Questions for Law Review Articles Editors:

I'm trying to solve a few puzzles related to how quickly -- or slowly -- law reviews get to read manuscripts. I know that people sometimes get offers two or three days after the article arrived at the journals, but I also sense that some journals take quite a while to do anything with the articles they get. There are naturally lots of plausible explanations for this, but before we go into such speculations, I was hoping I might get some background data on how journals actually oerate.

So if readers who are law review articles editors, or who were articles editors at any time since the 2002-03 year, can give me some feedback on this in the comments, I'd be much obliged. My questions:

(1) About how many submissions did you/do you get per day in September, which is one of the high submission seasons?

(2) About how long does it take between the time the envelope arrives at the law review, or the e-mail is received by the law review, and the time an articles editor at least starts skimming the piece?

(3) When you get more articles than you can conveniently read, which ones did you generally start with? (If they're ones you were most interested in, what categories were those? The more detail, the better. If you know the answers for your fellow articles editors, please give me a sense of them; or if you prefer just to say what you did, that would be fine, too.)

(4) If you found an article that you liked, how quickly could your journal generate an offer, assuming your colleagues agreed with you?

(5) Roughly what ranking is your school in the U.S. News & World Report rankings? (If you feel comfortable just giving the name of your journal, please do; conversely, if you want to give a rough range, such as 15-20 or 30-40 [but not something as rough as "top 20"], to avoid identify yourself or your journal, that would be fine.)

(6) Was your journal the primary journal or a specialty journal?

Please feel free to post the answers anonymously, if you prefer. Many thanks in advance.

Raul Sanchez:
1. I don’t know about September, but in March and April we would get around 80 a week.

2. I’d say if everyone is around school (i.e. school is in session), it takes about a week or sometimes a few days more before someone starts reading it.

3. I’d start, of course, with the more interesting ones. What that is varies for most editors, of course. For some it would be con law, for others environmental. Few would put tax and evidence at the top, I must say.

4. I think the answer to #4 (and this is an important point) differs depending on whether the article has a two-tiered review process. We had Article Submission Editors who would read the article and decide whether to let it move up or not (kind of like a cert. pool) to the Articles Editors. Other journals just have the Article Editors read the submissions, although then usually all people on the committee would read each piece. So for our journal, I as an ASE had to read it and then pass it up and then it would be about 2 weeks before the Articles Committee could make a decision.

5. I’ll just say we were between 15 and 25.

6. We were the primary journal.
9.13.2005 8:56am
(1) Around 80-100. This number has increased over the years with electronic submissions. Not to mention the hundreds of articles that gather dust over the summer that must be sorted as well.

(2) Once we start the "official" review process, anywhere between a day to two weeks. We divide the articles amongst 5 editors, so its really editor-specific. From my own experience, I go through everything, alphabetically, but not in any sort of depth, to get a sense of what we have. If something catches my eye in terms of content, I will flag it and set it aside in the "special" pile.

(3) All of us use some sort of three-tiered system: first, we eliminate most, but not all, of the submissions from current JD-students and those submissions whose cover letters are bad. Then we divide up the articles by subject and skim through the first 5-10 pages to get a sense of the argument and writing style. After this round of cuts, we try to read as much as we can, but likely gravitate to articles that are more interesting.

That sad fact is that given the huge number of articles we go through, interest does play a key factor. For example, my two interests are IP and first amendmentment. Everyone likes first amendment it seems, but one of our editors finds IP extremely boring and normally rejects IP articles out of hand. So you do see editors "raiding" other editors article stacks by offering to trade interest areas. Nevertheless, some perfectly good articles get lost in the interest shuffle. We have an IP article this round that we are going to make an offer to that would have been rejected but for this "raiding."

This interest/rejection cycle is most common for tax/corporate articles. None of us seem very interested in those, although this has been different in years past, and, again, depends on the interests of board members.

(4) Articles we like will make it to final article selection (2-3 weeks after we get going), but won't be circulated to all editors prior to that unless there's an expedite request and the editor thinks its worth sending around.

(5) 15-20

6) Law Review
9.13.2005 9:44am
Just Edited:
1. About 100
2. This really depends on the piece. The envelopes are generally opened either the day they arrive or the next day (during the semester), and the emails are checked every day. If there is a cursory interest by the person opening the piece, he/she will give it a first read immediately. If not, it will go into the "received" pile and get a secong look within the week.
3. This is at the discretion of the Articles Editors, and their personal interests do play a big part. As their boss, I tried to "call" for a variety of topics, so that we didn't have only Con law articles, for example. And, of course, once we filled issue #1 and we already had, say, a big Crawford piece, we were probably going to be less receptive to another evidence piece for a little while, unless it was really special (which inevitably it was not).
Despite the huge number of submissions, though, it was relatively easy to eliminate circa 80% of them based on the following factors: (1) they did not seem to be written in the English language; (2) they contained a lot of background information about the law in that field, but absolutely no attempt at legal analysis; (3) they were a rehashing of a previous article written by the author with no substantive changes at all.
4. The longest "turnaround time" for everyone to read a piece was about a week or so, but we also made "rush" offers within 36-48 hours if an expedite deadline was pending
5. Our school is ranked 20-25.
6. Primary Journal.
9.13.2005 10:43am
anonymous EIC:
(1) about 50 per day

(2) 2-3 days

(3) Have a team of editors look through pieces and pick out articles that seem interesting. If very interesting put into one bin, if might be interesting put into another bin, if not interesting put into third bin. Every couple of days, EIC looks through the not interesting bin to make sure that nothing was missed.

(4) 2-3 days if we like the piece, if expedited a little longer

(5) 40-50

(6) Law Review
9.13.2005 12:15pm
bobbobbob (mail):
I was an editor at a Top 15-20 primary law review.

In our law review, we assigned one editor to read within one week or less any article that already had an offer from another journal.

In addition, each editor had to read 5 articles per week that had not yet been given an offer. Each editor picked those 5 entirely at his or her own discretion. An editor could pick something submitted the day before or months earlier.

By the end of the year, my method was to look at the list of outstanding titles and pick anything that sounded interesting. Occassionaly, I might just pick articles randomly off the shelf.

I don't know much about the other editor's methods. Though, some always read an article on a pet topic as soon as it came in.

We also discoverd midway through the year that other journals would read a big name author's article (e.g. Volokh) the day it arrived and give an offer almost immediately. To compete, we started doing the same.
9.13.2005 1:17pm
(1) I wasn't checking the inbox every day but we'd get between 50 and 100 a week.
(2) Anywhere from the same day to several months. While I took my duties at the law review seriously, I was still focused on classes and law review definitely took a second place to doing well in classes.
(3) I would flip through the first few pages and if something jumped out at me as being either an interesting topic or an interesting take on an non-interesting topic, I'd read more. I'd frequently just throw out ones that I thought were "nothing new under the sun" (about 85-95% of all submissions) or if they were interesting but not unique. Here's the truth-my politics entered into the selection process. Most law reviews already were publishing more than enough on liberal views and I'd throw out everything that was left of center. That didn't mean I'd take anything right of center, but it at least had a shot. I wanted to find those articles that would likely not show up in the typical liberal law review. I'm sure no one else on the editorial staff knew what I was doing, as I was the only one looking at submissions, but I was very serious about providing some balance to law reviews overall. If you submitted an article that was either apolitical with a very interesting topic, you had a shot. If you submitted an article that was political (center, right or anything other than liberal) on a well worn subject, you had a better shot. If you submitted an article that was liberal in my view, you had no shot. And if a professor or anyone else tried to push an article with liberal politics on me, I'd dump it immediately.
(4) It could be in a day, if I really wanted the article. It usually took a week or two.
(5) I think my school was around 50 or so. It was a Manhattan law school, in or around the Village but not NYU.
(6) Primary journal.

I don't quite fit the rules here, as I was Articles Editor in the late 90s.
9.13.2005 1:18pm
Keith Hilzendeger (mail):
(1) Maybe we got 5 or 10 per day in September in October. I don't know about this being the "high submission season," since I remember getting a greater volume in April and May, and a steady trickle during the summer. I would have characterized this steady trickle as becoming slightly more intense during September and October.

(2) This might have been a week, or the very day. I tried to look at what came in daily and see if there might be diamonds in the rough, but sometimes I had other things going on.

When I got expedite requests, I would review the piece the same day. In truth, I felt these requests to be annoying. Many of the pieces for which I received expedited review requests were pieces I was happy to pass on anyway, and I always thought that the author was just greedy for wanting to leverage an offer of lower "prestige" by waving it in my face. (Yes, I know that's how the game is played, but please -- we printed maybe 25 articles and we got over 500 submissions during the year, so do the math. And I also served on the admissions committee, so I know this is a phenomenon unique to legal academics -- if an applicant had called us up and said, "hey, I just got accepted at US News's 100th ranked school, you better not let me go," we would have politely laughed in the applicant's face.)

(3) Overall, I tried to avoid having a bias against particular topics. My bias was decidedly against bad writing, and I saw that in spades. Some pieces turned me off by their cover letter; other pieces failed to hold my interest through five pages; a few others (the ones that I made offers on) held my attention through to the end. Since I was the only one reviewing manuscripts or making offers at my journal, I had wide latitude to select most anything. The EIC held a kind of veto power, which I can only remember him exercising once on a piece I thought was interesting.

(4) Because I was the only one making offers, I did so as soon as I could. I tried to do this by email and telephone whenever possible.

(5) 50-60; this is the source of much angst among my classmates, for we were 45th when we first enrolled.

(6) Ours was the primary journal.

I was *the* articles editor on my law journal, in the sense that I was the one who had primary responsibility for deciding which articles we would print. This was partially a deliberate choice on my part to divide the labor in the way I did, and partially the result of institutional memory. I've noticed reading the other comments that journals at concededly higher-ranked schools have a more systematic means of making offers than the one I employed. Being in the middle of the pack, I probably saw a wider range of articles in terms of quality than these other commenters do. I lost a lot of good articles to journals at schools decidedly out of our league; having run across these articles in the journals they ended up in, I know now that based solely on the prestige factor I couldn't have competed. But there were enough quality pieces so that we were not forced to take all comers. In the end I was able to place enough pieces that both met my personal quality standard and whose authors were professors at well-respected schools.
9.13.2005 3:22pm
Interested Party:
I don´t want to hi-jack this discussion, (ed. please feel free to delete if this is too off topic), but I am interested to hear more thoughts from editors about expedites. From the posts that mention it, it sounds like expedite requests get a quick read regardless of what the other journal making the offer is. Is that the case? If so, to what extent, if any, does the rank of the other journal come into play in deciding to make offers? Also, one person expressed frustration about expedite requests, do others feel the same? From an authors perspective (an unknown author), I look at an expedite request as a way to get editors to take a closer and quicker look at my article as much as a way to shop up. Could editors comment on the extent to which an expedite request impacts the speed and thoroughness an article gets a look?
9.13.2005 5:14pm
Depends on the journal's role in the market.

If the journal was top 10, I bet expedited are more closely reviewed. The lower journal vet out the weaker articles and the cream rises to the top. I am assuming they skim top top articles like Sunstein, etc, and routinely give them offers. Review mostly expedites from 1-20 law reviews..

If the journal is a top 10-20, you have to be more aggressive to get a top article so you focus on the big names and try to secure a top article before the top 10 get it.

If your a 20 and below journal, you are the farm system. A well run journal, looks to develop legal "prospects"; a young associate professor or a top clerk who is about to break in to the game. Any big names submitted to you is usually their respective bottom of the barrel.

With these journals, expedites are not given as much attention. Your role in the market is to woo and croon to a young professor and begin to develop a good relationship, which will hopefully develop down the road both for the school and for the law review.
9.13.2005 6:14pm
Jack Roberts (mail):
1. 5-10/days

2. We have three Articles Editors, and each is responsible for reading articles submitted on a certain day of the week. (Editor 1 reads articles that come in on Mon-Tues, Editor 2 Wed-Thurs, Editor 3 Fri-Sun). Our policy is to read and respond within 48 hrs after receiving the article. Some editors follow this policy better than others. We read all articles within a week - If one AE sees a "stale" article sitting in the inbox, we jump on it for review.

3. We first weed out articles submitted by non-J.D.s. Exceptionally bad cover letters doom the article to the wastebasket. We also weed out topics that have been "over-published," unless the author has a particularly unique argument. From there, we all start with the articles we are most interested in, but with the division of labor, we get to all of the articles quickly.

4. We have a two-tier process. If an AE likes an article, it is forwarded to the Editor-in-Chief for review. If the EIC agrees, we make an offer via email as soon as possible. The entire process, from submission to offer, can take 2-5 days.

5. We are a fourth-tier law school

6. Primary journal - Law Review.
9.13.2005 7:14pm
Snacktime (mail):
5-6. I was EIC at a specialty journal at a top 3 law school.
1. I would estimate 2-3 per day during September. are the generals really getting 100 per day? 3,000 submissions in September? I find this very difficult to believe.
2-3. Pieces are skimmed immediately upon receipt. If they look very good or are by known scholars in our specialty field, they are rapidly read. If they look sketchy, they are put aside and may not get a closer look again for a week or two.
4. within a day, just need to convene the submissions committee, which i could do whenever i wanted.
9.13.2005 10:39pm
Keith Hilzendeger (mail):
Now I have to defend my feeling that expedite requests are "annoying." I wish they didn't exist at all; in my mind, authors should be first patient enough to realize that quality pieces will get placed eventually and the rest will not and then wise enough to realize whether theirs is a quality piece. The editors may be mere students, but they are not stupid. There are more law journals out there who are hurting for good submissions than there are journals who routinely find themselves forced to choose between quality pieces.

The fact remains, however, that I did not invent the game; it existed long before it was my turn to be articles editor and continues even afterward. It would have been foolish for me to totally ignore expedite requests; I can't specifically recall an instance where my response to one was, oh yeah, I wanna publish that one too, but I certainly didn't want to miss out on an article merely because I'd slept on my rights, so to speak. For me, expedite requests had their intended effect -- they got me to review the piece more quickly than I might have otherwise. But I did feel that in order for me to make an offer on the expedited piece, it had to be markedly better than the other pieces I had already chosen to make offers on on my own. That never happened, probably because of our middling rank.
9.14.2005 6:21pm