February 18, 2016

HMM: Law Profs Continue To Publish After Tenure, But In Less Competitive Outlets.

Well, that’s because, once you’re established, the law review brand benefits from association with you, not the other way around. If I know nothing more about an unknown scholar’s piece than that it’s in, say, the Columbia Law Review, then that tells me something (maybe not a lot, but something) about its probable quality. On the other hand, when I see an article by, say, Randy Barnett or Eugene Volokh, I don’t care where it’s published because I already know it’ll be good.

And in the era of SSRN, that’s even more true. My Second Amendment Limitations paper has over 3500 downloads, which is more than the circulation of all but maybe one or two law reviews. My most-downloaded piece, Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything Is A Crime, has over 20,000 downloads. No law review offers more than a fraction of that much actual readership.

I still advise young scholars to play the placement game — which in law means multiple submissions and, once you get an acceptance, calling the higher-ranked law reviews and trying to parlay that into an acceptance with them, something that would be regarded as highly unethical in other fields but is the norm in law, where wasting student editors’ time isn’t a bug, but a feature. Once, when I was a young scholar, I started with an acceptance at Connecticut, parlayed that into an acceptance at Michigan, and then from there made it into Columbia. And that was worth it then, but I would never invest that much time today, though I’d encourage unknown and untenured scholars to give it a shot.

UPDATE: The reason why law review submissions work differently than submissions to, say, medical journals is that law reviews are student-edited. Multiple submissions to peer-reviewed journals waste the time of peers. Law review editors, on the other hand, are reading manuscripts as part of their education, so their time is never really wasted.

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