Law Review Lara -- Little People in the Big Journals:

A reader writes, responding to Law Review Lara's offer of advice about all things law review:

I'm an aspiring law professor and hoping to publish another article this Spring and be at the "meatmarket" next Fall. I'm currently a clerk for a federal appellate court judge and have a few published works under my belt. My last article was published in a general law review, but one that is in the lower portion of the top 100 (using the [U.S. News & World Report] rankings). I'm hoping to do a bit better this time around, but am wondering if that is even realistic. So, these are my questions for you:

How high up the law journal ladder can a non-Supreme Court clerk really expect to publish?

Well, the answer is "depends on how appealing the article is." A quick search revealed that in 2003, the Yale Law Journal published an article by someone who wasn't a professor, Judge, or other legal celebrity: Daniel J. Sharfstein's The Secret History of Race in the United States, an article that seems to be about defamation lawsuits over allegations that someone is black. A few months ago, the NYU Law Review likewise published Camille Gear Rich's Performing Racial and Ethnic Identity: Discrimination by Proxy and the Future of Title VII.

Randy Kozel is having a piece on free speech and government employment published in the Northwestern Law Review; Nick Rosenkranz recently had a second piece accepted by the Harvard Law Review (this one on constitutional law and treaties), after having published another piece in the Harvard Law Review on statutory interpretation a couple of years ago. Kozel and Rosenkranz are Supreme Court clerks (future in one case, past in the other), but that probably doesn't make that huge a difference to law review editorial boards, though it might make some difference; and Sharfstein and Rich aren't Supreme Court clerks. And these are just the pieces Lara found with a few quick searches, plus her own knowledge.

Now this having been said, it's of course not easy to get a piece placed at a top journal if you aren't a professor -- but it's not easy to get a piece placed there even if you are a professor, either. The trick is to make your piece as appealing as possible, and not to give up hope (for instance, not to shortchange yourself by failing to submit to the top journals).

Which brings up the reader's next question:

What can an author do to appeal to, or even get the attention of, some of the more well-regarded journals (beyond playing the expedited review game)? For my last article, I was unsure if any of the top 50 journals were even giving my my piece a look after having over ten offers from lower ranked journals and requesting expedited review.

One top journal sent me a rejection letter seemingly before the piece could have even arrived at their door.

Lara's advice, which by sheer coincidence also appears in her friend Eugene Volokh's Academic Legal Writing:
  1. Include a cover letter that briefly pitches the article, and tries to persuade law review editors that this is an important, novel, and useful piece that will get lots of citations.

  2. Polish your article carefully before sending it out; even if law review editors don't know the subject matter well enough to spot the doctrinal flaws, they'll quickly spot the writing flaws.
  3. Especially polish the Introduction, which is the most important part of any article.
  4. Send the article as broadly as possible -- 100 journals, not 15 -- and shop it up aggressively.
And, most importantly, don't sweat the rankings too much. Most articles by most serious scholars aren't published in Top 20 general-interest journals, especially if the articles are on important but unsexy topics such as tax law, insurance law, corporate law, and so on. Law schools won't expect you to have Top 20 publications; and they'll pay much more attention to the quality and quantity of your work than to placement, which they realize depends on the fads and fancies gripping law review editors.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Law Review Lara Poses a Question to You:
  2. Law Review Lara Hears from Yale:
  3. Law Review Lara -- Little People in the Big Journals:
  4. Ask Law Review Lara: