Image by: Elli Olson
Image by: Elli Olson

Almost every general law review has an online supplement, which publishes pieces that are not a traditional fit for a print edition. The focus of online supplements varies from journal to journal, and can range from publishing shorter pieces, timely opinions about current events, or responses to articles in the print edition. Above all law review supplements aim to expand legal scholarship beyond traditional print articles, acting as a platform to highlight new forms and perspectives within legal academia.

We asked editors of law review supplements to shed some light on the online publications they manage. Read below to see what these editors had to say about the role their online components play within legal academia, advice they’d give to other online editors looking to improve their publications, and maybe even get a little inspiration for submitting to an online supplement if you haven’t already!

A place to innovate

As a supplement to a print publication, a law review’s online component offers a place for innovation within legal academia. Will Gohl, Senior Online Editor of Northwestern University Law Review Online, advised new online editors to: “Be willing to innovate and try new things. One nice aspect of the online side is that it isn’t bound by some of the strictures of print-side, which means it’s easier to give new types of scholarship or new formats a chance.” One way NULR Online innovates is via podcasts with the authors of online pieces. Gohl mentioned this podcast is an effort of his team to increase the impact of their online supplement. It’s also a great example of how online supplements can experiment and incorporate more modern forms of media into legal academia.

Maxwell Mensinger, Senior Online Editor for Minnesota Law Review Headnotes, also highlighted the benefits to traditional legal academia that an online supplement’s innovation can offer. He finds that “Online components prove particularly adept venues for response pieces, comments, and other forms of writing not always present in print. Thus, an online component can experiment and build on the best aspects of the print version, respond to recent developments with greater haste, and change a reader’s perspective of what constitutes academic writing–if it remains flexible in its approach.”

A way to continue the conversation

An online supplement allows law reviews to continually roll out articles, especially during times when print issues are being prepared for publication. With their more flexible requirements for publication - in terms of form, length, and even subject area - online supplements are a great way for scholars, practitioners, and students to join legal academia’s dialogue.

Timing is an important and attractive aspect of publishing with a law review’s online supplement. As Gohl aptly explained, “we accept submissions on a rolling basis year-round, whereas print-side has two submission periods. Additionally, we don’t have editions within each volume. We just publish things online when they are ready.” This type of rolling basis publication provides authors with a more direct way to interject an opinion or analysis into an ongoing scholarly conversation.

Professor Colin Miller at the University of South Carolina School of Law has extensively researched and discussed the benefits of publishing with online law review supplements. Prof. Miller outlines the opportunities created by law review online supplements in a PowerPoint available for download here. Those opportunities include:

  • Publishing first on hot topics
  • An accelerated publication process
  • An easier writing and editing process
  • “Testing” how a topic is received before writing a print-length piece

Prof. Miller’s points were echoed by Gohl, who noted “our Online team can turn pieces around from selection to publication on our site in as little as six weeks. That is a huge asset to authors who want to write about cases currently pending before the Court or about topics when preemption is a concern.”

Law review editors must also understand the role their online supplements play in facilitating legal academic communication. A Senior Online Editor who wished to remain anonymous spoke to the ways an online supplement can inspire a healthy dialogue within a singular publication. This editor advised “law reviews trying to establish an online component, [to] consider the articles your print version has already published and consider how the online component would increase the effectiveness of the print version.” In this way, online supplements stay true to their name, supplementing and continuing the discussion a print edition’s articles have started.

Advice for improving your law review’s online supplement

Online supplements are often a law review’s public face. The online editorial team is responsible for everything from managing the law review’s web presence, publishing articles on a rolling basis, and sometimes even running a student blog. When authors or readers search for a law review online, the results they encounter tend to be the work of the online editorial team.

When I asked Mensinger what advice he would give a new online editor, his recommendations focused on the impact a law review’s online presence can have on the publication’s reputation: “My advice would be to lock down some funding for website maintenance and development. Online components have become exponentially more important to law reviews, as print versions (in general) have diminished circulation in recent years. When people look into a journal, they will almost always see it through its website; providing an easy-to-navigate, bucolic view is of critical importance, and funding makes this easier to accomplish.”

Online supplements are an important vehicle for legal scholarship that shouldn’t be overlooked. When thinking about your law review’s online supplement - whether you have one already or are thinking about establishing one - consider your role within your publication like Mensinger does: “Online editors need to think about their role on two fronts: on the one hand, how can this online component stand out from other online components; on the other, how can this online component augment the print version of the journal.” From managing the online presence of a law review as a whole to ensuring a law review’s content stays relevant and accessible, online supplements and the editors that manage them bring a cohesiveness to legal scholarship.

How does your law review’s online supplement innovate? We want to know! Send us a tweet letting us know @ScholasticaHQ.

Elli Olson
This post was written by Elli Olson, Business Development