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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Brophy on the Fading Fall Submission Season for Law Journals

At The Faculty Lounge, Alfred Brophy observes that law journals seem to be cutting back on the number of articles they are accepting during the fall submission season. Brophy writes:

It seems like a lot of journals were announcing on bepress and scholarstica that they were already full for the year this summer and telling us to check back in the spring of 2015. The few law review editors I've had a chance to speak with tell me that they had very few slots left by mid-August. This causes me to wonder -- and I'm guessing other people have speculated on this, too -- whether we're essentially moving ot one submission window, in the spring? I would think this would have a lot of negative consequences for people up for retention, promotion, and tenure, because I'm guessing that a lot of people are finishing their capstone piece in the summer and looking to place it in the fall.
Law journals generally have two submission windows -- one in the spring, and one in the fall. Most journals bring on their new boards and staff members in the spring, and begin accepting submissions for their new volumes during that time, so there is generally not a shortage of space for spring submissions. But sometimes, journals may end up filling all or most of their volumes in the initial spring submission season, which would lead to fewer acceptances in the fall.

If that trend is indeed taking hold, I would agree with Brophy that it is problematic. During the spring submission season, articles editors have only just begun their roles, and have probably not had very much experience reading legal scholarship. But if my experience is any guide, the learning curve for articles editors is steep, and even by the end of the spring submission season, articles editors tend to be much better at spotting quality legal scholarship.

Unfortunately, if editors seek to fill their volumes in the spring, they will be unable to apply their increased knowledge base and article selection skills in the fall submission season. While this may not be very much time for editors' skills to improve, I suspect that the improvement is still meaningful, and that cutting out the fall submission season would have a detrimental effect on the quality of scholarship that journals end up publishing.

As a final note, Brophy's article is related to one of Orin Kerr's suggestions for successfully placing law review articles. Kerr recommends that authors submit in the spring, which -- along with his other four suggestions -- is advice worth listening to.

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