Image Credit: Heidi Fin on Unsplash
Image Credit: Heidi Fin on Unsplash

Are you entering the law review milieu this submission season? The two main law review submission cycles (February - April and August - October) are among the most exciting and stressful times of the year for law review editors and submitting authors. While authors are rushing to send out articles and anxiously awaiting decisions, editors are working overtime to process incoming papers and publish their next volumes on deadline. Sitting behind screens — editors buried under metaphorical stacks of papers (because who prints things anymore?), and authors checking for submission updates or a new round of edits — it can feel like living in two very separate worlds.

However, from what we’ve seen, authors and editors are both concerned with the same core aspects of the submission process — they just have different needs at each stage. In this blog, we round up some top tips and resources in the areas of law review that are most critical to editors and authors. We hope this blog will help foster a shared understanding of article selection and a more successful law review submission season all around. Let’s get to it!

Communication is key

Before we dive into specifics, there’s one general aspect of successful submissions and article selection that can’t be emphasized enough — communication. More often than not, the cause of law review struggles is poor communication in the areas of (1) journal policies and (2) article status updates. Let’s break down what editors and authors need to know.

For editors: For starters, more communication is always better than less. Authors will appreciate any and all article status updates. More specifically, in a recent author survey we found that there are 3 core things authors wish law reviews would communicate better:

  • Article selection timeframes and submission requirements
  • Article decisions (whether it’s a yes, no, or a maybe!)
  • Expedite request processes

Overall, authors say they need law reviews to provide clearer journal policies and reading and decision timeframes, and to (please, please!) keep those up to date. Be sure to open and close your law review at the right times. And, finally, the big one, make article decisions! More on decisions below.

For authors: As a general reminder, be sure to check all law reviews you’re submitting to for specific article requirements (e.g., cover letter, word limit, style guidelines), and to also help law review editors keep communications organized by using their preferred submission system.

Keep a collaborative frame of mind during revisions

Moving to more specifics, one aspect of article selection that can be both the most rewarding and, at times, the most tedious for editors and authors is revisions. In this interview, Enrique Armijo, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Elon University School of Law, and former Editor-in-Chief of the North Carolina Law Review, provides helpful tips for a better revision experience. Armijo emphasizes the importance of keeping a collaborative frame of mind.

For editors: As a former editor, Armijo says editors should know the value of the attention to detail that they give each paper and be thorough in all article review, while, at the same time, remembering to look at revisions from the author’s side. He advises editors to consider when it may be better to let go of minor revisions that don’t impact the integrity of an article, such as suggested word changes, if the revision process is starting to drag out.

For authors: Similarly, for authors, Armijo advises trying to see things from the editors’ side and be receptive to the overall benefits of some of the more taxing aspects of revisions. “It’s a particular kind of collaboration, since the end product has my name on it, not the editors’, and I keep that in mind,” said Armijo when considering how he handles his own law review submissions. “But law review editors want the same thing I do: the best possible piece for their journal. So I stay in a collaborative frame of mind.”

Know your citation role and resources

When we say law review, you say — citations! Right? Citations are a huge part of law review submissions and article selection for editors and authors. Here are a few tips there.

For editors: There’s usually little question from law review board transitions that citation checking is a critical component of law review, but mastering it can feel daunting at first. Thankfully, there are many bluebooking resources to help. We encourage you to comb through available library guides at your university and others, like this one from Pace Law School Library, and to also check out these key tips for tackling the Bluebook from Scholastica.

Editors may also want to look for ways to streamline the source hunting process at their school. In this interview, Merle Slyhoff, Collection Development/Resource Sharing Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania Law School Biddle Law Library, discusses how Biddle Law Library took steps to make source hunting easier for everyone involved.

For authors: Mainly, we can’t emphasize enough that attention to citations matters and could make or break your potential for publication. In an interview, former chief articles editor at UCLA Law Review, Franco Muzzio, noted that missing citations 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.”

Decisions, decisions, decisions — clear communication is key

Harkening back to our first point, clear communication, we wanted to carve out a specific spot for all things article decisions. This point is mainly for editors. If you only remember one thing from this article, know that making decisions is key.

For editors: Please, please make decisions on all articles throughout the submission cycle, including rejections. Sending an article rejection in Scholastica takes around 8 seconds, and authors will be immensely grateful to you for it. We know sending rejections is hard, but believe us authors want them. Also, be sure to have clear policies around decision making, including how your journal handles expedite requests. Authors share their thoughts on ways to improve the expedite process here.

For authors: On the topic of expedites, it’s important for authors to know that they should not request expedited decisions unless they have a definite offer on an article. Former chief articles editor at UCLA Law Review, Franco Muzzio advised, “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.” So be sure to get a decision before you expedite.

Putting it all together

Navigating law review submission season can be difficult at times. But, understanding the needs of editors and authors at each stage of the submission process makes a big difference. Ultimately, as noted by former EIC and legal scholar Enrique Armijo, it’s important to remember that everyone is working towards the same goal of publishing top-quality legal scholarship.