Most law review editors find that submission season comes up preeeetty quickly. There’s little time for reflection between the excitement of making law review and the reality of preparing for the next article selection cycle. Embarking on a new law review volume is both a thrilling and perhaps a bit nerve-wracking endeavor with lots to get done in a short time — but know that you’ve got this!
Successful law review article selection all comes down to one thing, preparation (and perhaps a little deep breathing when you’re in the thick of it all!). At Scholastica, we help hundreds of law reviews prepare for submissions and optimize their article selection processes every year. In this blog post, we cover everything you need to know to get ready for article selection using Scholastica.
First things first, make sure that all of the information on your law review’s website and Scholastica “For Authors” page is up to date — especially your submissions guidelines. A lot happens when law review e-boards turn over, and it’s paramount that your team communicate any submissions criteria or article selection process updates you’ve made since taking over to authors. For example:
- Has your e-board made any changes to your article length or style requirements (i.e., a new max word limit)? — If so, make sure that information is easy for authors to find and skim (we recommend using bulleted lists whenever possible).
- If you have any specific file requirements, such as submitting all Word docs, anonymizing articles, or including a cover letter with each submission, make that known.
- Communicate if and when you’re soliciting particular types of articles at the top of your author guidelines. For example, if you finish filling your regular volume and plan to stay open only for submissions on a specific symposium topic, note that on your For Authors page (it’s easy to update and well worth the time!).
- If your law review offers an exclusive submission track and/or requires submissions to be exclusive at certain points during the year, be sure to also provide details on that. Remember, authors coming to your website don’t have the same context about your article selection cycle as you do. They need you to spell out your submissions options and expectations.
- Finally, if your e-board recently turned over be sure to update your masthead so authors know!
Many law reviews have information about their e-board and submissions guidelines in multiple places (i.e., an independent website, school website, Scholastica submission page, etc.). Don’t forget to update it all! Having conflicting information in different places can cause author confusion, and you don’t want to miss out on submissions because of that!
Your journal’s admin editor can easily update any necessary information on your Scholastica “For Authors” page by going to My Journal > Settings > Configuration Options. From there your admin can edit everything from your journal description and submission guidelines to your e-board’s email notification preferences.
Most law review authors submit through Scholastica, so make sure they know you’re here! You can easily add a “Submit via Scholastica” button to your law review website. Just have your law review’s admin editor go to “Settings” to access the button code, as explained in this help doc.
It’s also a good idea to update the submission guidelines on your external website to let authors know that you’ll be managing article selection on Scholastica and that they should send any submission-related messages/queries through the platform. Authors should know to use Discussions to send email inquiries directly to your law review’s Scholastica account. That way, you’ll be alerted to all new messages and be able to keep your email communications in one place, and authors will know that their emails are going to your law review’s primary inbox.
Before you start your next article selection cycle, do some simple housekeeping to make organizing new submissions easier. Check for any lingering submissions and reject those that your e-board has decided not to publish. You can clear out old submissions using the Quick Reject or Bulk Reject feature.
With both the Quick Reject and Bulk Reject feature you will have the option to either send authors a rejection letter using a decision template or to opt not to send decision emails by unchecking the box labeled “send an email with this decision.” If you’re rejecting relatively new submissions, we highly recommend sending decision letters to authors. One of the most common pieces of submission season feedback that we hear from authors over and over again is that they wish law reviews would be more diligent about sending decision letters on all manuscripts. We know sending rejection letters can feel uncomfortable, but we promise that authors want to know your decision whether it’s a yes or a no!
As you prepare for article selection, if there’s one point that we can’t stress enough — it’s communicate, communicate, communicate! We sent out a survey asking authors what they think about law reviews’ article selection processes and the overwhelming response was that they wish law reviews would send more frequent updates including notification when an article is under review, responses to expedite requests, and above all decision letters. As noted, authors want to know the outcome of their submissions even if it’s a rejection.
Sending frequent author communication doesn’t have to take up a lot of editorial time. You can use Discussion templates and Decision templates to easily send recurring communication in Scholastica. As you enter the next article selection cycle, be sure that you have templates ready for all of your most common author correspondences and update any existing templates as needed.
Your efforts to send frequent author communication and decisions for all articles won’t go unnoticed. These small steps often make a big difference when authors are deciding which law reviews to submit to each season.
A common question that many new e-boards have is, “when should we open for submissions?” While there is no set time for law review submissions, there are some clear data trends that can help you know when authors will be most active. Looking at the latest aggregated historic Scholastica submission season data, we’ve found that there continue to be two clear peak law review submission periods: spring submissions in February-April and fall submissions in August-September. Opening during these peak times can help you ensure you receive a good amount of quality papers.
Many law reviews also choose to open earlier or to stay open later to expand their submission timeframes. There is no right submission time, it’s whatever you choose. Just be sure to keep your law review website(s) up-to-date so it’s clear to authors when your law review is open for submissions and when it’s closed! You don’t want to confuse or frustrate authors by keeping submissions open when you’re not actively reviewing articles.
And now an obvious but important reminder: When you’re ready to start accepting new submissions, don’t forget to open your Scholastica account! Your Scholastica admin editor should follow these steps to open your account.
One of the best ways to ensure a smooth article selection cycle is to set data-driven goals around your law review’s submission volume and article selection timeframes. You can use your Scholastica analytics page to track specific stats automatically including:
- Time to decision: Your e-board can aim to make all manuscript decisions in a certain number of days and track your time to decision metrics to make sure you’re meeting that goal.
- Days to reject: In addition to aiming to make all article decisions in a certain timeframe, your journal can set a goal to make all article rejections ASAP and track your days to reject.
- Submissions volume: Your e-board can establish a benchmark for submissions needed to fill your next volume based on the previous submission period.
You can access all of your journal stats by going to My Journal > Analytics.
As noted above, tracking the number of submissions your law review receives will help you know if you’re on track to fill your next volume on time. Of course, as you’re watching this stat, you’ll also want to be sure to take steps to actively increase submissions.
This article selection cycle, make sure you’re promoting your call for papers as widely as possible. Some easy ways to do that include:
- Using the Twitter hashtag #LRSubmissions to announce when your law review is open
- Announcing your law review opening on The Conversation
- Posting a call for submissions on your law review blog (if you use Scholastica’s publishing platform, adding a blog to your website is easy!)
In addition to announcing when your law review opens, authors will appreciate it if you also share updates about when you’ll be actively reading articles and when you’ll be making all article decisions.
Some new editors get a lot of guidance during their e-board transition. Others… not so much. If you’re in the latter camp, not to worry we have some great resources available to help you learn the ins and outs of managing article selection using Scholastica. Hop right over to the Law Editor Learning Center for a quick walkthrough of key Scholastica features and answers to FAQs, including video tutorials.
You can also find many additional resources on the blog including:
- Information on sourcehunts and interlibrary loan materials
- Advice from former law review editors turned authors
- Tips on how to tackle the Bluebook
Take some time to review the resources available to you upfront — it will be worth it in the long run. The more comfortable your team is with article selection, the faster you’ll be able to sort through and find the articles that you want to publish!
Sometimes you can’t do everything in one day and that’s OK. This submission season, remember to take your time and just breathe. Check out these pieces of advice from Alison Monahan, Columbia Law alumna and founder of law student support startup The Girl’s Guide to Law School, on juggling law school and law review. Above all, don’t forget to carve out a few moments for yourself every day to step back from your work and appreciate the bigger picture.
Happy article selecting!