Image Credit: Christina @ on Unsplash
Image Credit: Christina @ on Unsplash

Is your law review regularly updating authors about where you are in your article selection cycle? If not, it’s time to start!

Every submission season, at Scholastica, we hear variations of the same plea from legal scholars — Can you please remind law reviews to communicate their article selection status?! We know it can be difficult to send personal submission follow-up emails when you’re busy reviewing articles, but it’s imperative to at least provide authors with basic article selection updates. And Scholastica makes it easy to do so en masse, so there’s no excuse not to!

Now especially, in light of potential changes to your law review workflows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, author communication is more important than ever. Below are the main article selection updates that you should be communicating to authors and how to start.

Submission opening and closing status

We probably don’t have to tell most law reviews to alert authors when they open for submissions (remember to post to the Conversation and use the #LRSubmissions Twitter hashtag to make opening announcements!) — but communicating submission closings can be another matter. One of the most frustrating experiences for an author is to send their article to a law review only to find out that the editors are no longer reviewing submissions.

If you’ve finished filling your next volume, don’t delay in letting authors know! You can easily update your Scholastica For Authors page to reflect your law review’s current submission status by having your admin editor navigate to the “Configuration Options” tab under “Journal Settings” and check the “Suspend submissions for this journal” box as explained in this help doc. When you suspend submissions for your law review, the submit button on your For Authors page will be replaced with a notification box with the header “Submissions for our journal are currently closed.” Your admin editor will have the option to add a brief message below the header to indicate when your law review will reopen. In addition to updating your For Authors page, we recommend also using the Conversation and/or the submission season Twitter hashtag #LRSubmissions to alert authors when your law review has closed submissions. Authors will appreciate a quick update along the lines of, “Thank you to everyone who submitted to [The Law Review] this cycle. The journal is now closed.”

You may be thinking — what if my law review wants to stay open in between article selection cycles to get more submissions to consider for our next volume? That is an option. Though, we caution you, if you decide to go this route be sure to make it amply clear to authors that review of their submission will be delayed. You can do this by updating your For Authors page to include a note (we recommend putting it in bold) that, while your account is still open, you will not begin processing articles until your next article selection cycle beginning at X time (e.g. October 2020). And, of course, be sure that your editors will in fact be able to review all of those off-season submissions.

Reading and decision timeframes

If you want to make the list of authors’ favorite law reviews to submit to, go one step further from just announcing when you open/close submissions and provide reading and decision timeframe updates. We know it may not be possible for every law review to give authors exact reading and decision dates, but we assure you even hints at reading and decision timeframes will be much appreciated. It’s as simple as adding a quick update to your For Authors page (e.g. “We are now actively reading articles for our X volume and anticipate making all article decisions by the end of X month.”) and/or posting a quick update to the Conversation or Twitter (again using #LRSubmissions).

Particularly at this time, if you think your law review’s reading and decision timeframes will fluctuate from previous norms due to COVID-19 disruptions, be sure to let authors know. Authors will appreciate the update that their article is still under consideration and hasn’t just been silently rejected without a notification email.

Article decisions (even if it’s a no!)

Speaking of silently rejecting articles — we highly recommend not being the law review to do that! As with journal opening announcements, we’re pretty confident most law reviews don’t need reminders to send acceptance decisions to authors, but many could use some prodding when it comes to getting out article rejections. We know that sending rejection letters can feel awkward, but we promise that authors would much rather receive a no from you than no word at all.

Scholastica makes sending rejection decisions quick, easy, and almost painless! You can either Make a Decision on each article as you go, Quick Reject multiple articles at once, or Bulk Reject all remaining submissions when you’ve finished choosing articles for your volume.

When it comes to making article decisions, also be mindful of expedite requests. First of all, make clear to authors whether or not your law review will consider an expedite (if you don’t accept expedite requests, letting authors know upfront will save your time and theirs!). If you do take expedite requests into consideration, be sure to send authors updates on whether or not you plan to honor theirs. Authors don’t want to have to wait for their expedite request deadline to expire to learn that you won’t be accepting it.

Publication schedule and pre-publication policy

Finally, we recommend providing authors with a basic overview of your journal’s publication schedule (i.e. when to expect new articles to be published online and/or in print) on your About or For Authors page. At this difficult time, as everyone navigates COVID-19 disruptions, be sure to also let authors know of any steps you’re taking to provide greater flexibility around deadlines, such as giving extensions on article edit due dates, etc.

Additionally, make sure your law review’s pre-publication distribution policy is clear to authors so they know if/how they can circulate article drafts on pre-publication repositories like SSRN and LawArXiv. Particularly now, in the event that your production schedule is or may be delayed due to COVID-19, allowing authors to disseminate pre-publication articles will enable them to make their work available and start having impacts sooner. As noted by Brian L. Frye, Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law in a past interview, while many law reviews allow pre-publication article sharing, some have unclear or dated copyright policies. Make sure that your law review’s copyright policy is correct and available to authors on your About or For Authors page.

Putting it all together: Providing clear and consistent author updates

Carving out the time to provide regular article selection updates — especially reading and decision timeframes, as well as rejection decisions — is so important and it will give your law review a leg up in the eyes of legal scholars. As a reminder, be sure that any article selection announcements or changes that you make are reflected in all of your law review communication (e.g. Scholastica submission page and any external websites). And take steps to keep good communication practices going even after your term by informing incoming editors about these best practices. Authors will appreciate it!

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