Image Credit: Pexels
Image Credit: Pexels

It may seem like only yesterday that you and fellow editors were competing in your law review’s write-on, but, before you know it, you’ll be passing the torch to the next executive editorial board. When it comes time for those new editors to take over, you’ll want to make sure they have all the information they need to hit the ground running. Is your e-board ready to facilitate a smooth law review transition?

The best way to help new editors get on track fast is to have a law review training plan. Hopefully, your previous e-board left you with some foundational training materials and processes that you can work from (if not, it’s up to your team to clear a training path for those to come. You know they’ll thank you for it!). Regardless of whether your e-board is starting with existing training guides or from scratch, it’s paramount that you begin preparing for your law review’s next board transition sooner than later, so you can revise or create training materials as needed and determine future training tasks (e.g. any workshops you’ll run for new editors and who will lead them).

You don’t want to be the law review that waits till the last minute to make a board transition plan (or worse, the one that doesn’t have one!). Scrambling to map out your editorial processes and throw together training workshops as new editors are being selected isn’t a fun situation to be in, we assure you! Whereas, if you start planning for your next e-board early, it will be much easier to document everything new editors will need to know and prep useful training events.

In this blog post, we share steps you can take to start preparing for your law review’s next board transition.

Start by brainstorming what did and didn’t work for your team

Before you embark on updating or creating a law review training plan, we recommend first setting aside some time for a brainstorming session. Arrange a meeting with the members of your e-board that will be facilitating the next board transition to discuss your high-level ideas around board transition and training needs. To guide the conversation, start by asking everyone to reflect on their experience as a new editor and what questions they had that were or weren’t answered during onboarding. Then discuss the existing training materials that were most helpful to your team (and how you’ll reuse them) and areas where you feel additional training materials are needed.

Be sure to also consider any aspects of your law review’s editorial processes that your e-board changed, so you know to create or update documentation accordingly. For example, if you changed the way articles are assigned to speed up article selection, you’ll want to make sure you edit any previous documentation around editor assignments. That way, the next e-board can benefit from the same improvements you made.

Document your editorial processes, including how you handle outlier situations

Armed with insights, now is the time to start creating an outline of your law review’s editorial processes or refreshing your existing process documentation, so new editors can quickly learn the ropes. Here is where the training material brainstorming you did will come into play. For example, if someone brought up that they felt your editors needed more information about your law review’s production schedule, now is the time to map out those details so the next editors have them on hand.

As you embark on editorial documentation, keep in mind, you don’t have to write new editors a textbook-style manual — they’ll do just as well if you give them a comprehensive bulleted list of article selection and production steps.

In your outline, be sure to explain the roles and responsibilities of each editorial position at your journal and to clearly map out how submissions should move from review to acceptance, edits, production, and, finally, publication. You can do this in written instructions and, if you like, you can also visualize the process with a flow chart. You may find this exercise useful to help your current team stay aligned!

Key aspects of your editorial process that you’ll want to break down include:

  • How you handle new submissions (e.g. Who do they go to first? How are editors assigned?)
  • How articles move to full board review
  • Your process for making final article decisions
  • How you communicate updates and publication decisions to authors
  • How you handle expedite requests
  • Your editing process and the style guides you use

It’s a good idea to also offer new editors some examples of how your e-board handled outlier situations. For example, how you handled an author agreeing to your publication offer but then backing out last minute, or your e-board being evenly split on whether to accept a submission. Your team can write quick memos of how you handled such situations and add them to a shared Google Drive or Dropbox folder.

Make sure your internal editorial guides are up to date

In addition to mapping out your editorial processes for the next e-board, you’ll want to compile a list of all your internal editor guides — think bylaws, article grading rubrics, citation checking handbooks, style guides, etc. — and review them to make sure all are up to date. As with your editorial workflows, consider if there are any aspects of your guidelines that you’ve altered or added to and be sure to update the information accordingly.

If your team doesn’t have many internal guides to turn to, now is the time to compile the article grading rubric or style guide you always wish you had. Additionally, if you don’t have one already, consider creating a glossary of special terms. Remember all of those law review buzz words that you were unfamiliar with when you first started? Give the next editors a leg up!

Finally, consider any additional information you will need to hand off to your new e-board. For example, does your journal have social media profiles? You’ll need to provide new editors with the login credentials, so they can keep those accounts alive. Do you have a point of contact or process for updating your publication website? Be sure to share those details. Additionally, if you have internal process documents your team uses to stay organized, give your new editors access to them, so they don’t have to start from scratch.

Get your Scholastica account into shape

Once you’ve completed your training materials and checked your internal guides, you’ll want to turn your attention to getting ready to hand off your Scholastica account. We recommend first getting it organized for incoming editors. This next step isn’t part of making a training plan per se, but getting your Scholastica account into shape will make new editor training a lot easier.

First, we highly recommend that your law review make decisions on any pending articles that need to be rejected. We hope you’re sending prompt decisions to all authors (as we’ve noted in the past, authors much prefer a “no” to radio silence), but we realize that sometimes law reviews get behind on sending rejection letters. In the event that you have a backlog of submissions that need to be cleared out, it’s easy to do so in bulk using the Quick Reject feature. Just enable the Quick Reject feature, set up a rejection template email, select the manuscripts you want to reject and confirm to send. If you don’t want to notify authors of these rejections (i.e. you are rejecting manuscripts that are a few months or even years old), just uncheck the box that says “send authors this decision by email” before completing the Quick Reject action. We recommend setting a firm deadline to reject any backlog submissions before your new board arrives.

Next, you’ll want to check your Scholastica account for any other housekeeping needs, such as clearing out old manuscript tags that you’re no longer using. We also recommend giving your decision letters and Discussion templates a once over to check for any necessary updates or opportunities to better support authors. For example, do authors tend to ask the same next steps questions after you send them an acceptance letter? If so, consider adding further details to your decision email template to give authors the information they need upfront. Additionally, be sure to check that all of the “For Authors” information on your law review website is up to date, including your submission timeframes and guidelines.

Make an onboarding plan, including at least one in-person training (Scholastica can help!)

Now that you have your training documentation in order, it’s time to make a plan for how and when you will transfer that information to the incoming editors. It’s a good idea to also set up time for one or two in-person training sessions. Even with the most detailed written account of your law review processes, new editors will likely have lots of questions and appreciate the chance to talk to a human.

Depending on the complexity of your law review’s style guidelines, you may want to schedule an editorial 101 workshop for new editors to cover common questions and dos and don’ts. You will also definitely want to help your new e-board set up a Scholastica training so they can get familiar with your account. Scholastica can help with this! We offer free trainings to all law review boards to help get new editors logged in and comfortable with how everything in Scholastica works. Look out for an email from our support team about how to schedule a training as transition time gets closer, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions!

Also, know that you can easily invite new editors to your journal before your board transition occurs to give them a chance to get acquainted with Scholastica. Unlike other systems, every editor can have their own login for Scholastica, so you don’t have to worry about passing on shared account information.

To help new editors get familiar with Scholastica, you can also direct them to our free training resources, including:

Consider how the timing of your board transition will impact the next volume’s submissions and schedule accordingly

Finally, you’ll want to factor your law review’s usual submissions flow into your law review training and transition timeline. If your law review board isn’t transitioning until late in the Spring, you should be aware that there may be fewer authors submitting articles at that time. If you want to give your new e-board the best opportunity to fill their volume, you should consider helping them get started accepting submissions earlier — like in mid-February.

Use and reuse your law review training plan

Once your training plan is complete, it’s time to start putting it to use. Make training materials available to your new e-board as soon as possible to give them ample time to get acquainted with your law review. Also, be sure to remind your next board to save and update the training plan you give them for future board transitions. You’ll be doing future editors a big favor!

This post was originally published on November 07, 2016 and updated on December 19, 2019.