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The Law and Economics of Law Review Submissions

The title of this captures the essence of its content. Reading Christine Hurt’s anecdotal account of her recent journal submission experience confirms, again, the sense of the legal academy that there are just too many authors and too many pieces chasing what appear to be too few publication slots.

I stress “appear to be” too few publication slots, because we really don’t know whether there are more “quality” law review articles than there “quality” slots. (Quality is always in quotation marks, of course, because we don’t have a precise understanding of what means, either on the supply side or on the demand side.) Depending on our sense of the relevant flaws in the market, in other words, there are a variety of strategies for opportunists, as well as for reformers. Assuming (as we must, at least to start with) that everyone involved behaves rationally and with full information:

What’s a rational law review editor to do?
What’s a rational journal to do?
What’s a rational faculty member to do?
What’s a rational discipline to do?

As a writer, I’ve never tried to match the topic or style of my writing to the demands of the law review market (or even the tenure and promotion market). I’ve always just written about stuff that interested me. Maybe, then, I should be looking through the other end of the telescope, or looking upstream instead of downstream, to mix the metaphor. Markets beget markets. Does “the law and economics of law review submissions” become “the law and economics of legal scholarship”? Why do we write what we write?

The questions all cry for analysis. Are any of these strategies really rational? Optimal? Even related? There’s an article waiting to be written, and there’s just enough time — I figure about 5 months — to crank out a draft in time for next Spring’s submission window.

1 thought on “The Law and Economics of Law Review Submissions”

  1. I think it’s really important for professors to write about what interests them and not what they think the market wants. Having reviewed hundreds of submissions already this semester, I’ve seen so many people writing about the same things over and over. Some people complain about Law Reviews publishing too much constitutional law, but i would estimate that 70% of the submissions I read touch on something in constitutional law. I’m dying to read things that are unique! I think when professors go where their interests take them and don’t worry at all about the market, it ultimtely benefits them, because their interests lead them in a direction away from the rank-and-file article on tiers of scrutiny (I’ve seen painfully many of those this year).

    Sadly, I’ve become quite pessimistic about the quality of articles. I’m at a top-20 school, and it’s been very hard for me to find enough articles that I really feel are “quality.” And it seems the ones I really love end up getting taken by Yale or Chicago. So far I’m very happy with what we’ve slated, but it’s always a struggle. The past couple weeks I’ve noticed a drop in quality, and with one more issue to fill I’m nervous as ever that we’re not going to find enough good articles.

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