Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bai: A New Prof's Suggestion for Improving the Law Review System

Lin (Lynn) Bai, my wonderful new junior colleague, asked me to share her reaction to my post yesterday, Law Review Reform:

Having been in the legal academic for just a year, I already feel strongly about the inadequacy of the law review system. The thing that is particularly weird is that everyone submits to every law journal out there and then bargains up the placement. The immediate effect of this is that most of the journals, particularly the top ranking journals, do not review submissions; they let the lower ranking journal do the first screening work -- extremely unfair. This process is also unfair to authors because they usually get only a short time period to respond to lower ranking journals that have accepted their submissions. I think this problem can easily be fixed if the legal academy adopts a submission policy used by Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, i.e., authors are obligated to publish with the journal that first accepts their papers. In this way, authors are more selective about the journals where they want to place the article in the first place, so the work load is evenly spread out among different law journals. Moreover, every journal, including top ranking journals, has the incentive to read the submissions as quickly as possible. It seems to me that a significant chunk of the law review submission problem can be easily eliminated by the above measure. It just requires some law journals to take the initiative. I think journals other than a handful of "elite" ones all have the incentive to opt for this.

Lynn's most recent work is There Are Plaintiffs and . . . There Are Plaintiffs:  An Empirical Analysis of Securities Class Action Settlements, 61 Vand. L. Rev. ___ (2008) (with James D. Cox & Randall S. Thomas).

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Harvard and Yale have "exclusive submission" programs where you submit only to them, agree to take their offer, and they let you know within 10 days or two weeks. I've done this, and have gotten answers (OK, rejections) within the time period, so at least it appears that my submission was read. Duke and Georgetown also used to have similar programs but got rid of them for some reason. I have also heard of people doing this on their own--sending to 5 or 10 or 15 journals with a unilateral assurance that the author would take the first offer. From a top 10-ish school, this works, but may be unnecessary. From lower ranked authors, I have seen it work and not work, but in most cases with a follow up barrage of updates and comments. If such an offer were just sent in with no follow up, I am not sure most editor would even read the cover letter until the paper came up in the ordinary course (which it might not, without an expedite).

Posted by: Jack Chin | May 25, 2008 9:42:43 AM

That sounds like an idea I'd like to see tried. I fear it'll be enormously difficult to get law reviews to agree to it.

Posted by: Alfred | May 24, 2008 5:01:07 PM