Submitting articles to US law journals – Part 2 (pros and cons)

It is very tempting at this time of year to send an article to a US law review (ExpressO beckons) (why this time of year – see here).  But, there are, of course, benefits and detriments to US student run journal submission (I do differentiate them from the few US peer reviewed law journals). 

While others have written on this before (here  and here), I thought I would share some thoughts based on my experiences on this issue – based on my past experience as a student editor on a US student run law journal (the YJIL) and on my experiences having published numerous times in both US student run journals and in the more traditional law journals found outside the US (many of which have student operation components, though those are significantly less than found in US student run journals).

The below is a quick and dirty list of pros and cons as you ponder whether to submit.

Pros

Multiple submissions at one time, with the ability to game the system through expedited review processes to get accepted into as prestigious a journal as possible;

Quick submission decision turnaround (within a month or two);

Detailed high quality line editing (they would have made the English in the post perfect – or perhaps simply technically correct);

At the most prestigious journal the substantive editing can be exceptional;

High quality source (footnote) checking ensures accuracy;

Willingness to format the paper and footnotes;

Post publication access via Westlaw, Lexis, Hein, etc (better access than some of the smaller non-US publishing houses’ law journals);

Many are considered prestigious, despite not being peer reviewed;

Many speciality journals are willing to publish the less traditional field and approaches; and

Will accept lengthy articles.

Cons

Not considered peer review in most non-US law schools (and hence sometimes not countable for promotion or grant applications);

Sometimes excessive and ill-conceived substantive editing and interference in the author’s version of the paper (a complaint heard increasingly often);

Student editors not experts or experienced in the fields under review, with academic supervision often absent or minimal or with the academic supervisor also not experienced or knowledgeable about the fields;

Student editors often exhibit footnote and source fetishism (everything has a footnote added with multiple “string” citations);

Delays in publication can be excessive (as long as a year);

The most prestigious generalist law journals (the school’s primary journals and hence the most prestigious in most rankings) often will not accept non-US domestic law submissions or specialized field submissions (such as international fields);

Article acceptance often based on reputation of the author or the author’s institution;

Substantive analysis of the acceptance decision made by inexperienced law students;

Less willing to accept the standard length articles found outside the US; and

Often a requirement that the first part of the article lay out basic information on the field (otherwise the student editors will be unable to understand the substantive points of the article), which itself contributes to the needless length of the article.

Readers – any other pros and cons?

So – should one publish in a US student run journal?  It depends.  But, I can say that having moved to publishing in non-US peer reviewed journals  I now have little desire to submit my work to US student run journals.  I have grown used to the sophisticated reviews I receive from the peer review process and to the respect my writing and style receives from the editors who exhibit only minimal interference with my work.  I also believe shorter articles are better – if the idea cannot be expressed in under 15000 words (perhaps even under 10000 words) then perhaps it should be published as a book.  Also, the excessive citations and footnotes inserted into the US student run journal articles is unnecessary and detracts from the real sources readers wish to see or which the author wishes to emphasize.  So – for me, the non-US journals will be my future preferred fora. But, that is just my opinion.

By Colin Picker

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