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Law Review Submission Stories

Dave Hoffman at CoOp has opened the bidding on law review spring submission stories. Here is a slightly different perspective.

Last year I became one of our (Pittsburgh’s) advisors to the law review.  One of the things that I noticed at the time was the difference between Pitt’s US News ranking (a not entirely meaningless number, because among other things many law profs use US News ranking as a proxy for law review prestige when submitting manuscripts) and Pitt’s ranking in the Washington & Lee Law Journal Submission/Ranking index.  If one assumes that the two ranks should be more or less equivalent — an interesting proposition to debate, in itself — then Pitt had (and still has) a problem.

As part of thinking about how the law review and the law school might respond, I looked into how the review selects articles.  What I learned more or less confirmed some conventional wisdom.  The accepted learning among the students, passed down from board to board, is that the review should steer clear of anything “theoretical.”  Practical, detailed, problem-solving pieces are the coin of the realm — because, I learned, this sort of work is more likely to be cited by future scholars and by courts.

My two cents was to suggest that the review might expand its horizons a bit.  Even in a middle market journal, theory has a place, and theory can have an impact.  That’s my bias as a writer, too, and I know that if the students try to implement my suggestion to any degree, I have probably bought myself additional work helping them sort wheat from chaff.  Our law school isn’t big on teaching theory in the first place.