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Recent Graduate Publishes in Top 20 Law Journal:

I'm delighted to say that Scott Keller, who just graduated from Texas last year and is clerking for Judge Kozinski this year, has had his new article -- How Courts Can Protect State Autonomy from Federal Administrative Encroachment -- accepted by the Southern California Law Review, through the normal competitive submission process. This reminds me of Randy Kozel, who had his excellent Reconceptualizing Public Employee Speech accepted by the Northwestern Law Review four years ago, when he was also a freshly minted law school graduate (and Kozinski clerk). I'm sure there are quite a few other examples, too, that I don't know about.

So, a congratulations to Scott, and a reminder that recent graduates can indeed get their scholarship published, even in top journals. I suppose the "Clerk to Judge Alex Kozinski" in the author's note can't hurt in the submission process, but I'm pretty sure that it won't itself make that much of a difference -- if you have an excellent piece, you can get it published in a prominent journal even if you don't have an appellate clerkship.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Two More Publications from Recent Graduates in Top 20 Journal:
  2. Recent Graduate Publishes in Top 20 Law Journal:
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Brilliance will have out. Sometimes. Congrats both to Scott Keller (Hook 'Em!), and to the SoCal L Rev!
4.16.2008 8:46pm
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
I note that as a 3L at Texas, Scott was also an Articles Editor on the Texas Law Review, which may have given him some insights into what his counterparts would be looking for (and unimpressed by).
4.16.2008 8:50pm
Fitzwilliam_Darcy99:
if you have an excellent piece, you can get it published in a prominent journal even if you don't have an appellate clerkship.

I applaud the generous emotion behind your celebration of Mr. Keller's success, but do not let that lead you into absurdity. It is well known to anyone who has ever served on a law review, or has observed the selection process, that the editors, clueless about the substance of most pieces that come across their desks, rely heavily on what they perceive to be proxies for quality, such as the credentials of the author. Even current editors are typically candid enough to admit that when they can do so deniably. See, e.g., the survey results compiled in http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1002640 .

Those who work in unsexy subjects and are not ensconced at a top-tier school would be foolish to expect their work to appear in top-tier law reviews, regardless of its quality. Flukes do happen, and good luck to Mr. Keller for having drawn a winning ticket in that lottery. But the Horatio Algeresque proclamation quoted above is a fantasy.

Of course the notion of attaching prestige to publication in a so-called "top tier" journal is quite insane to begin with, given the cluelessness of the editors. But legal academics, despite their pretentions to rationality, are members of a simian species that is wired to demand a social hierarchy in all matters, and if there is no sane basis for such a hierarchy an insane one will do.
4.16.2008 9:19pm
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
It's true that student law review editors make selections with a view toward maintaining, and hopefully boosting, their journals' reputations.

But publishing articles only from established, big-name law professors isn't the only way to do that. Finding, and publishing, the proverbial "diamond in the rough" (or, more accurately, diamond from an unexpected source, because to compete at this level one's work has to be very polished indeed), is another way to do that.

Lotteries pay off regardless of the relative merits of ticket-buyers. But merit can, and occasionally does, get a non-big name writer published by student editors in a top-20 journal.

I was a book review editor at Texas in 1980, and for our book reviews, we deliberately sought faculty authors whose articles would normally be published by top-5 journals; that was a traditional method of leveraging. But my counterparts who were articles editors definitely did look for those diamonds from unexpected sources. Neither they, nor most of the would-be and actual contributors to our journal, were "clueless." Young, yes — but also pretty capable.
4.16.2008 9:36pm
BRM:
"It is well known to anyone who has ever served on a law review, or has observed the selection process, that the editors, clueless about the substance of most pieces that come across their desks, rely heavily on what they perceive to be proxies for quality, such as the credentials of the author."

As an articles editor for what might possible be construed a "top-tier" journal, I can assure you it is not that difficult, at least for me, to recognize a truly good article based solely on the article's text.

When I do come across an article that leaves me clueless as to what it is actually trying to say, that raises a big red flag about the quality of the substance. If you can't explain an article's main argument in the abstract to a degree sufficient for a well educated law student to understand what you are trying to say, then you need to work on explaining yourself more clearly.
4.16.2008 9:40pm
tdsj:
I'm not sure it's true that an excellent piece will always or often get published in a prominent journal. But if you have even a halfway decent piece, it will get published in some journal. And then it will be on Lexis and Westlaw and SSRN. And people will find it when they run search queries or when they shepardize other articles or cases.

And if your piece is truly excellent, it will get noticed eventually, and it will get cited.
4.16.2008 9:55pm
MJG:
Kudos to Scott, but is his success due to his Kozinski clerkship? Or to being a U of Texas grad for law school? Of course not. Scott has the ultimate credential: he's a Purdue Boilermaker.
4.16.2008 10:32pm
Hoosier:
"It is well known to anyone who has ever served on a law review, or has observed the selection process, that the editors, clueless about the substance of most pieces that come across their desks, rely heavily on what they perceive to be proxies for quality, such as the credentials of the author."

This has always confused me. I'm in history, and nothing "counts" for my advancement if it is not double-blind peer reviewed. If student editors are this clueless, why do law review articles count for so much in the hiring and promotion process for law faculty. Even if they are not this clueless, they are not experts--not yet, at least. And they are in a position to be swayed by the name of the author and the name on the law degree/clerkship.

I admit that factors other than quality of an article affect publication in JAH, JGAPE, etc. Who you know; how sexy your topic is; whether the anonymous reviewer happens to be the guy you blasted in footnote 43. But the difference between law reviews and all other academic journals is fundamental when it comes to the most basic issue of "scholarly value" for fields other than law.

How has legal scholarship managed to evade this homogenizing effect that had made all the rest of us follow the models laid out for us by the hard sciences?

And, harder to answer, is there any chance historians can escape before peer review leads to its inevitable conclusion, which is that we overspecialize to the point that each author is the only person who can pass judgment upon the quality of their(sic)own work? Or are we past the 'event horizon', and the only place to go now is infinite reduction?
4.17.2008 12:48am
020033 (mail) (www):
The Clerkship Notification Blog is reporting young Mr. Keller has accepted a clerkship under Justice Kennedy for OT 09 as well.

His writing prowess should come as little surprise because, while still at U.T., he was co-author of a SCOTUS petition in which cert. was granted.

4.17.2008 8:33am
JohnO (mail):
As a freshly minted law grad, I had a piece published in the Hofstra Law Review and got offers on the same article from two other journals (Fordham and Indiana). It can be done, even without a sexy clerkship to list in the first footnote, though I suspect the lack of credentials such as a prominent clerkship can make it difficult to get a fair read from the really highly-ranked journals.
4.17.2008 9:51am
KWC2000 (mail):
"I suppose the "Clerk to Judge Alex Kozinski" in the author's note can't hurt in the submission process, but I'm pretty sure that it won't itself make that much of a difference"

Hogwash. No clerkship, no publication. Show me a counter-example and we'll talk.
4.17.2008 6:22pm
John C:

Hogwash. No clerkship, no publication. Show me a counter-example and we'll talk.


I'm an '06 grad of a top 25 school (proabably just around number 25 or so), no clerkship, and just had an article accpeted at a journal just may be a few W&L rankings down from SoCal L. Rev., to be published in the fall. It can certainly happen.
4.17.2008 8:04pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
KWC2000: I should say that there probably is indeed a very high correlation between having a clerkship and getting published in a prominent journal as a recent graduate (though John C reports that one can get published even without a clerkship). Among other things, the sorts of people who are inclined to write serious law review articles tend to also be the sort of people who are inclined to seek clerkships, and have the credentials to get them. My point was that I don't think it has to be a clerkship with the prestige of a Calabresi, Easterbrook, Kozinski, McConnell, or Posner clerkship (to name a few from the top tier).
4.17.2008 8:33pm
tommy:
My main question is, where in the world did Scott find time to write that Article while clerking for Kozinski??? THAT'S the remarkable thing.
4.18.2008 7:32pm