March 17, 2006
ExpressO to the Sorting Rescue
Posted by Christine Hurt

One of the greatest fears of any author at a law school not ranked in the top [X] in USNWR is that law reviews sort submissions by home institution, disregarding articles sent from the less fancy schools.  I think most of us tell ourselves that surely that kind of unenlightened sorting doesn't happen.  We know that law reviews get way too many submissions to substantively review all of them, but surely the system for selecting submissions is a little more sophisticated.  Now, I have no evidence that sorting by author's home institution does or does not happen, but I have discovered a piece of trivia that suggests that this nightmare scenario could easily occur in the context of ExpressO submissions.

A law review the other day contacted me via email.  The sender of that email did not create a new email for our communication; instead, he forwarded to me the email that ExpressO sent to the law review.  So, I got to see the email that ExpressO sends to the law reviews.  The body of the email is administrative; the article, c.v., and cover letter are attachments.  The only viewable part of the email that is particular to the submission is the subject line.  The subject line contains two pieces of information.  Guess what they are?  Author name and institution.  So, the email that was forwarded to me had the subject line "ExpressO Submission from Christine Hurt at Marquette University."  Obviously, whatever information that ExpressO can give to signal to the editors information to help the editors in their review process is helpful to them, and ExpressO gives not the title name, but the name of the institution.  Without ever opening your attached article, or printing it, or reading your cover letter, or looking at your c.v., or knowing the title of your article, law review editors could sort their submissions in their in-boxes.  I'm not saying it happens; I'm just saying it could.  And, from a law review's standpoint, the extra hassle of dealing with low-cost ExpressO submissions might require something from ExpressO to help deal with the extra load on the system.  But, it doesn't help the junior law professor with publication pressures!

If I were at a lower-tier school, and I was sending out a fabulous paper, I would send it out via regular mail.  Someone would have to open the envelope and might see the title.  You never know.

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