Did you know that baseball is one of the only sports with no defense — or rather, one of the only sports where the defense is given control of the ball?
Law review articles, like baseballs, have to be able to fly straight on their own. Home run submissions are the result of one hit, one shot at publication, to compete against other articles who’ve made it onto the field.
To help you get ahead of the game, we reached out to two law review editors to see the kind of submissions that hit it out of the park for their journals: Amar Naik, Editor and Chief of UC Davis Law Review, and Franco Muzzio, Chief Articles Editor at UCLA Law Review. Here are their top dos and don’ts for articles up to bat, starting with submission timing.
When is the right time to submit a law review article? Many authors wrestle with this question while planning their submission strategy.
For Amar Naik of UC Davis, the early swing packs the hardest hit. “If you apply too late in the game you might miss out on some of the top journals,” he said.
Naik added that authors should refine their manuscripts as much as possible. “There are some situations where you can’t, because the research season is pretty short for professors and they have other obligations,” he said.
In these situations Naik suggests authors wait until the next season to submit their article.
A common concern along with submission timing is whether authors should tailor the length of their articles to meet journal needs, with moves towards shorter submissions in recent years.
Naik said he thinks authors shouldn’t worry about article length when writing submissions.
“The best articles that we see are the ones that have a detailed and rigorous discussion of a topic,” he said. “If we think an article is well thought out and researched we’re going to consider it, even if it might be shorter or longer than a traditional article.”
As part of ensuring your article is thorough in its argument, Naik stressed the importance of research citations.
“Any time we see legal assertions without any citations we get a little hesitant, because we want to make sure that the people who are reading this article can go to the sources that the author is relying on, especially to continue the research endeavor” he said.
Franco Muzzio of UCLA said that UCLA Law Review will also get submissions that are missing citations on occassion, which can be unsettling to editors.
“We’ll get some articles that will just say ‘add citation, add citation’ throughout,” he said. “Sometimes they’re really novel and interesting, but we get the impression from those articles that the authors are going to be difficult to work with and unnecessarily burden our editors, so we don’t end up offering them publication.”
In the realm of submission strategy, when made too soon, expedite requests can resemble running off base before a pitch has been thrown. One example that Muzzio offered of over eager expediting is requesting expedites before getting an official offer from a journal.
“Trying to push for an expedite when you are at full board with another journal but have not yet gotten an offer is not a good strategy,” he said. “It’s only about a 10-25% chance that an author comes out of full board review with an offer, so we never grant those expedite requests.”
Muzzio said that because offers are not guaranteed, these expedites are premature and can be wasted effort on the author’s part.
Both Muzzio and Naik agree that articles exploring novel legal concepts are most likely to be published.
Muzzio said that when it comes to determining articles that are truly innovative his student editors are not afraid to ask for professors’ advice.
“We’ll reach out to professors quite often,” he said. “Usually it’s for the articles that we really like but are not sure about their novelty.’”
Naik said focus on novelty ultimately comes down to journals’ primary goal to publish articles that will be read and cited.
“We have some great pieces in the past that have been cited by courts,” he said. “That’s somewhat unusual because most courts focus on case law, but those are the types of pieces we are looking for—something that can move the law a little bit and sort of challenge the status quo.”
For first time submitting authors, a well-written and novel article will be sure to make an impression. Both editors said that their journals put limited weight on CVs, and even less on cover letters, which editors generally lack the time to read. So when it comes to landing that home-run submission, focus on hitting it out of the park from the abstract on.