September 30, 2005
Another Submission Season Down
Posted by Christine Hurt

As readers may recall, I sent out an article in early August.  That article, on similarities between gambling speculation and financial speculation and illogical differences in the regulation of the two, is on ssrn here, as of today.  The blogosphere has been alive with tales of authors sending out on ExpressO and hearing from law reviews in thirty minutes or less, like Domino's pizza delivery.  My experience was more like Ethan Allen furniture delivery.  Seven weeks after sending out (half on ExpressO, half hard copy, just for the experimental value), I received an offer from Boston University Law School, and I accepted it on the phone.  (In case you were wondering, BU was in the hard copy pile.)

I told the editor on the phone that I was going to accept because I found expediting demoralizing, and when I had the opportunity to get a great placement without expediting, I would prefer to be part of the solution than part of the problem.  I could tell that he thought I was a little wacky, and he may be in good company there.  However, I think that less expediting could be good for the whole system.  Apparently, submissions are out of control high.  Whether because of ExpressO or higher tenure expectations or increased number of schools focusing on scholarship, I do not know, but the BU editor told me that the August submissions there were double those of last year.  However, if authors decided not to expedite, then authors would send out to fewer law reviews, decreasing the number of submissions at law reviews.  Because editors knew that they couldn't wait for expedite requests, they would need to jump on the stack to get to good papers before they were unavailable.  Because submission piles would be smaller, editors would be able to do this.

Well, it's a thought, anyway.

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Comments (6)

1. Posted by non-BU articles editor on September 30, 2005 @ 16:05 | Permalink

Thank you for posting "BU Law Review" already on ssrn. I hate it when we accept a piece and the author does not post that info on ssrn!
non-BU articles editor

2. Posted by wingsandvodka on September 30, 2005 @ 16:18 | Permalink

Alas, the same forces can be seen at work in law school applications, law firm interviews, and judicial clerk hiring.

There are several fixes that have promise, but implementing any one of them would induce some smartass to file an antitrust suit.

I am, however, thinking about starting a service wherein I write your cover letter and re-title your article in a way that is bound to catch the eye of the twenty-something, pop-culture-saturated, hypercynical articles punks that are making these decisions.

I'll call it PublishOrPerish.Com.

Actually, that's a pretty good idea.

Damn. Domain already taken.


3. Posted by tim zinnecker on September 30, 2005 @ 19:05 | Permalink

If law review editors are looking for ideas to implement which might reduce their workload, consider these:

1. Give offers that explode within a very short period of time (e.g., 24-48 hours). If an author won't accept an offer from a journal, perhaps the author shouldn't send to that journal in the first place.

2. Upon receipt of a manuscript, send an acknowledgement (e-mail or card) with contact info that the author can use to withdraw a manuscript from further consideration. Authors may be more likely to timely contact law journals following acceptance if (but perhaps only if) they have received the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

4. Posted by Articles Editor on October 1, 2005 @ 5:43 | Permalink

1.) I think short offer windows are good idea, but I wonder how professors will reac to that. I'm from a top 20 journal, so I feel like we have some leeway to be tight with time, but on the other hand, if we get a very good article, I don't want to drive the author away by giving a very short window. Although, I guess they're using that window to find another journal anyway. Also, if the system is premised on the expedite process, and professors expect to be able to shop their offers up the chain, more fundamental changes about submissions rules are probably necessary before implementing short offer periods becomes feasible. I'm definitely for it though.

2.) In generally, I've found the expedite process to be a real distraction. It's a pain for the Chief Articles Editor, who has to spend hours answering e-mails and keeping track of all the deadlines and assigning other AEs to articles. And frankly, I get a lot of duds on expedite. In a way, that's not surprising, because some of the articles have their offer from the Wyoming Journal of Law and Technology or something. I really don't mean to sound snobby or condescending, but realistically that doesn't carry the same weight as if the article has an offer from Emory or Washington and Lee. Yet, we have the same amount of time, usually, regardless of which journal the article's offer is from. Maybe a more progressive system could be put in place, where a comprehensive ranking of journals could be assembled and authors could only expedite up to the 10 journals above where their offer is from. Then, if one of those makes an offer they could expedite up to the 10 next and so forth. Of course, professors might not like this because it would make shopping a much more drawn out affair. And I certainly wouldn't blame them for that. But it might allow for more comprehensive review and more self-selection. If a professor thinks their article is top-10 material, then maybe such a system makes it in their interest to only submit to the top 30, rather than submitting to 100 journals and expediting an offer from the 100th ranked journal to everyone immediately. Or maybe professors already limit who they submit to already.

I guess my point is this: when I first started as an A.E., I envisioned that expedites would be the important way of getting articles. But as it turns out, it usually takes me a very short time to reject each expedite I get every week, and nearly all the articles I end up recommending for Full Board (and that we've ended up publishing) have not been on expedite. They are just articles that catch my eye as I monitor what has been submitted every other day or so.

So, although I can speak only for myself, I'd have to say that in my experience, expedites don't fare very well. Which again suggests a serious rethinking of the process is in order.

5. Posted by submissions_guy on October 1, 2005 @ 10:43 | Permalink

Here's a quick question for any top 20 article editors who might be reading, from someone with little experience in the process: Assuming that the person submitting isn't a big name, do you ever make an offer on a manuscript *without* an expedite situaton? If so, how often? I recognize that there may be a quality of ms. selection factor going on here, but I've heard that top 20 or so law journals really only consider your ms. carefully if it has an expedite (i.e. it's a winnowing process for quality).

6. Posted by Alex Bell on October 8, 2005 @ 15:40 | Permalink

Read about the fallacies of Law Review rankings. It was apparently written by an Israeli dude who got tired of our system:
I hope a good journal publishes this work so that this guy will regain his faith in the American way.

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