholarship, innovation, and creativity.

Reform the Debased System.

Posted by: ReformTheDebasedSystem | Mar 31, 2021 1:30:03 PM

Meanwhile it's been ten days now since an article acceptance on the spreadsheet didn't come off an expedite.

I just realized that in 30+ years I've never gotten an acceptance off an expedite to a journal. I think I've only even tried to expedite maybe three or four times. But the expedite game seems much more pervasive and insidious now than it used to be. When I was a junior I got several top 20 acceptances without ever even submitting outside the top 30. But again all these came without an expedite.

Now it seems you have to submit to 150+ journals just to get your piece read. Half the rejections I've gotten in this cycle either expressed or implied that the piece had never been read. Actually I wonder if anybody has actually read it, beyond skimming the first couple of pages?

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Mar 31, 2021 1:16:44 PM

As someone who has published in both law reviews and peer-reviewed journals, and as a reviewer for (several) peer-reviewed journals, here's my take:

1. Peer review is neither better nor worse than law reviews. Each system has its own problems. Specifically, double blind is a nice idea which seldom works because the reviewer can usually figure out very easily who is the author (mainly due to SSRN), so that doesn't help. In fact , many journals let authors recommend reviewers, and you cN guess who they tend to recommend.

2. What is horrible about peer review is the timeline. You start by submitting to a top journal, hoping either to draw a friendly reviewer or to at least to get comments from top people to improve your manuscript before submitting to your real target journal. Hence, here it is the top journals who waste time. Then you try again and again with lower ranked journals (with 3-6 months in between, sometimes much more). It can take years to get a paper published.

3. Peer review has "desk rejection" which is a good idea: the editor rejects directly, usually when the paper is out of scope or really bad. Authors then usually get their submission fee (if there is any) back. Oh, and submission fees can be rather high (100$ or so, although few journals do this).

4. Peer review is also a lottery. Depends whether you get a smart/friendly reviewer or not. And often the 2 reviewers completely disagree with one another.

5. letterhead bias is not as prominent in peer review. No one submits their CV! On the other hand, it does matter who you know (which makes networking very important), as your chances of getting a reviewer who knows you increase when you make connections.

By the way, what in the world justifies the demand of law reviews to send a CV? This has no reason other to to make letterhead bias easier to manifest

Posted by: AnonPeer | Mar 31, 2021 12:40:25 PM

1. My understanding is that academic disciplines (as opposed to law, which I view as a profession) use peer reviewed journals, but the profs in those fields judge each other based on citations. No one in those fields reveres so-and-so because he published in journal A rather than journal C, I don't think. I posed a question earlier about why law profs don't do this, i.e., judge each other on citations. I think someone raised the point that profs will just cite their buddies to get their counts up. More law prof tricks, different system. This is, I think, the point Axel Foley is making as well.

2. Law profs currently don't judge each other on the quality of their writing as it's too much work, so they use the journal cover instead. Given this penchant for shortcuts, it seems unlikely you'll find enough law profs to do the work of peer review. And if you could, do you have the power to take over the law review at your school, or would you just start your own journals?

3. If this talk of peer review is just venting, that's fine. But before seeking to change this system to peer review, remember this. You will still have the same number / percentage of people NOT getting into the "top" journals. Your complaints will remain, but the nature of the complaints will change. Instead of bashing the existing system and student editors, the unhappy authors will be bashing the new system and the peer reviewers. No one is going to say, "Well, I placed in Journal #97, but that's a 'just' placement because the system is now peer reviewed. I'll just have to do better next time."

Posted by: Michael Cicchini | Mar 31, 2021 11:44:16 AM

Meanwhile, the spreadsheet shows not a single offer over the past 5 days.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Posted by: Rilke | Mar 31, 2021 11:26:17 AM

Have you Axel Foley served as a peer reviewer for a peer-reviewed law journal?
I have served as a peer reviewer multiple times and I have no idea who the author is - I receive an abstract describing the paper and am asked whether I would be willing to serve as one of the reviewers. It is completely anonymous.
Have you ever submitted and been accepted by a peer reviewed law journal? I have and never did the comments come back with any hint of whether they knew who I was. So what do you mean reviewers know the authors as they "look them up". It is all anonymous - that is the idea. It is designed to eliminate prejudice. I know of no one who searches SSRN "to find" the author. I could care less who he/she is. Not a single colleague I know who has done a peer review has ever "looked up somebody". US faculty are often asked to review an overseas peer reviewed journal when a topic falls within such faculty's expertise and no one I know engages in this conduct. It takes my time so Ilimit it to 3 or 4 a year but I consider it a service to the academy and it is an honor to be asked. I take it seriously and so does everyone I know who is asked to serve as a reviewer.
BTW - Contrary to your assertion, new ideas and novel opinions are in fact quite common in peer-reviewed law journals. It is in fact the opposite of what you describe. The difference is that all hunters are given equal access to the prey (the top peer-reviewed journals) and it is not based upon bias. That is the idea - remove bias.

Posted by: RTDS is Correct Part 3 | Mar 31, 2021 11:01:50 AM

Well, one of the biggest issues is that most experts in the field know who's working on what research in light of conferences, SSRN, circulating drafts among friends, prior research, and google searches (which referees are not supposed to do, but they do). Another issue is that EICs thumb the scale all the time in choosing whether to send work out, which scholars are chosen to review the work, and how those comments are interpreted. So the idea that letterhead bias goes away is just simply not true. Another bias is that experts are protective of their own theories and scholarship, making them hostile to manuscripts challenging their works--a powerful bias that doesn't currently exist.I mean, just like how many posters in angsting feel like law professors are manipulating the process, law professors will not stop behaving as self-interested strategic actors just because the system is altered. I agree that a benefit comes from written comments (but scholars also use those comments as evidence that the reviewers have no clue what good scholarship is), though I'm extremely skeptical that law professors would dedicate tons of their time to nuanced feedback in peer reviewing all the articles dumped on them.

Further, we do currently have peer review. I encourage people to publish in those journals! Maybe you'll prefer opting out of the law review season and selecting into peer review, or not, but it's currently an option.

Posted by: Axel Foley | Mar 31, 2021 10:26:52 AM

Axel Foley your comments about peer-review are incorrect. The peer-review system where law journals send your anonymized paper to double blind peer review would be most welcome in the US law review placement system. How are the peer-reviewers "manipulating" anything. To the contrary, other than the delay which is inherent in finding reviewers who ar experts and in the peer-review process there are only advantages. You do not have letter head bias everyone has an equal chance. Moreover, the reviewers provide valuable feedback to improve your submission. Clearly, you are reluctant to have a peer review system and prefer the current one which is of course your right. But do not make comments that are not correct.

Posted by: RTDS IS Correct Part 2 | Mar 31, 2021 10:08:00 AM

I don't know why people think that a system perceived to favor established professors at elite schools would improve by giving those professors even more power via peer review. There's this notion that professors are currently corrupting the law review process yet would suddenly become principled stewards of the academy if they were allowed to select articles. I've been in peer review fields, and the very same grievances exist: not only is everyone convinced that the referees have no clue what good scholarship is, but a belief prevails that those on top are manipulating the game to harm lower ranked professors and empower those on top. And if the current problem is that professors at T4 schools struggle to get read, this would not improve by depending upon law professors to read and reviews dozens of articles each year. My post isn't meant to be full throated support of the current law review system, but I think everyone would hate peer review.

In fact, I couldn't agree with Michael Cicchini more, this is almost a perfect system for authors--but not law reviews outside of the top 50. I think the answer is more private ordering, which is occurring. For instance, Louisville opened yesterday which is probably the perfect time for Louisville to open. Law reviews could also give more exploding offers or 1-day offer periods. I would suggest professors could make more promises to accept offers without expediting, but I tried such a strategy this cycle and it hardly ever worked; I routinely got rejected where I made the promise yet got offers where I didn't.

Posted by: Axel Foley | Mar 31, 2021 9:15:14 AM

RTDS is correct - the system of selecting US law journal scholarship is debased.
Let me provide this exemplar: I am reasearching a topic that I want to develop into an article. I found a recent co-authored law review article and published in a premier top ranked law review (a really well-recognized one). Immediately I saw the connection between their home school (also a T14) and the people in the flagship's University. I am familiar with the players and understand why it was accepted (connections and prior collaborations). I know how the game is played and truthfully networking is a fact of life and it cannot be rooted out. But here is the rub - one would at a minimum expect a very high quality paper. However, with all due respect to this eminent law review and its prestigious authors, the paper is verbiose, repetitive, and the novel point it ostensibly makes is easily rebutted - which the authors themselves admit! A paper that admits there is a hole undermining the entire article! Anyone else submitting this grandiose and very wordy paper would either be rejected or of course the paper would not even be read. Does it make a meaningful contribution in the topic? As someone who has done multipe peer-reviews the answer is a resounding "no". If peer-reviewed the reviewer would have asked the authors to explain as the authors themselves admit it is a stretch and there is no back-up for their claim. It is simply mind boggling as they admit this defect. I am all for novel ideas but if there is a flaw the authors must explain why the hole in the argument does not undermine the entire paper. The irony is that great papers from post-docs and junoir faculty dont stand a chance; submissions that may have insightful, stimulating scholarship to share and advance the literature are ignored. As RTDS explains, the expedite system is extremely problematic. Yet there is virtually zero chance at transforming this system there are too many interests well-served by the existing structure.

Posted by: RTDS is correct | Mar 31, 2021 9:07:25 AM

"But even without implementing any reform measures, all a journal has to do is open late March or early April. If a journal is, say, USN 115, it's not going to get any of those early articles anyway. Let the dust settle, and then jump into the game in late March or April 1 when the remaining authors will be serious about accepting your offers."

YES! THIS! Dear Students, stop being exploited as unpaid labor for law profs and students at "fancier" law schools. Reclaim your dignity and stop cooperating in this dysfunctional system.

Posted by: nonny | Mar 31, 2021 8:50:33 AM

As long as those who benefit from letterhead bias are regularly getting top placements, the current system will not change. So, in other words, never.

Posted by: AnonProf | Mar 31, 2021 8:48:47 AM

One more though abou the discussion of reforms: eliminating double-expedites can also drastically help. That is, if the top journals will give the same priority to expedited pieces irrespective of where the offer came from, it will eliminate the need to climb up the ladder. Currently if one gets a t100 offer they might expedite to t90 then t80 hoping to eventually get an offer that the t14 would care about.
The lower journals could ask scholastica not to allow multiple expedites off of their own offers.

Posted by: PostDocGuy | Mar 31, 2021 1:29:09 AM

RTDS: I agree with your basic proposal, and would add that a cultural change that needs to accompany it is to move away from a productivity metric to a quality metric.

One good article is more valuable than 20 bad ones. When I see people submitting two or three or even four articles in a single calendar year, I suspect that they are at best recycling and repackaging ideas, rather than actually making several genuine "original contributions to the literature" every 12 months.

The old saying is that deans can't read but they can count. That captures how perverse it is to measure scholarly value by crude quantitative measures, especially in a world with 800 law reviews, many of which have trouble filling their issues with anything even vaguely resembling genuine scholarship of the sort that should actually be published.

We need far less publication, and far higher average quality for what does get published. A peer review system would help produce both outcomes.

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Mar 31, 2021 12:28:55 AM

It’s been a difficult window, to be sure, for everyone – faculty and students.

But the proposals for reforms all seem to be window dressing to me.

Even getting rid of expedites, as Prof Grimmelman argues, while an improvement -- it still doesn't get rid of the fundamental flaw in the system -- you have students making publishing decisions rather than faculty peers with expertise. Even without expediting, you have a system that lends itself to corruption like letterhead bias or CV shopping, and not the actual merit or contributions of a piece of scholarship.

Rather, the system needs a fundamental change—a move to full double blind peer review for all submissions. This would bring law reviews in line with practices in most fields. It could retain student editors but all decisions on publishing would have to be informed by on double blind faculty peer review and recommendations.

In such a system, extradition requests—a plague on everyone’s house—would end. Letterhead bias would be significantly curtailed. Workloads for students reduced. And corrupt money making systems like Scholastica—gouging faculty—would die. Good.

How to implement?

1. No more "two windows" yearly for submissions; but peer reviewed submission on a rolling basis.

2. To support/sustain, law faculties need to adjust faculty policy, and make peer review a requirement for faculty as part of administrative/service responsibilities -- you need to peer review one or two articles per term for the law school’s student run law reviews. Turn them down, and it will be noted at tenure time.

3. Student editors would *edit* but only make basic initial assessments if a submission meets basic requirements (length/complete footnoting/area for specialties) and then if it does, identify peer reviewer faculty with subject matter expertise to review.

4. Law reviews should eliminate multiple simultaneous submissions. This will kill Scholastica (Good) and also kill expedite practices (Great)

Downsides?

1. Publication decisions take much longer to arrive. So publishing takes longer. But publishing the best legal scholarship shouldn’t be quick, but require careful review.

2. Authors have to be more strategic about where to submit – would this place better in a specialty? Fewer authors will try for the very top law reviews because the likelihood of placing is far lower. Lower journals can be confident that submissions are serious and if they put in the time to review, an offer will likely be accepted.

3.Submission Window angsting threads die. Fewer issues to grouse about. But maybe that’s better for everyone's mental health here too.

Posted by: ReformTheDebasedSystem | Mar 30, 2021 11:51:35 PM

Re: reform, I wrote this article a few years ago, citing James Grimmelmann (the previous poster) and his excellent work on the topic. But it's written for the AEs, not the profs. Frankly, I'm shocked profs complain about this system, e.g., near instant feedback from journals, multiple offers within weeks if not days, etc. As an author, I can't imagine a better system. On the other hand, if I were an AE, I wouldn't tolerate such abuse from professors and I would implement these simple changes:
https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/f955aadf-0011-4845-8db8-2b9972b1d361/downloads/newhampshire2.pdf?ver=1616947514768

But even without implementing any reform measures, all a journal has to do is open late March or early April. If a journal is, say, USN 115, it's not going to get any of those early articles anyway. Let the dust settle, and then jump into the game in late March or April 1 when the remaining authors will be serious about accepting your offers.

Posted by: Michael Cicchini | Mar 30, 2021 11:01:55 PM

My "replacement system" is the same one I argue for every time this issue comes up every few years in the lawprof blogs: no expedites.

Take the expedites out of the process and a lot of the dysfunctional aspects of the system disappear. Journals consider pieces in an order they control, rather than reacting to expedite requests. Authors submit only to journals they would actually publish with. Every piece a journal reads is one it could actually publish.

Expedites are an attempt by authors to dump the painful aspects of competitive submission on journals, but they end up making the system much worse for everyone. Collective action by journals might help, but collective action by enough authors could actually rip out the problem, root and branch. All we have to do is accept the first offer we receive, rather than playing offers for expedites.

I have a co-authored piece in this cycle. I have tenure and my co-authors have no reason to care about legal-academic status games. We didn't submit to extra journals just to juice interest for expedites. If it doesn't place -- which is quite possible, given the consensus that this cycle has an extraordinary number of outstanding submissions -- so be it. Better just to post it ourselves than play this unethical game. If we get an offer, we'll have a short conversation about copyright terms, formatting, and word count, and then accept it. If we don't get an offer, we'll dust ourselves off and carry on. I'm done with expediting, and I'm sorry I did it in the past.

My co-authors and I lucky to have the privilege of being able to do this without worrying about what other people will think. I want all of the juniors and aspiring academics suffering through this cycle to know that there are some of us who do genuinely think this self-imposed hierarchy system is stupid and unscholarly, and that we're committed to paying attention to the contents of articles rather than the name of the journal at the top of the page.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Mar 30, 2021 9:52:09 PM

Many thanks and sympathies to the editors who have posted. The encouragement is welcome, and so sorry you bear the brunt of this madness. Some reciprocal encouragement: I think many people realize that because expediting from the depths is the path of most T25 placements this year, there will be a lot of great articles, and many of the very best, in journals below the T25. That should help your journal's reputation in the coning years.

Posted by: FixIt | Mar 30, 2021 9:41:26 PM

I'm trying to think of past examples of collective action in this realm. All that comes to mind is the agreement among a bunch of highly-ranked flagships to limit word count, which I think was pretty effective in shortening articles. I'd suggest the T14 get together and agree to a) anonymous submission and blind review only, b) accept no expedite requests, and c) be open only from January 1-15. Indeed, I would urge all journals to switch to blind review. Another group below T14 might agree to be open only Jan.16-31, and also to not accept expedite requests. And so forth. Blind review would, incidentally, also remove the problem created by faculty submitting unsolicited to their own students, which to my mind is as inappropriate as asking a student out on a date, but in the absence of blind review, the AALS should adopt a policy that so submitting is unacceptable. The chaos and corruption are leading some to stop paying much attention to rankings, but probably the least malleable aspect of the process is law professors' competitive nature.

Posted by: FixIt | Mar 30, 2021 9:20:11 PM

Nonny et. al. I just got a we didn't read it and we're full email from UCLA.

Boy this would really annoy me if I were paying for my Scholastic submissions instead of my students.

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Mar 30, 2021 9:02:13 PM

If you all were to design a replacement system, what would it look like? I know there's an article that specifies norms/rules for law review publication, but I'd like to know more. If we blow the whole thing up, how do we rebuild?

Posted by: next steps | Mar 30, 2021 7:53:26 PM

Given the process by which those pieces were selected, and by who, why should that selection be given much if any evaluative weight? Indeed for any serious hiring, tenuring, or promotion process, law review placement should be treated as completely meaningless. Evaluation should be done independently of it, by reading the work and by soliciting peer reviews of it, as is done now.

Posted by: Angsting Prof | Mar 30, 2021 4:43:53 PM

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