You’ve just completed your latest legal scholarship article, and you’re ready to have it published. Now the question is — which law reviews will be the best fit? And how can you maximize the chance of having your article accepted by one of your top choices?
Even for the most seasoned legal scholars, preparing law review submissions can be daunting. There’s a lot to think about when managing submissions to multiple law reviews — from choosing which journals to target to keeping track of article decisions and if and when to expedite.
Thankfully, there are best practices you can follow to get a leg up in the submissions race. At Scholastica, we’ve garnered many submission season insights from editors and authors over the years. In this post, we share our top law review submission tips to improve your chances of getting published and save precious time.
The first tip we have to increase your chance of publication is to know when law reviews are actively reviewing articles and aim to submit during those times. There is no hard science behind when to submit to law reviews. However, our submission season data does point to two peak periods:
- February through April
- August through October
During these months, we’ve historically seen the most law review openings, submissions, and decisions. Submitting within one of these peak timeframes may help your chances of publication because a high percentage of law reviews are open and reviewing articles.
That said, we’ve found that law reviews open and close throughout the year depending on where they are in their editorial cycle, and many solicit articles for targeted symposia or special issues on an ad hoc basis. It’s also important to note that only ~35% of law reviews using Scholastica actively open/close submissions across the year – the other ~65% remain open year-round. So if you have an article ready and it’s not a peak submission time, you still have a good chance of getting an offer! Be sure to check to see if law reviews are open. We have some easy ways to help you do this without going down search rabbit holes:
- Sign up for daily law review opening update emails here
- Track updates on Twitter using the hashtag #LRSubmissions
- Reference the automatically updating table of open and closed law reviews on the Law Review Author Submissions Center website
- Check for law review updates in The Conversation — many editors post when they have remaining slots to fill in their volumes or are soliciting articles on particular topics
A quick note for 2021 submissions: Some law reviews have announced adjustments to their submission cycles this year to give authors more time to prepare articles in light of the challenges of the pandemic. Updates include law reviews pushing back their usual spring opening dates to mid-February and committing to reviewing articles on a rolling basis. Adam Zimmerman, Professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, has a helpful thread of Twitter announcements here. Scholastica has tools to help authors and editors easily find and communicate law review opening information. We share law review announcements from @scholasticaLR on Twitter and also include opening updates posted to the Conversation in our bi-monthly author newsletter. Additionally, as noted above, remember that you can quickly see which law reviews are open for submissions using the searchable table on the Scholastica Law Review Submissions Center page here.
If you’re submitting to law reviews offseason, we also recommend checking their websites for any updates on if/when they’ll be actively reviewing new articles. Over the years, we have found that some lower-ranked and specialty journals will sometimes remain open when not actively reviewing submissions to have more articles to consider when they are ready to fill their books. If it’s unclear from a law review’s website whether the editors are reviewing submissions, you can always reach out to them to ask.
This may go without saying, but before you start submitting to law reviews you should take some time to come up with a submissions strategy. Start by determining the top 3 to 5 journals that you think will offer you the best professional advantages and be the best fit for your article. This will give you greater focus in your submissions efforts.
When making a target law review list, think about your core objectives. Your primary focus may be getting placed in a top-ranked journal, or it may be publishing with a journal that will give your article the most visibility and engagement possible. These types of goals may or may not be mutually exclusive. Some starting points to gauge the prestige and visibility of law reviews include reviewing the Washington & Lee Law Journal Rankings and following law reviews active on social media to stay abreast of their latest publication updates and awareness initiatives.
Another quick tip to keep in mind — there has been a growing number of law reviews offering exclusive submission tracks to curb instances of “exploding offers” in recent years. Sending an exclusive submission to your top-choice journal could help you get a decision from them sooner. You can learn more about exclusive submission tracks and the journals offering them here.
Once you have a top-choice law reviews shortlist, you can start looking for relevant alternate options. At Scholastica, we have features in place to quickly sort law reviews by category (e.g., general law, civil rights, constitutional) to help you narrow down possible choices. We also recently revamped our manuscript work area to help authors more easily keep track of their latest submissions and make more informed decisions about if and when to target additional journals, including adding new functionality to:
- Search for manuscripts by title to check on specific submissions
- Filter submissions by accepted, rejected, and pending pub offers
- More quickly scan manuscript details for offer status information
Scholastica strongly encourage all law reviews to send decision letters for articles as they review them.
After you’ve taken a step back from your article to find target journals to submit to is the ideal time to give your final draft one last look. You’ll have fresher eyes and be in a better position to make sure it’s in tip-top shape before pressing the submit button. Of course, you’ll want to ensure your article is clean without any typos, grammatical errors, or formatting issues.
From there, try to look at your submission from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the topic. Specifically, focus on the title, abstract, and introduction of your article. These are the first things editors will look at, so you want to be sure they’re attention-grabbing and that they quickly and succinctly communicate the punchline of your paper. Also, consider the length of your submission (even if the journals you’re targeting don’t have a word limit). As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Punchline: Articles are most effective when all sections/words have a clear purpose. If and where possible, cut anything superfluous.
Finally, consider the framing of your article and be sure you’re highlighting anything especially timely about it. For example, if your article relates to current events or it’s about one of the most discussed but least published topics in law, let editors know. Include those details in the introduction of the article and/or any cover letters you send. It is worth noting here that we’ve heard mixed responses from law reviews regarding how closely they review cover letters. For example, in a submission insights webinar for authors held in January 2021 editors at Stanford Law Review, Harvard Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal said they generally do not factor cover letters into article decisions. Though, the editors said they may take cover letters into account when deciding between articles at a final vote in some cases. With that said, sending a personalized message about why your article would be an ideal fit for a journal can never hurt and we have heard many editors say that they appreciate this.
One submission step that we can’t stress enough is to check your article citations — and then check them again! Law review editors are hyper-vigilant of citations and will flag areas of your article that they think require additional references or any references that appear incomplete. So make sure all of your legal assertions have citations and that you don’t have any missing citation details.
In an interview former chief articles editor at UCLA Law Review, Franco Muzzio, noted that missing citations information can result in rejection, even for the most promising articles. “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 […] so we don’t end up offering them publication.”
We want to stress — before sending your submissions forth, make sure you are following the guidelines and preferences of the journals you’re targeting. This includes adhering to each law review’s aims and scope, article formatting requirements, and preferred submission method. You don’t want a law review to automatically reject your submission because it doesn’t meet a technical specification. What are the most common article requriments to look out for? The big ones we’ve seen are:
- Article length requirements: Many law reviews have hard article-length requirements. For example, Stanford Law Review states on its website that the editors have a “30,000-word ceiling” for articles and a “preference for 20,000 words or fewer.”
- Style guidelines: Check for any article style guidelines on each law reviews’ “For Authors” page. The main thing to keep in mind here is citation style. Most law reviews expect citations to conform to The Bluebook.
- Article blinding: Some law reviews also ask authors to anonymize their article files. For example, Stanford Law Review requires this.
- Cover letter: Check to see if the law reviews you’re submitting to require cover letters and be sure to submit one if asked — following instructions counts!
Throughout the submission process, you may have questions for law review editors or you may want to send them an updated file. This is totally normal and editors will expect it. In this case, just be sure that you are using each law review’s preferred communication method. For law reviews using Scholastica that’s easy — use the Discussions feature. Your Discussion message will go directly to the law review’s editors and be stored next to your submission, so editors know exactly which article it’s about. Editors receive notifications for all new Scholastica Discussion messages, so they’ll be less likely to fall through the cracks than emails.
When working with law reviews that use Scholastica, be sure to also make all of your decision responses and expedite requests via the system. The benefits of this are twofold: first your communication will be more likely to be seen, and second, you’ll be making editors’ lives easier by helping them keep all of their law review work in one place.
Remember that you can also save time by communicating with law reviews in bulk via Scholastica. You have the option to send Discussion messages, decision responses, or expedite requests to multiple journals at once, as explained in the “Communicating” section of the Law Author Guide.
Another quick tip: try to keep your emails brief. Make sure your subject line is clear and state the aim of your email in the first sentence. Editors are swarmed with emails during submission season and it’s easy to overlook questions if they’re buried in lengthy text.
Another key submission area is expedite requests. It’s important to know when it’s worth submitting an expedite request and when to hold back. First, for a quick overview, expedite requests are when you notify one or more of your preferred law reviews that your article has received an offer from another journal and ask them to send you an article decision before your response to that offer is due.
Expedite requests can help to push your article higher up the submissions pile at some law reviews, but you must use them strategically. If you’re going for a top law review, make sure you wait to submit an expedite to that journal until you have an offer from a similarly ranked publication. Also, when making expedite requests, be sure that you actually have an offer on the table. Don’t make any assumptions based on your article going to full board review. While a strong indicator that your article may be accepted, full board review is not a guarantee of acceptance so most law reviews will not grant expedites in this situation and may be put off by such requests.
Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the submission resources at your disposal! We’ve developed some great free guides and tools for law authors.
Be sure to check out The Scholastica Law Review Submissions Center. Here you’ll have access to:
- Submission pro tips
- Law review submission data insights
- An automatically updating table of open and closed law reviews
Also, remember to follow #LRSubmissions on Twitter for law review opening alerts and submissions updates and tips.
If you have any Scholastica-specific submission questions, you’ll find answers to them in our handy Law Author Guide. And, if there’s anything you’re unsure of, just reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help!