Looking for guidance on how to navigate the different stages of the law review submission cycle? Or maybe some article writing inspiration?
Why not look to seasoned editors for insights?
Last spring, Scholastica started reaching out to outgoing e-boards to ask them to share the latest submission season dos and don’ts and their advice for new editors and submitting authors. Since interest was high, we decided to keep it going in 2022. In this second of a two-part series, editors respond to the following (you can click the questions below to jump to the answers):
- What’s your top piece of advice to help authors submitting to law reviews improve their chances of getting published?
- What’s your top piece of advice to help incoming law review editors hit the ground running this year?
We hope this series will help provide fresh perspectives on the state of legal scholarship for both editors and authors!
What’s your top piece of advice to help authors submitting to law reviews improve their chances of getting published?
We truly appreciate succinct abstracts that provide an overview of the argument and explain how the piece is situated among other literature. This helps our editors sort articles and highlight especially promising pieces.
Write on something that matters — not necessarily what you think is cool or interesting but what matters to legal academia at large. I’ve rejected several pieces that were well written and raised good points but didn’t really matter to anyone or anything. Unfortunately, because of limited space, these are not things that we can publish.
Three things make up a good article: 1) an intriguing argument, 2) clear writing, and 3) properly formatted citations. The author should ensure his citations comply with the current edition of the bluebook, which increases the chances of selection.
Please don’t expedite the article if you know that you aren’t going to accept the offer from the offering journal. Editors are already swamped with expedites. Additional ones only make them feel rushed and make them more likely to reject the article out of hand just to give the author an answer before the deadline.
I suggest you have the following: an interesting title, strong and clear abstract, strong introduction, strong conclusion, and novel legal argument that is set apart from the rest of the discussion section.
Follow the submission guidelines! It makes it easier for senior board members, and we can focus on the more important topical aspects of your article instead of sifting through formatting issues.
Review the requirements and tone of the journal carefully to see if you’re a good match for the tenor of the publication. Be consistent and follow up with communication.
Make sure your footnotes are bluebooked to the best of your ability and substantiate everything.
Discuss matters that are timely, topical, and trendy. Be sure to not discuss things that will go out of date tomorrow, as this will likely result in more hesitation from a journal. Further, being open to presenting new points of view and perspective is always attractive.
Be responsive. It is incredibly frustrating when I have questions for the author about an article and never hear back from them. I understand that they may have received and accepted an offer from another law review; however, it leaves a bad taste for any future works submitted.
Make sure to read the submission guidelines for the journal you are submitting to. When weeding through submissions, we would often automatically sort articles that were sent without a cover letter or resume directly or that came in under our required word limit into a “last resort” folder. You don’t want your work to end up there!
The keywords and abstract are crucial to editors who are looking at hundreds of articles throughout the cycle. Make those as clear and captivating as they can be.
Think of your paper as a living document, edit often, and reach out to as many alumni, school resources (i.e., classmates, professors, librarians, etc.), and practicing attorneys to get feedback about all aspects of your paper.
For submitting articles, there are a few things I believe will help your chances of being published:
- An article that calls for change more than just a new or novel concept is great.
- Think of submitting outside of submission waves that occur before or after semesters. For example, if you submit an article during the middle of the summer or fall, you will face little competition for eyeballs.
- Please be patient with editors as we get many submissions all at once, and if you just submitted your article, it likely will be in a line of others.
- Please let us know and withdraw your article after you have accepted publication offers elsewhere. Responsiveness is important. If you do not respond to our emails, we can’t publish your article.
What’s your top piece of advice to help incoming law review editors hit the ground running this year?
When you become overwhelmed by the sheer density of articles and expedite requests, remind yourself of the important role we play in legal academia. Take the time to do the internal work to address biases and refrain from letting burnout dictate your decisions. Our decisions impact lives. It is an honor and a privilege to do this work, even when the days are long.
Have a plan and know your team incredibly well. It is imperative to have a publication schedule in place, to ensure that you and your authors meet deadlines and that things are timely when published. In my experience, this is best achieved by knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Know where things may bottleneck. Know where things may be delayed. But, also know who can excel in particular positions. Above all, ensure that you have a cohesive team in place. Law Reviewing will fall apart if the team is not on the same page.
A workable schedule is essential. Editors should anticipate delays and create a buffer when setting deadlines. Regarding article selection specifically, editors should begin as early as possible. It will allow you to evaluate more articles and find the best pieces.
If you find a manuscript you think is very close to being in publishable shape already, you’ve probably found a winner. I would recommend against accepting articles you only want to publish after changing this, deleting that, moving this over there, etc. Make your lives easier for the editing phase.
Assign 20-25 articles to your articles editors per week to maximize the amount you’re able to review during the cycle. Assign those articles based on interesting titles and abstracts. I don’t recommend assigning articles based on when they were submitted — articles submitted as soon as the cycle opened weren’t always the best.
It is important to reach out to authors who have already submitted articles and introduce yourself. Give them a timeline for your review and when they should expect to hear back.
Start early! Review previous publications to get a sense of what articles you’re looking for, and start posting and opening submissions ASAP.
Make sure you discuss with the rest of the e-board if you want to have a theme for your volume or if there is a max amount of pages or footnotes you’re able to publish.
Communicate with previous editors and make yourself a structured system you’ll be able to stick to based on what worked and what didn’t work the previous year.
Learn all of the ways to solicit an article on your website, through The Conversation, general submissions, and so on. Also, try to stay on top of the articles that are submitted. Otherwise, quality works can easily slip through the cracks.
We had a lot of success putting out a “call for submissions” on Twitter and Instagram. Make sure you use all of the networks available to you to cast as wide a net as possible. Contact your professors, previous employers, and networking contacts to let them know you’re accepting submissions and what you’re looking for.
The struggle of being a journal editor is always playing the odds of deciding whether to make offers now or waiting for ‘better-fitting’ articles. I found that the longer you wait, the more desperate you get for articles as time goes on and the more desperate other journals get as well. So it’s very hard to fill those last couple of spots as more journals make offers. It might not be a bad idea to try to fill as many spots as possible as early as you can.
Start working on editing assignments right away and double-check them. If you have any questions, reach out to your publication’s editorial board and request Bluebooking seminars through your editorial board or seek out editing tips through LexisNexis.
My advice for incoming law review editors is to be intentional and have grace with yourselves. The law journal process calls us to complete large amounts of work in short amounts of time for only fun and glory. Make sure you are trying to accomplish goals and find articles early because you cannot start anything without manuscripts. Have grace for yourself because this is a difficult process and can be quick-moving and competitive. If you can’t find an article, think outside the box. Best of luck, and trust in yourself!
As noted, this blog is part of an ongoing series on advice from outgoing law review editors. Stay tuned for a new round of tips for e-boards and submitting authors on a new set of topics in 2023! A big thanks to all of the outgoing editors who took the time to share their experiences this year!