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Law Review Lara Poses a Question to You:

A reader asked Lara:

How frequently do law review editors seek guidance from members of their law faculty when they are trying to decide whether or not to accept an article for publication? I am particularly interested in the practices at top schools.

I am told by sources at Harvard and Yale that the general journals at those schools always ask faculty members to review articles. I know that Stanford sometimes does, and that UCLA very rarely does.

I'd love to know what other journals do -- if you have personal knowledge of how this practice operates on a journal, could you please post the name of the journal and its practice in the comments? Please don't include arguments about what's the best approach, complaints about journals, lawyer jokes, suggestions on how I can make money fa$t, or whatever else in the comments; to make the comments useful, they should just include the name of the journal and a brief summary of its practice. Thanks!

Eric:
This question came up on our Law Review. The past practice was to not consult with faculty members; we agreed to keep the status quo.

The main concern was that the faculty members would not be objective in their consultation. That is, many faculty members have an unbending view of the area of law with which they are familiar and that any advice on rejecting or accepting the submitted article would depend entirely on whether they agreed with the viewpoint of the author or article.

Additionally, since many professors in an area of law knew each other, inter-personal dynamic may come into play and that the student-run law review would be unaware.

We balanced this downside with the opposite problem: that many student-run law reviews pick articles without an advanced understanding of the subject matter. Our counter to this, wrong or right, was that if we picked poorly, the academic marketplace would correct the problem through either: (a) not citing the piece or (b) attacking it and discrediting it.

Finally, we were just generally concerned with autonomy. We felt that if we consulted with faculty, it would give the impression that we were incapable (maybe we were) of doing the job on our own, or that we were generally susceptible to influence on a variety of matters.

Anyway, we rejected faculty consultation.
2.3.2005 6:36pm
Alan (mail):
The Public Contracts Law Journal at The George Washington University School of Law actually has a professional editorial board in addition to the student editorial board. Due to the highly specialized nature of Public Contract law, having input from professionals in the field was invaluable.

So we have review by professionals in the field, at least two of which are current members of the GW faculty.

Hope that helps,
Alan
2.3.2005 8:25pm
Amber (mail):
The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy does not consult with faculty before choosing articles for publication.
2.3.2005 9:37pm
Past Editor:
I was a part of selecting articles at a top-20 law review, and we rarely consulted with faculty.
2.4.2005 12:32am
E. Shen:
The Columbia Law Review does not currently consult faculty when accepting submissions, but is considering implementing the practice. The National Black Law Journal also does not consult faculty when considering submissions.
2.4.2005 12:56am
Jim:
I was on the articles selection committee at a top-20 school and we consulted faculty a couple times on articles to which we were considering extending offers. In the one instance I remember, it was because there was a technical element of the article (advanced stats used to apply a model) that we weren't entirely comfortable evaluating on our own.
2.4.2005 1:32am
Former editor:
It's no top 20 journal, but the Creighton Law Review leaves it to their articles editors to decide whether to seek faculty input. Based on my experience, this would occur with less than half of the articles given serious consideration.
2.4.2005 8:33am
Joseph Gratz (mail) (www):
The Minnesota Journal of Law, Science, and Technology operates on a dual faculty-student masthead. In terms of article selection, this means that the selections of student articles editors are reviewed by members of the faculty in nearly all cases. In the one year this practice has been in place, the faculty review has functioned as a tiebreaker when an article was in equipoise between acceptance and rejection; faculty members have not rejected any pieces about which the student articles editors were especially enthusiastic.

Joseph Gratz
Articles Editor
Minnesota Journal of Law, Science, and Technology
2.4.2005 11:54am
Frank (mail):
At our fourth-tier school, the law review does sometimes seek faculty input, but only when the article is on something outside their ordinary doctrinal competency -- legal history, philosophy, economics, law &sociology, etc.

At schools that ours the issue is usually not which articles are best, but which articles are publishable.
2.4.2005 12:05pm
Carl Edman (mail):
Neither the Georgetown Law Journal, nor the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, has ever in my experience asked for faculty input regarding the acceptance or denial of an article. However, faculty members have lobbied for publication of articles by others that they deemed worthy.

This is not to say that faculty consultation would necessarily be a bad idea.

Carl Edman, past Executive Articles Editor for both publications
2.4.2005 1:27pm
Rich:
At Santa Clara, the articles editors generally made the decisions, although occasionally we would talk to faculty if the article was right up a particular professor's alley, so to speak. If we were truely on the fence on an article, we would seek faculty input.
2.4.2005 2:01pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
[Posted on behalf of a correspondent.]

I can answer your question about law review practices, at least as far as what we did on [a top 20 law review] in 2000-2001, where I was Senior Articles Editor.

We had no set procedures -- none -- for asking faculty to review articles. In practice, we often had faculty members review articles in certain fields where we (the Articles Editors) did not think we had sufficient expertise. What this worked out to, was asking faculty members to review articles in corporate and commercial law, and I think some of the best things we published were one article on bankruptcy and another on payment systems that we initially identified as interesting and that struck faculty members as similarly interesting/worthwhile.

The key here is that we only showed articles to faculty members in areas where we knew we lacked expertise. In retrospect, we probably lacked expertise sufficient to judge a really good law review article in almost every area of law, but we thought we knew enough to identify good articles, on our own, in a couple of fields, notably constitutional law and philosophy of law (hah). Which explains why we published two mediocre articles in those fields. . . .

Is it a good practice to have faculty members review every article? I'm not sure. I valued the law review's independence a great deal, and think one of its virtues was forcing us to act as scholarly arbiters, even if we weren't always up to the task. When we did ask faculty members to review articles, we had to guard against logrolling and faculty playing favorites, or attacking articles they didn't like because of politics. And I don't think it is always necessary; there were a few articles we received that we so obviously good and groundbreaking that I pushed for immediate acceptance (I still regret losing an article on corporate governance in Russia).

Oh, and one other point, related to the nature of law reviews. Particularly with articles that looked good at first impression, there was a real push to make an offer fast before the article was picked up by another journal. It is not often easy or fair to walk into a busy professor's office, hand her/him an 80-page article, and say "could you please let me know what you think of this by tomorrow morning?" Faculty just work on different timeframes than do law reviews.
2.4.2005 2:20pm
Christopher Armstrong (mail) (www):
The Law Review at Catholic University does not consult with the law school faculty before making publication decisions.
2.4.2005 2:44pm
Shadow EIC:
We generally consult faculty when the subject matter is an area of their expertise, and we are unable to effectively evaluate some of the material.
2.4.2005 3:15pm