July 17, 2005
Law Review Submissions: An Update
Posted by Gordon Smith

Last spring I discussed the merits of ExpressO, the law review submission service from bepress (see here and here). Among other things, I wondered about the submission season, and I wrote: "Based on my own experience and lots of anecdotes, I have concluded that submission schedules are more flexible than I once thought...." My article was sent out on April 8, and I have now concluded that it was sent out too late. This is a brief story of my experience post-submission.

I sent the article to the top 30 law reviews, ranked according to my own instincts as informed by the usual sources. According to ExpressO, the average number of submissions on ExpressO is in the low 30s, so my distribution was only slightly smaller than normal. A handful of those 30 are "elite" law reviews, where placements are exceedingly competitive. Another 10 or so are very fine law reviews in which I would be thrilled to publish. The remainder (half or a bit less than half) are journals in which I would be willing to publish, unless I felt strongly that the particular article deserved a "Top 15" placement.

The majority of the law reviews in my spring distribution never responded or responded with only an acknowledgement. A couple of law reviews contacted me to say they were already full. (For the year or just for the spring? They didn't say.) And, of course, I had my share of straight rejections. Since my record keeping on this submission was a bit sloppy, I am not sure how many rejections. Maybe eight, including several of the elite law reviews.

For the most part, the summer has been quiet. I assumed that editors would pick it up again in the fall, if ever, so I was pleasantly surprised to receive an offer from the UCLA Law Review last Thursday. Vic tells me that it's a good law review, so I accepted immediately without shopping it to higher-ranked journals. This was motivated partly by the desire to have done with it, and partly by the fact that I am very happy with the placement. For what it's worth, UCLA would rank among those "very fine law reviews in which I would be thrilled to publish." And I am.

All things considered, this is a success story, though I think that April 8 is too late in the spring if you want to give your article its best chance for a top placement. Editors at most law reviews understandably suffer from attention deficits as finals and summer clerkships descend upon them. Of course, being too early can pose problems, too, namely, that when the boards of editors are first elected, they tend to be overly cautious, rejecting articles that they probably shouldn't. Given that boards are elected on different dates, it's difficult to time spring submissions just right, but if the month is not March, your timing is probably a bit off.

Is there a right time to submit in the fall? The conventional wisdom is August, but later submissions sometimes do well. I have heard this scenario more than once: the article is submitted in September or October, after most other articles are in, but law reviews with open spots eagerly make an offer to fill them.

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