This afternoon I had a conversation with an aspiring lawprof about the relative merits of publishing in a certain specialty journal and various general law reviews. I seem to get these questions a lot, though I have no particular expertise. Then again, does anyone have a particular expertise in this? Sure, people can tell you all sorts of interesting facts about law review citations and rankings (see, e.g., here, here, and here), but if you are an aspiring academic, what you really want to know is whether your publication will catch the eye of a potential future employer/colleague.
The problem with the notion that placement is a proxy for quality is that law reviews don't have standards for publication that might distinguish articles in one journal from articles in another. Nevertheless, most of us tend to make some quality judgments based on the placement of an article. Why?
If you suspect that U.S. News must have something to do with it, you are probably right. Al Brophy has shown a high correlation between law school rankings and law review citations, and citation analysis is one method of ranking law reviews. As to the causal link between law school reputation and law review citations, Brophy writes, "as reputation increases, law reviews are able to have a greater choice of articles. And as citations increase, as faculty see articles cited more frequently, they may have increasing respect for the schools associated with them." (emphasis added)
There it is, bolded so you couldn't miss it. The answer to my question about why we make quality judgments based on the placement of an article is that highly ranked law reviews (i.e., law reviews at highly ranked law schools) have higher rejection rates. Or so we believe.
Quite apart from whether such a belief justifies the inference of quality, is it actually true that higher-ranked law reviews have higher rejection rates?
As far as I know, no one has gathered statistics on rejection rates. ExpressO ranks the Top 100 law reviews in terms of submissions through its service, but these rankings are somewhat skewed by the fact that several top law reviews do not accept ExpressO submissions. They also don't tell us how many articles were accepted at any of the law reviews.
Perhaps former law review editors can help shine some light on this question. If you have recent experience as a law review editor, please provide the following information in the comments: (1) the number of unsolicited submissions received by your law review during the editorial year, and (2) the number of offers made by your law review to authors of unsolicited submissions, and (3) the number of unsolicited submissions actually published. Obviously, this is informal, but I suspect that even a few responses would be quite enlightening.
UPDATE: This is one of those things that should go without saying, but just in case. The information that I requested won't be very helpful unless we know the name of the law review and the year to which the data applies. If you could provide that, too, I would be grateful.
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