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Quick Response to Todd on Article Length:
Just to clarify in response to Todd's comment below on law review article lengths, I don't favor replacing the old standard for article length with a new hard rule. I think the old norm had gotten out of whack: Absent any length guidelines from journals, authors were gradually moving to a world in which longer and longer articles were the norm. I see the new policy as a standard, not a hard rule; the key insight driving the change is that most articles can be a lot shorter than they are. I agree with Todd that some articles need to be longer, especially in more technical fields, and I hope and expect that law review editors recognize that. Put another way, I see the goal of the reform as reorienting the standards, not replacing a standard with a rule.
Keith Hilzendeger:
Even if the editors of law reviews seek to promote a new norm for article length among their authors, they may have to frame it as a rigid rule -- at least at first -- in order for their authors to change their behavior over time. The editors may now prefer to publish articles shorter than they have been in the past, but they will not be able to do so unless their submissions are the approximate length they prefer. Consequently, their authors will have no incentive to comply with this new norm unless the editors wield (and use) a big stick in implementing their new standard. Over time, editors can relax the enforcement of their standard once the norm has caught on amongst the community of potential authors.

As articles editor of the Arizona State Law Journal, I made the primary publication decisions for our journal. When reviewing manuscripts, I frequently rejected long pieces because they hadn't grabbed my attention quickly enough. Personally, I preferred well written pieces, and felt that there was nothing an author could say in 70 pages he couldn't also say in 35. But I didn't want to be the only law review editor to say, "I won't publish manuscripts over a certain length." Bolstered by some of my other colleagues at more prestigious journals, I might have advertized such a rule in the hopes of getting better quality pieces to review.
6.30.2005 9:22pm
outgoing editor:
1. Like Todd &Orin said, some articles need to be longer than others, for many reasons. Some make more sophisticated arguments, some are more "novel" than others, and some draw so much from non-law disciplines that they require a fair amount of "set up" text before diving into the argument.

It is for that reason that (at least my journal) wrote our policy up as a standard rather than a rule. Whether our articles editors will recognize which articles need to be longer is another issue altogether.

2. I don't think that it's only introductory text that accounts for the perceived "excess" in the length of some articles.

Some authors, for whatever reason, have long-winded writing styles, where the substantive part is much longer than it needs to be. I've edited several articles where authors belabor points unnecessarily, mention every minor brush they've ever had with the Supreme Court in the footnotes, and continually send in additions to respond to every minor tangential counterargument that is suggested to them by their colleagues during the publication process. Much of this probably pays a part when our editors decide which articles to publish in the first place, but sometimes they perceive that an article has something valuable to say, but an unfortunately long-winded way of saying it. I think we were hoping that authors would take it upon themselves to fix these types of things and think twice before adding that additional section.

3. Also, as I think Todd and Orin suggest, we suspect that there's a perception out there that articles editors equate length and footnote density with quality, and we wanted to at least take one step in the direction of countering that perception.
7.1.2005 12:17am