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What advice would a recent law review editor give…?

Whether you’re an author trying to place a paper or an editor learning the ropes of article selection, have you found yourself asking some version of that question?

At Scholastica, we know law review editors and submitting authors are always looking to learn about the latest submission season dos and don’ts. So we decided to reach out to outgoing e-boards to ask them to share guidance around navigating the different stages of submissions to compile a series of blogs highlighting their tips (you can read Part 2 here).

In this post, we’re rounding up editor feedback on making article placements and coordinating smooth board handoffs. Click the questions below to jump to the section you’re interested in:

  1. What’s your top piece of advice to help authors submitting to law reviews improve their chances of getting published?
  2. 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?

Jared Hamernick University of Illinois Law Review

We receive hundreds of submissions every week. Do what you can to stand out. That’s good, but generic advice. To be specific:

First, we can tell when you are sending copy-and-paste messages. We can also tell when we get a personalized message that demonstrates genuine interest. It doesn’t guarantee a full board read, but I was much more inclined to read a full article when the author showed genuine, personalized interest. Similarly, when an abstract was copied and pasted from a cover letter (or vice versa), it felt like my time was wasted. I didn’t have time to read an entire article immediately, but I read everything else submitted before making any decisions.

I’m not an expert in your area of law — use your cover letter to help a second-year law student understand the importance of your work. If you’re not yet a widely published author, there’s no reason to hide that. Use your cover letter to help us understand why we should publish you. I wanted to publish authors whose profile we could raise, not just authors who could raise our profile as a journal.

If you’re writing on a topic on which we’re likely to get dozens (or hundreds) of similar submissions, it’s especially important that you help us understand why yours stands out. If you have additional information you want us to consider (i.e., your work was featured somewhere, you were asked to testify in Congress on a matter, you got great feedback from a committee, etc.), send us a message to let us know. We want to stand out as much as you do.

Lastly, when in doubt, communicate. We often can’t reply to every message, but if you sincerely want to publish with us, reach out. We’re people just as you are. Human connection helps.

Anonymous law review editor

My best advice is to learn more about the journals you are sending your manuscripts/expedite requests to before actually sending. You may find out our journal has published similar subject matter in recent years, and you may discover our journal has held symposia on a topic tangentially related to your work. It certainly assists our editorial board to use a previous manuscript to relate to one we make an offer on.

Blake Danser Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law

Consider secondary law reviews. When you publish with a specialized journal, your editors are more likely to be interested in and knowledgeable about your topic. Their inputs will be more valuable to improving your work than a general law review.

Anonymous law review editor

When an author sent me a personalized message asking me to review their piece and give them feedback, I always tried to be responsive to those requests. They were much more effective than when an author sent a mass message out with an update about their piece being under review at another journal (or something similar).

What’s your top piece of advice to help incoming law review editors hit the ground running this year?

Jen Davison, Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality

It’s always wise to listen — and I mean deeply listen — to the past editorial team, and to ask them lots of questions about what you hear. The connective tissue between each law review volume is people who have committed themselves — heart, soul, and tired eyes — to achieving the ultimate mission of the law review. Binding yourselves to those sinews of past experience will help you to reproduce their excellence, and also to find those spaces where you can grow and develop the next sinews in this human chain.

Jordan McMinn West Virginia Law Review

I highly encourage editorial teams to meet with each other and set parameters for their selection process before beginning. Are there any hard page or word limits that you are going to impose? Are there topics that your journal is just not interested in publishing? Is your team willing to publish something that would take a substantial amount of effort to fix citations? Having these decisions made early allows the managing editor to filter out a lot of articles and cuts down on everyone’s workload!

Anonymous law review editor

My best bit of advice is to familiarize yourself early with Scholastica. For our journal, we did not open our first selection cycle until August. But in May, we joined a few tutorials and simply explored some of Scholastica’s features. It helped us take advantage of the tools Scholastica provides as we moved through our selection cycle.

Michael Cooper Brooklyn Journal of International Law

Get familiar with previous issues your journal has published, which provides some guidance on the type of articles that will best fit your journal. Then start reviewing submissions thoroughly and send offers as soon as you feel comfortable.

Brielle Berndtson DePaul Journal for Social Justice

Schedule a weekly day and time to meet with your editorial board and offer your staffers to attend the first meeting of every month. Building strong relationships and communication with the Board and Staff is crucial to helping the journal function more smoothly and consistently. Create an agenda for each meeting, have someone take notes, and assign action items. Work together and lean on one another when you need help or are confused. This includes reaching out to IT and advisors, as well. The first semester can be a learning curve, but you become a better leader with practice.

As noted, this is the first in a new blog series on advice from outgoing law review editors (you can read Part 2 here). Stay tuned for the next roundups of tips for e-boards and submitting authors! A big thanks to all of the outgoing editors who took the time to share their experience!