Are you ready for the 2023 law review submission cycle?
Whether it’s your first year trying to place an article or fifteenth, you’re likely wondering what steps you can take to boost the chances of getting published in one of your top-choice law reviews.
Of course, there’s no definitive formula for a successful submission since countless factors affect the annual legal scholarship cycle. But by keeping a pulse on the latest law review updates (e.g., calls for papers, article reading/decision timeframes) and looking at past submission season trends, you can get a sense of what to expect during upcoming article selection periods, and how to be as competitive as possible.
At Scholastica, we’ve garnered myriad submission season insights from supporting hundreds of e-boards over the years, and we want to help demystify things for authors. In this blog post, we’re rounding up tips to help you improve your publication prospects based on our latest data and learnings. Let’s get to it!
If you’re planning to submit a legal scholarship article this year, first things first. You’ll need to decide which law reviews you want to target.
Law review submissions may feel like a numbers game at times. But, in truth, it really is about quality over quantity, so you should be selective when making a list of law reviews to send your paper to and narrow down the ones that are likely to be the best fit for your particular paper and publication goals.
Multiple factors will come into play here, including the aims and scope of your article (e.g., if it’s on a niche topic, you may be better off submitting to specialty law reviews than general ones), law reviews’ reputations, impact, discoverability, and more. 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 updates and awareness initiatives. We also outline five digital-publishing best practices to look for when considering law reviews that can help expand the potential reach of your article, like publishing articles in mobile-friendly HTML.
Start by creating a list of 3-5 top-choice law reviews based on your article topic and publication goals. Then once you have a shortlist, you can start looking for alternate options (aim for around ten or more). Using Scholastica, you can quickly sort law reviews by category (e.g., general law, civil rights, constitutional) to help narrow down the options.
If there’s one law review you’re particularly keen on, now’s also a good time to check if they offer an exclusive submission track option where you can pre-commit to publishing in that law review if they accept your article. As the name “exclusive track” suggests, you’ll have to agree to only submit to that one law review for a designated exclusive timeframe (usually 1-3 weeks). Exclusively submitting to a law review is a definitive way to communicate that it’s your first pick and move your article toward the top of the queue.
As you narrow down your law review shortlist, you’ll want to start thinking about submission timing.
Of course, if you’re planning to pursue an exclusive submission track, you’ll already have a target date based on the law review’s guidelines.
If you’re not submitting to an exclusive track to start, there is no hard science for when to submit to law reviews. However, past Scholastica submission season data does point to two peak periods:
- February through April (often referred to as the “spring submission season”)
- August through October (often referred to as the “fall submission season”)
These months have historically seen the most law review openings, submissions, and decisions. As a result, submitting within one of these peak timeframes could help your chances of publication because most law reviews will likely be open and reviewing articles.
Be sure to check Scholastica’s latest submission season data insights report to see if and how law review opening and submission timelines are changing. We release graphs and commentary on the previous year’s data each January.
It’s also important to note that historically only around 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, there’s still a chance of getting an offer! Law reviews open and close throughout the year, depending on their editorial cycle, with some seeking rolling submissions. And many law reviews also solicit articles for symposia and special issues on an ad hoc basis.
We have some easy ways to help you stay abreast of law review openings without going down search rabbit holes, including:
- Sign up for daily law review opening 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
If you’re submitting to law reviews off-season, we recommend checking their websites for 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 remain open when not reviewing submissions to have more to consider when they are ready to fill their books. In such cases, we strongly encourage them to note that on their “For Authors” page. If you can’t tell if a law review is reviewing articles from its website, don’t hesitate to reach out to the editors and ask!
Once you have a list of law reviews to target and a sense of when they’ll open, especially for any exclusive tracks, it’s time to devise a submission strategy. The main factors to consider are if and how you’ll 1) stagger your submissions and 2) customize them to stand out to specific journals (e.g., writing dedicated cover letters or even tweaking the framing/copy of your article to fit one or more particular titles).
Beginning with submission staggering, obviously, if you’re planning to pursue an exclusive law review track, you’ll need to submit to that title alone to start. But beyond that, you’ll be able to either make one bulk submission to your target law reviews or stagger your submissions. There are, of course, pros and cons to each approach to consider. For example, staggering submissions may afford you more time to customize them for target law reviews, but submitting to all your chosen titles at once can help ensure your article reaches them early in their article selection processes.
We recently revamped Scholastica’s manuscript work area to help authors more easily keep track of their latest submissions, 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
Authors can leverage these features to make more informed decisions about if and when to target additional law reviews.
After nailing down your submission approach, it’s time to do your homework to get to know your top target law review’s article preferences and recent publication history so you can send tailored submissions to those titles. For example, if you’re submitting to a law review that favors regional pieces, you may be able to find ways to connect your paper to the geographic area(s) on which it’s focused. You may also identify opportunities to send personalized cover letters or emails expressing why your submission is particularly suited to your top-choice law reviews.
Anecdotally, contributions from e-boards for Scholastica’s “Advice from outgoing law review editors” blog series suggest law reviews appreciate submission customization efforts and pay attention to the details. However, editors have also commented that they can spot forced connections and flattery, so make sure any claims you make are genuine.
For example, former editor of the University of Illinois Law Review Jared Hamernick said, “it doesn’t guarantee a full board read, but I was much more inclined to read a full article when the author showed genuine and personalized interest.” Hamernick added, “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. […] 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.”
Another way to customize law review submissions is to communicate if and how your article relates to works previously published in your target law reviews. In an anonymous contribution to Scholastica’s 2021 “Advice from outgoing law review editors“ blog series, one editor noted, “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.”
Now that you have all your submission ducks in a row, it’s time to polish your article. Begin by thinking about how you’ll frame it.
Looking at the 25 most-used keywords for articles accepted via Scholastica in 2022 and 2021, it’s clear that submissions on timely topics tend to perform well. Among popular keywords in 2022 were “artificial intelligence,” “climate change,” “corporate governance,” and “immigration.” So it’s a good idea to show how your article connects to current events. For example, let editors know how your article relates to recent legislation or if it’s about one of the most discussed but least published topics in law. You’ll want to include those details in the introduction of the article and any cover letters you send.
Also, consider how you can convey how your article relates to your personal experiences and, if possible, why you are uniquely qualified to write on the topic. In the 2021 “Advice from outgoing law review editors“ blog series, former editor of the Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality Jen Davison said, “one thing that is really important is to show your link to the topic you are writing on. It would seem inauthentic for me - a law student - to write an article about what it’s like to train tigers for 40 years. I haven’t done it! If I want to write that article, I should explain how I’m situated in relation to the content.” Davison added, “this is particularly important as we collectively recognize the power of diverse voices in scholarship and the disservice we may do to the world of readers when homogenous voices write scholarship on behalf of diverse voices.”
Once you’ve nailed down your article framing, try to look at your submission from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the topic and take steps to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. Specifically, focus on the title, abstract, and introduction. These are the first things editors will see, so you want to be sure they’re attention-grabbing and that they quickly and succinctly communicate the punchline of your paper.
Today is my last day as senior articles editor of @GeorgetownLJ, so I thought I would share some pointers for authors in #lawtwitter submitting to the spring cycle, which opens tomorrow for us! After poring over thousands of submissions last year, here's what has stood out to me:— Jesús Rodríguez (@jesusrodriguezb) January 31, 2022
In a Twitter thread of advice for authors posted on the 31st of January 2022, Former Senior Articles Editor for The Georgetown Law Journal Jesús Rodríguez noted: “Effective titles often caught my attention, especially when it was 1 AM and I was up assigning articles. Intros should tell us upfront what’s original about your piece — like in journalism, don’t bury the lede.”
Rodríguez added that authors should use their conclusion to build upon the article topic, leaving the reader with new insights rather than just reiterating the thesis. “Authors sometimes treat conclusions like 2–4-paragraph bows on top of the piece, but this is where the discussion and the implications of your argument need to be clearest. If a busy editor jumps to your conclusion after reading the intro, it should make them want to read the rest of the piece. They shouldn’t feel like they’ve read enough.”
Rodríguez also highlighted the following example of a law review article written in a compelling narrative style.
Speaking of abstracts, introductions, and conclusions, we can’t overemphasize the importance of getting to the point. In every iteration of Scholastica’s “Advice from outgoing law review editors” blog series, we’ve heard some version of this recommendation.
For example, in the 2022 advice series, former articles editor for the Michigan Law Review Latazia Carter said, “we truly appreciate succinct abstracts that provide an overview of the argument and explain how the piece is situated among other literature. This helps our editors sort articles and highlight especially promising pieces.”
Additionally, former articles editor for the Pepperdine Law Review Derek Kliewer advised, “the keywords and abstract are crucial to editors who are looking at hundreds of articles throughout the cycle. Make those as clear and captivating as they can be.”
Pulling back more broadly, this is really about making all of the words in your submission count. Remember, the goal is to write a compelling article, not to hit the maximum word limit. And that means getting to the heart of the matter fast.
Another submission prep step we can’t stress enough is to check your article citations — then check them again! Law review editors are hyper-vigilant of referencing and will flag areas of your article that could use additional references or any that appear incomplete. So make sure all of your legal assertions have complete and correct citations.
As former West Virginia Law Review editor Jordan McMinn explained, “having good citations is so important! It’s important because it’s often the first thing editors review and because it gives editors a good idea of how much effort it will take to bring the article to publication. We made many decisions where we were on the fence about offering publication, and it went one way or the other based on the abstract and citations.”
In the Twitter thread above, Former Senior Articles Editor for The Georgetown Law Journal Jesús Rodríguez acknowledged that untenured faculty might face the challenge of not having access to RAs to help check citations like their more senior colleagues. Rodríguez advised, “if you’re in this tough spot and under pressure to submit the piece this cycle because of job reqs, I think it would be a good idea to write a note to the journal explaining the situation and promising to clean up the cites before work begins on the piece if selected.”
Next, before submitting to law reviews, be sure to read their author guidelines and preferences and adjust your article accordingly. This includes adhering to each law review’s aims and scope, 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.
Of course, you’ll want to first ensure your article is clean without any typos, grammatical errors, or formatting issues. Next, look out for the following common submission specifications:
- Article length requirements: Many law reviews have hard article-length requirements. For example, Stanford Law Review states that the editors have a “30,000-word ceiling” for articles and a “preference for 20,000 words or fewer.” Also, keep in mind that many law reviews subscribe to the adage “less is more.” As former Vanderbilt Law Review editor Nathan Campbell noted in the 2021 “Advice from outgoing law review editors” blog series, “rarely does a piece that approaches or exceeds 30,000+ words need all of those words to convey the argument. Moreover, we expect authors to add to the word count, rather than subtract, as we approach publication, which requires us to be mindful of the editing burden on the front end.”
- Style guidelines: Check for any article style guidelines on each law review’s “For Authors” pages. The main thing to keep in mind here is citation style. Most law reviews expect citations to conform to The Bluebook.
- File anonymization requirements: Another submission requirement to look out for is file anonymization specifications. There has been a trend of more law reviews implementing fully or semi-anonymized article selection processes to prevent implicit biases in decision making like Washington Law Review. If you’re unsure how to anonymize your article files, we have a guide here to help!
- Cover letter: Finally, check to see if any of the law reviews you’re targeting require cover letters, and be sure to submit one if asked — following instructions counts!
A quick word on cover letters: We know authors often wonder if and to what extent cover letters matter. Do editors even have time to read them? We’ve received somewhat varied feedback in the last few iterations of the “Advice from outgoing law review editors” blog series. But the general consensus seems to be if you see an opportunity to customize a cover letter for a particular law review to show why your article is especially suited to be published there, definitely do it; otherwise, don’t worry too much about sending unique cover letters to every law review. In general, law reviews that seek cover letters will expect the same basic information: an overview of what your article is about, how it contributes to the field, and any publicity/recognition the article has already received (e.g., inclusion in the SSRN Top Ten Downloads lists).
In the Twitter thread discussed above, Rodríguez noted, “please don’t spend time writing a different cover letter for each journal you’re submitting to, unless required — use that time to polish your topic sentences, roadmaps, etc.”
If you’re submitting via Scholastica, remember to use the “Guidelines” links below law reviews listed in the submission pool to quickly check their author guidelines without having to navigate away from the page/open extra tabs. You can also easily make anonymous submissions as needed. The submission pool now specifies law reviews that require anonymous articles, and the submission form includes upload fields for anonymized files. Learn more here.
If you decide to submit to multiple law reviews at one time, be sure to also take advantage of all of the group submission features Scholastica offers, including the ability to:
- Include anonymized files in group submissions
- Send expedite requests to one or more journals
- Withdraw a manuscript from one or more journals
- Accept/decline publication offers in bulk
Remember, you can also save time by communicating with law reviews in bulk via Scholastica. Authors have the option to send Discussion messages, decision responses, and expedite requests to multiple law reviews at once, as explained in the “Communicating” section of the Law Author Guide.
Throughout the submission process, you may have questions for law review editors, or you may want to send them an updated file, which is normal, and something editors will expect – so don’t hesitate to reach out! In those cases, just be sure to use each law review’s preferred communication method. For law reviews on 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. 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 send expedite requests and responses to decisions via the system. The benefits 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.
Another quick tip: try to keep your emails brief. Make sure your subject line is clear, and state the aim of your outreach in the first sentence. Editors get inundated with emails during submission season, and it’s easy to overlook questions buried in text.
Another key submission area we often hear questions from authors about is expedite requests. It’s important to know when it’s worth submitting an expedite request and when to hold back.
Wait, what is an expedite exactly? An expedite request is when you notify one or more of your preferred law reviews that your article has received an offer from another law review and ask them to send you a decision before your response to that offer is due.
Expedite requests can help 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, be sure to wait until you have an offer from a similarly ranked publication before sending an expedite request. Also, when making expedite requests, be sure that you actually have an offer on the table. Don’t make any assumptions based on your paper going to full board review. While a strong indicator that your article may be accepted, a full board review is not a guarantee, so most law reviews will not grant expedites in that situation and may be put off by such requests.
As you submit to law reviews and hear back from them, it’s a best practice to respond promptly to any inquiries you receive. As an author, you don’t want to hear radio silence when waiting for decision notifications or replies to emails you’ve sent journals. Remember that law review editors feel the same and try to extend them the same courtesies you expect to receive.
For example, if a law review accepts your article and you want to wait to hear back from another journal before deciding whether to publish with them, let the editor know and request to have the offer due date extended if needed. And once you have accepted a publication offer, be sure to let the other law reviews you’ve submitted to know so they can take your article out of their review queue. Again, you can do this in bulk via Scholastica.
Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the submission resources at your disposal! Scholastica has developed many 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, you can reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help!