February 2, 2006 at 6:15pm
Law Review Article Submissions:
has posted lots of helpful information for those sending out law review article submissions next month.
Any pointers for those of us who don't have faculty letterhead? When I was (recently) on a (top-10) law review, I remember, alas, that only people who were on the faculty of decent law schools seemed to have much of a chance at publication--as much as we tried to judge each article on the merits, it always seemed as though provenance wound up mattering.
If one is in private practice, or just recently graduated and is clerking, how does one get published?
I can't give a ton of advice, since our law review didn't end up publishing any non-professors this year, but a few clerks and practitioners got to the final round of review. The clerks who got through all had very well written cover letters or abstracts that encouraged the initial reviewer to take the article seriously. They usually didn't include a resume, but had a first footnote that explained their position. The practitioners who got through were writing on a subject that their position gave them a unique insight into (e.g. death penalty prosecutor writing on death penalty prosecution decisions), and also usually had well written abstracts / introductions / cover letters.
Some recent graduates have also had success by placing an article or two at a respected peer-reviewed or blind-reviewed journal before getting their first placement in a general student-run law review.
On a few occasions, big name professors wrote or called our journal on behalf of a student or recent graduate. We gave those articles a close look, though its useful to find a professor to do this who doesn't make a regular habit of writing supporting letters. One famous professor sent us two letters this year that started off "This is the first time I have ever written on behalf of a student."
i'm in your boat, and just went through the process. it's very frustrating for sure, but turned out ok for me. you just have to be aggressive in marketing it.
first of all, submit via berkely electronic press wherever you can.
second, when you get an offer, immediately shop it upward. but be strategic about how you send it out so that you don't get into a bind where you have to accept from a lower-level journal because you've sent it to the entire universe on your first blast.
third, i wouldn't send a letter from a prof. unless that person is recognizable to a lot of people.
fourth, and this sounds silly, but make it look as much like it would look on the page of a law review as possible. italicize the abstract, indent the sides big-like, basically extinguish anything that could mark you as an amateur, no matter how superficial
fifth, have a clear, one sentence thesis that sounds interesting. i was always told in my first piece that i didn't have to solve the problem, just frame it properly.
sixth, don't underestimate how much managing boards want to publish young unknowns. the problem comes in when they're uncertain about the quality of the piece. if it sounds good, though, they'll generally submit it to a faculty member for a more sophisticated evaluation. for that reason, i'd try to simulate that blind review process by asking a faculty friend to anonymously submit your piece to another faculty member.
the process is torturous, and i've got a soft spot for people in my position, trying to get spots in top journals while competing with big names.
please email me via the link on the blog, and i'll be happy to discuss the whole process with you in detail.
For what it's worth, I agree with all of Kovarsky's points except the first. I don't think ExpressO improves your publication odds. It is either neutral or hurts you. I would only use it for journals that explicitly reccomend that you submit via BEPress).
Most journals don't have a good relationship with BEPress. (See, e.g. the Dan Solove article Orin cites - more than half of the Top 25 refuse to use their electronic database). The journals have good reason for refusing: Most of them designed expensive database systems to handle their incoming articles several years ago. Then, BEPress started calling them asking to sign up for their database but refusing to provide any compatability with the law journals' new systems. It is a big hassle for the articles editors to have to deal with an entire separate database, especially since if the journals are interested in keeping statistics on incoming submissions, they'll still need to print out every ExpressO article and enter them manually into their own database. It's not worth the effort, especially when the top journals know the article will come to them one way or another. They're not losing out on any submissions by refusing to play ball.
Instead, these journals get their ExpressO submissions in a big box a few times a week. They're printed on plain paper, the letterhead looks the same as the text, and a few of our boxes got smashed up in the mail. We also got very few submissions from notable professors through the system, so we were never exactly salivating to open the box once it arrived. Plus, the boxes arrive several days after the author submits the article to ExpressO. If they submit electronically directly to the journal, their article will be read 2-4 days earlier.
Whether any of these problems are enough to actually decrease your shots of publication, I don't know, but they don't increase the odds either, and they contradict Kovarsky's fourth point about looking professional.
Journals that list preferred methods of submission on their website or on the inside cover of their books have reasons for doing so, and really do prefer getting submissions this way. Our journal asked authors to submit using an electronic form on our home page. It saves us a ton fo time because the article is entered directly into the database, which is good for you 1) because we're happy with you for saving us work, and 2) because your article gets assigned at least 24 hours faster and consequently gets read sooner after you submit it. By contrast, the authors who track eddown my personal e-mail and sent the article to me caused my e-mail account to go above its space quota, and shifted the burden of entering the article to me. They were not my favorite people.
I think it's well worth the extra hour or two it would take to go to the journals' sites and see how they prefer to receive their submissions.