Electronic Submissions:
Late February and early March is peak law review article submission season; the editorial boards flip around that time, and the new boards take over and immediately start looking for new articles to accept. One issue that lots of law professors are curious about this year (beyond article length) is whether law review editors these days look favorably or unfavorably on electronic submissions.

  My sense is that the law review submission process is undergoing a shift from paper to electronic submissions; in a few years, electronic submissions will be the norm. The question is, are we there yet? Blogfather Eugene led the way at the VC with his use of ExpressO last year, but right now I think only a fairly small number of law profs take advantage of that option.

  I'd love to hear from any outgoing or potentially incoming Articles Editors (or others knowledgeable about current practices) about what you think of electronic submissions. If you were a law professor submitting an article in a few weeks, would you submit an electronic copy or a paper copy? Please offer your thoughts in the comment section.

  UPDATE: My apologies if I wasn't clear before, but I am only interested in receiving comments from editors about their preferences. I realize that lots of people have interesting takes on what journals should do, or on the psychology of article selection, but I'm interested at this point in hearing only from editors themselves. Thanks for understanding.
Amber (mail):
Our specialty journal accepts electronic submissions. They tend to get reviewed slightly faster, as it is easier to farm out electronic copies to the articles committee than hard copies. However, if the rise of electronic submissions means the law professors will spam all journals indiscriminately, I am more negatively inclined. Hard copies may make it marginally more costly for submitters and thus encourage some basic level of inquiry into whether a given journal would be a good fit.
2.14.2005 7:40pm
Anonymous Law Student:
I'm an outgoing editor of a top 15 law journal. We don't accept electronic submissions currently. Because so much of our articles decisionmaking process (and recordkeeping) involves comments on a hard copy, we would have to print out every article we received.

When our submissions are over a thousand a year, usually at about 50-100 pages each, that's a huge amount of paper and toner.

You law professors can pay for that.
2.14.2005 7:54pm
As a former (2004) articles editor at third-tier law review, I can say that electornic submisisons were far preferrable. Much easier to access with a computer, rather than a stack of papers. Plus, one-click contact with the authors. I highly recommend ExpressO, and plan to use it myself when I begin to circulate my articles...
2.14.2005 8:48pm
Brian (mail):
The NYU Journal of Law &Liberty prefers electronic submissions in Word format. They're much easier to manage than paper submissions.
2.14.2005 11:51pm
steve-o (mail):
At my top-20 journal, I can't say that electronic submissions are looked at more or less favorably than hard copies, but I do know that the majority of articles wind up printed out at some point in the review process.

Given that it's not uncommon to receive upwards of 1200 submissions in a given year, it does put significant pressure on journal budgets. Ideally, all articles could be reviewed on computer screens, but I'd bet that most people are more comfortable reading anything over a few pages long on actual paper.

On another note, I have seen many authors submit wholesale revisions after their first submission. This isn't really a problem in and of itself, as even a mildly effective document management process can handle these pretty easily. However, it does give me the feeling that some submissions are not as polished as they should be.

As wasteful and expensive as submitting a hard copy may be, it does have the quality of forcing the author to ensure that it will be perfect on the first submission. I'd be willing to bet that, on some level, hard copy submissions meet more success not because of any preference for paper, but because it tends to push authors to be a bit more meticulous about their "final" product.
2.15.2005 12:37am
David Krinsky (mail):
Your first priority as a submitting professor should be to obey carefully what the journal requests. Some want paper, some want electronic, and they tend to have good reasons.

Among journals that accept both paper and electronic submissions, I don't think there's a significant advantage to the submitter either way. At least on our journal, the review process is exactly the same, and the annoyance of photocopying seems to pretty evenly balance the annoyance of printing.

Paper does offer a slight advantage in terms of the polished appearance it can convey, as others have commented, and it offers the further advantage that your article might grab the eye of someone not on the articles committee who's checking the mail or who notices it in the office. While such "buzz" doesn't formally affect the selection process, it can't hurt.

So I would submit paper copies to those that require it and to my top several choices among journals that accept both, and electronic copies to any journals that require them and then a much larger swath (since it'd be so much cheaper and easier for me as a submitter).

[I'm a current 3L on the outgoing editorial board, but not the articles committee, of a top-tier journal.]
2.15.2005 7:46am
Micah (mail):
My journal received approx. 2300 submissions this year. We track the form of submission and just over half came in by email. Of the material we accepted, probably less than half was submitted by email--but not by much.

For reasons of convenience (and cost), we still prefer receiving hard copies. But it certainly doesn't prejudice anyone to send by email.

I'm genuinely surprised at the comment above from an editor at a top-15 journal that doesn't accept electronic submissions. That journal, even if it is at the very top, is at a major competitive disadvantage.
2.15.2005 10:55am
Josh (mail) (www):
At my top 30 school, we re-format articles for editing and pass them around electronically. Electronic is therefore preferred. Also, we're not technophobes.
2.15.2005 12:06pm
JP (mail):
As a former EIC (class of '04) for a ranked specialty journal, I always preferred electronic submission because it made it easier and faster to circulate the piece for review and comment. (Additionally, we used an electronic tracking system that integrated into email much easier than mailing.) I agree with the earlier post concerning paper/toner costs: If an author submitted a lengthy tome for review, we preferred it in paper form to save us the cost of printing something we may never publish.

However, two things bothered me with electronic submissions:
1. mass mailings or even ExpressO submissions--personalized emails received closer attention by the editors because it at least gave the appearance of thought placed in submitting to us; and
2. authors who sent an electronic and paper copy. If you must use paper, I'd suggest sending a paper copy and then emailing for confirmation.

Hope this helps
2.15.2005 12:54pm
Seems my previous post was removed for being rather snide about "top-ranked" journal editors, which apparently confirms my thesis about same. However, I reiterate that paper submissions are the way to go and will remain so for the near future, given the current practices of most -- not all -- journals and editors. I certainly prefer paper submissions and (having a previous career in journalism before heading to law school, as well as a stint teaching at Columbia's School of Journalism -- do I qualify for a post now, oh great watcher of comments?) paper's advantages are manifold and manifest.
2.15.2005 1:05pm
Rick Kaplan (mail):
I am the EIC of the Columbia Law Review and we strongly encourage electronic submissions. You can access our submissions page here:

By submitting electronically authors will have their pieces reviewed more quickly than in the alternative. Hard copies force us to manually enter the information before distributing a copy or copies of the piece. During high season (March/April &August/September) this can make a significant difference. Best of luck.
2.15.2005 11:02pm
I was an articles editor at a top-10 primary journal last year, and I am surprised at the enthusiasm for electronic submissions. Electronic submissions are great in some ways (they're easy to forward, they don't get lost), but for us, unless they were sent in combination with a paper copy - my preferred option - they created a lot of problems. As others have said, many people won't read an article on a computer screen, and having to print out articles ourselves seemed expensive and wasteful. A bigger problem, however, is that electronic submissions make it just too easy for authors to blanket journals with their articles. As it was, even with paper submissions, we got way too many articles that were simply inappropriate for us - sometimes because they were the wrong length or form, sometimes because they were too close in subject an article we had recently published, but primarily because they were essentially specialty journal pieces (such as, say, short, newsy articles on specialized developments in tax law). Dealing with these - figuring out what they were and that they were wrong for us, answering author queries, sending rejection letters - actually consumed a substantial part of our time, detracting from our ability to make careful, thorough decisions about the articles that were really in the running.

So electronic submissions make me nervous - I worry that push-button submissions decisions will make authors even less likely to scope out in advance the appropriateness of their article for the journal they are sending it to.
2.16.2005 9:14pm