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Writing for & Publishing in Law Reviews

This guide provides information and resources to help students and professionals who want to write scholarly papers and get them published in law reviews.

Submission Guides

Two authors maintain a journal-by-journal guide to law review submission policies and post it on SSRN: Allen K. Rostron & Nancy Levit, Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews & Journals. Note: covers each U.S. law school's general law review; does not cover specialized journals.

Another useful article for students (by Levit et al.), is Submission of Law Student Articles for Publication (updated Aug. 30, 2016). Chart indicates which law reviews do and do not accept submissions from students at other schools. Again, covers general law reviews, not specialized journals.

Colin Miller annually updates and posts his Submission Guide for Online Law Review Supplements (the version from July 22, 2013, covers 49 general law review online supplements).

Law Review Mailing Addresses

Electronic Submission

Writing an Abstract

Your abstract will be the first thing most editors see when they review your paper. Remember that the editors have not been thinking about your topic as much as you have—in fact, as third-year law students, they might know nothing about your topic. Your abstract is your first chance to explain why your topic is interesting and important and how your paper makes a contribution to the field. Make sure that it is well-crafted and clear. Proofread it carefully: there's no need to turn off editors before they even start skimming the article!

Later, the abstract will help researchers find your article and entice them to read it—more good reasons to put some effort into it!

Eugene Volokh, Writing an Abstract for a Law Review Article, Volokh Conspiracy, Feb. 8, 2010.

Mary A. Dudziak (USC law): How (Not to) Write an Abstract, Legal History Blog, Oct. 23, 2007.

Patrick Dunleavy, Writing Informative Abstracts for Journal Articles, Writing for Research, Feb. 16, 2014.

Optimizing Your Article for Search Engines, Wiley-Blackwell Author Services. Includes examples of abstracts that do better and worse jobs helping users find a paper using a search engine like Google. Also from Wiley: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your article.

Colorado State University's Writing Center has a very thorough online tutorial. It is not focused on law, but its techniques can be used in any field.

Advice for computer science papers (adaptable to law with a little thought): Philip Koopman, How to Write an Abstract (1997).

How to Format the Paper

First, read the journal's submission guidelines or instructions for authors. The editors often specify whether they want single- or double-spaced, Word or PDF, footnotes or endnotes, and so on. (Footnotes are standard in U.S. law journals, but some cross-disciplinary journals use a format common in social sciences.)

Some editors might look past odd formatting, typographical errors, and sloppy citations to see the brilliance of a paper. But why make them? Faced with two papers that are comparable in content, most editors will choose the one that will be easier to edit. Take the time and care to make your paper look good.

See the Gallagher guide Bluebook 101.

The Academic Legal Writing website includes a Word template.

When to Submit

Peak submission times for student journals are February-March (as new editorial boards are looking toward the next volume) and August (as student editors are returning from their summer jobs). Authors who submit after these peaks may still place their papers, but it might be harder because some journals will have already filled their issues.

Simultaneous Submission & Expedited Review

It is common for authors to submit papers to many law journals at once. When one journal makes an offer to publish, the author may ask more desirable journals to expedite review, hoping to "trade up."

For example, suppose an author submits to 26 journals, A through Z, with A being the most attractive (most prestigious) and the rest falling along a spectrum of desirability. Journal M makes an offer and gives the author two weeks to decide. The author contacts journals A-L, tells them about the deadline, and asks the editors to make a decision quickly (i.e., to "expedite review"). Journal G makes an offer. The author contacts Journals A-F. None of them make an offer, so the author publishes with Journal G.

Some people don’t like this practice, because it takes advantage of the work of the student editors of lower-ranked journals. In this example, the editors of journal M put in the work to decide that the article was worth publishing, and the author just used that work to get more attention from other journals. These critics suggest that authors should submit to their preferred journals—those where they would published if offered the chance. If they don’t get offers, then they can submit to their next preferred journals. See Joseph Scott Miller, Essay, The Immorality of Requesting Expedited Review, 21 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 211 (2017), HeinOnline.

Some journals have specific policies about expedited review. For example here is the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology's policy:

We will conduct expedited reviews for articles with publication offers from other journals. So that we are able to appropriately respond to such requests, authors submitting an expedited review request should specify: (1) their need for consideration on an expedited basis, and (2) the offer deadline from the other journal(s). As with standard submissions, we have a strong preference for expedite requests submitted via Scholastica. If you email us regarding an expedite, please include "expedite" in the subject line of the email.

Some peer-reviewed journals do not participate in this process. Be sure to read the submission guidelines for the journals you are interested in. For example, The Journal of Law and Economics states:

Papers submitted to the Journal of Law and Economics must not have been published and must not be under consideration elsewhere.

The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies states:

Simultaneous submission policy: Simultaneous submission of papers to JELS and other journals is permitted.  JELS, however, requires that if a submission is accepted for publication in JELS before acceptance by another journal, the author commits to publishing the article in JELS.  Thus, if JELS accepts an article before other journals have acted, the author must publish in JELS.  If an author receives an acceptance before JELS has acted, the author is free to withdraw the submission from JELS, or to request an expedited review from JELS.  Please contact JELS for details.

Responding to Calls for Papers

A call for papers is an announcement by editors of a journal or organizers of a conference that they are seeking papers on a given theme. Some calls for papers ask authors to send an abstract or proposal; others seek finished papers. When you respond to a call for papers, be sure to read carefully all of the instructions (deadlines, word count, citation style, etc.).

The Legal Scholarship Blog lists conferences, symposiums, and calls for papers. You can search by topic, you can use the calendar to find upcoming paper deadlines, or you can simply browse the listings. Posts usually link to the journals' or conferences' websites for more information.

Many student writing competitions lead to publication. See links.

Article Selection Process

Leah M. Christensen & Julie A. Oseid, Navigating the Law Review Article Selection Process: An Empirical Study of Those with all the Power—Student Editors, 59 S. C. L. Rev. 175 (2007). HeinOnline

Jason P. Nance & Dylan J. Steinberg, The Law Review Article Selection Process: Results from a National Study, 71 Alb. L. Rev. 565 (2008). HeinOnline

Publication Agreements

As an author, consider whether you will still have the right to use your article in future works, to distribute it to your students, and to post it on the web (for instance, on SSRN). You can negotiate with the journal if you don't agree with all the provisions in the journal's form contract.

See Benjamin J. Keele, Advising Faculty on Law Journal Publication Agreements (2012), for a discussion of the issues to consider.

A good starting point is the model publication agreement (1998) from the Association of American Law Schools. See also Model Copyright Agreements from Copyright Experiences Wiki. The Copyright Experiences Wiki also has information about individual law journals' policies.