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Writing for & Publishing in Law Reviews: Where to Publish

Last updated: May 18, 2012

This guide is part of a collection of guides on writing for and publishing in law reviews. The one on submitting manuscripts is closely related to this one.

Note: HeinOnline is a UW Restricted database. LexisNexis and Westlaw are available to individuals with IDs/passwords.


Choosing Where to Submit & Publish

Factors

A number of factors go into your decision about where to submit your paper and, when you have an offer, where to publish.

  • What audience do you want to reach (e.g., practitioners, legal scholars, scholars from other fields)?
  • Where does your paper fit? Does X journal publish articles on your general topic, of about the length and style of your paper?
  • Does the journal you are considering publish online? Are its articles loaded on LexisNexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline? Is it indexed in LegalTrac?
  • When you look at recent issues of the journal, do they seem well edited, or do you spot typos and sloppy work?
  • Is this a journal you have read and found useful?
  • How quickly can the editors publish your work?

Various studies for measuring journal reputation are listed below, but don't overlook your personal contacts. Ask your colleagues or professors if they have opinions about different journals you are considering. Maybe they think that one is better or more respected than another, or maybe one of them had a good or bad experience publishing with a particular journal. All of these things can help you decide.

Type of Journal

Student-Edited Journals

Law schools typically have a general-interest (or "flagship") law review (e.g., Washington Law Review, Seattle University Law Review, Gonzaga Law Review) that publishes articles on a wide range of topics. Most law schools also have one or more specialized journals, focusing on one or more topics (e.g., Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, Washington Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Washington Journal of Law, Technology & the Arts, Gonzaga Journal of International Law, Seattle Journal of Environmental Law, Seattle Journal for Social Justice). The process for becoming a staff member or editor of the general-interest law review is more competitive than for the specialized journals. Thus, publishing in a flagship law review is often seen as more prestigious than publishing in a specialized journal. On the other hand, the student editors of specialized journals may have more interest and therefore more expertise in their special areas. Specialized journals might be more likely to reach practitioners. And some specialized journals are very well respected.

Most student-edited journals are published in print, but some are e-only. Many journals now make their archives (or at least the last few years) available free on their websites.

It is common for authors to submit papers to 20 or more student-edited journals at once.

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 fill their issues early.

Professionally Edited Journals

Law journals published by professional associations are typically edited by paid staff. When they review articles for publication, they send them out to experts in a "peer review" process. Because of this different editorial process, it is common for these journals to require authors to submit only to one journal at a time. For example, The Business Lawyer, published by the American Bar Association, is peer reviewed, and its general submission guidelines state: "A manuscript will not be considered, and should not be submitted, if it is under consideration for publication elsewhere, nor should a manuscript under consideration for publication by The Business Lawyer be submitted for consideration with another publication."

Be sure to review journals' submission guidelines before submitting.

Directories

For directories of journals (with contact information), see the guide on Submitting Manuscripts.

One that's very valuable is Law Journals: Submission and Ranking (Washington and Lee University School of Law). To find journals that specialize in different subjects, use the pull-down menu in the upper left corner. Try more than one search. For instance, if you look for "Immigration," you will only find one journal, but if you look under "Minority, Race and Ethnic Issues," you will see over 50 journals, many of which could be interested in a piece about immigration law. Depending on your focus, you might also look at journals listed under "Civil Rights" or "Human Rights" as possible places to submit your paper on immigration.

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Measuring Quality

Many authors want to publish in the best journal they can.

Journal reputation used to have a strong effect on big an audience an article reached, since more libraries subscribed to, say, the Yale Law Journal than the Temple Law Review. But now that most researchers find articles online, that impact is probably lessened. There will still be an effect: some researchers, finding a list of articles, might choose to read the ones from the more prestigious journals and skip over the others. They might assume that articles in the more prestigious journals are better because the competition to be selected was harder. Or they might assume that the articles are edited better.

Journal reputation does undoubtedly affect the author's reputation. Having a publication in a more prestigious journal is better for many purposes, such as getting teaching jobs and receiving tenure.

So, for various reasons, you might try to publish in the best journal you can. But which are the best journals?

Scholars have tried various methods of ranking law reviews -- by reputation, the prominence of authors, and rates of citation. See Ronen Perry, The Relative Value of American Law Reviews: A Critical Appraisal of Ranking Methods, 11 Va. J. L. & Tech. 1 (2006). There is no one perfect ranking.

Citation Studies

Citation studies are the most common. method for ranking law reviews. These studies look at how often a journal was cited -- either in other journal articles or by courts

Law Journals: Submission and Ranking (Washington and Lee University School of Law)

This database compiles information from a study that counted citations to journals in two large Westlaw databases: JLR (journals and law reviews) and ALLCASES (federal and state cases). Users may choose to see the list arranged by journal title or by ranking, including all journals, only specialized journals, or only journals from one country. Users may also select individual journals to compare.

The database does not rank most foreign journals. And, because its rankings are based on Westlaw, it will not pick up citations outside law (e.g., if a law review article is cited in a political science or public health journal).

Kincaid C. Brown, How Many Copies Are Enough? Using Citation Studies to Limit Journal Holdings, 94 L. Libr. J. 301 (2002).

The author compiled a list of citation-count studies (1930-2000) and created a table consolidating the results. He undertook the project to help with the library's decision about how many copies of journals to subscribe to. But you can use his results for other purposes—e.g., deciding where to submit your article for publication. Appendix B, p. 314 (p. 14 of the pdf), lists 14 studies. Appendix A, pp. 310-13 (pp. 10-13 of the pdf), is a table listing journals, arranged by an average of their rankings in 18 different lists. (Some studies had more than one list -- e.g., one by number of citations and one weighted by number of pages published.)

Google Scholar Metrics measure the impact of scholarly journals based on their citations in the last five years. Social Sciences includes these subcategories:

 

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Submissions

Expresso (Berkeley Electronic Press). Submissions Guides (for 2005, 2006, and 2007) rank law journals based on how many articles were submitted to each journal through the online submission service the previous year, with separate lists for general, student-edited law reviews and for subject-specific law journals.This measures quality by how desirable other authors find a journal. It might also give you an idea how competitive it is to get a publication offer from a given journal.

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Author Prominence

Robert M. Jarvis & Phyllis G. Coleman, Ranking Law Reviews: An Empirical Analysis Based on Author Prominence, 39 Ariz. L. Rev. 15 (1997). HeinOnline | Westlaw (Note: LexisNexis version lacks tables.)

Tracey E. George & Chris Guthrie. An Empirical Evaluation of Specialized Law Reviews, 26 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 813 (1999). HeinOnline | LexisNexis | Westlaw
Ranks top 100 specialized law journals, based on author prominence. For critiques and the authors' response, see
  • Gregory Scott Crespi, Ranking Specialized Law Reviews: A Methodological Critique, 26 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 837 (1999). HeinOnline | LexisNexis | Westlaw
  • Russell Korobkin, Ranking Journals: Some Thoughts on Theory and Methodology. 26 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 851 (1999). HeinOnline | LexisNexis | Westlaw
  • Tracey E. George & Chris Guthrie, In Defense of Author Prominence: A Reply To Crespi and Korobkin, 26 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 877 (1999). HeinOnline | LexisNexis | Westlaw


The Legal Scholarship Network, a division of Social Science Research Network (SSRN), contains working papers and other legal scholarship. A list of the Top 1,500 Law Authors, measured by the number times a paper has been downloaded is available from the Top Authors link on the SSRN homepage. (This doesn't directly rank journals, but it's mentioned here as one more way people are counting.)

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Surveys of Experts in the Field

Gregory Scott Crespi, Ranking International and Comparative Law Journals: A Survey of Expert Opinion, 31 Int'l Law. 869 (1997). HeinOnline | LexisNexis | Westlaw

Gregory Scott Crespi, Ranking the Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, and Land Use Planning Journals: A Survey of Expert Opinion, 23 Wm. & Mary Envtl. L. & Pol'y Rev. 273 (1998). Hein Online | LexisNexis | Westlaw.

Arthur Austin, The Top Ten Politically Correct Law Reviews, 1994 Utah L. Rev. 1319. HeinOnline | LexisNexis | Westlaw

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Compilations of Rankings

Two professors (Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit) compiled Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals, (SSRN abstract=1019029) (last revised June 9, 2009). Two tables provide information about the general (or "flagship") law review at each U.S. law school. The first table summarizes submission requirements. "The second chart contains some information about rankings of the journals and the law schools associated with them. The first three columns are the overall ranking, academic/peer assessment score, and lawyer/judge assessment score for each school from the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings. The other three columns are data about each journal from Washington & Lee’s law review ranking website."

See also Brown's article, above.

Commentary About and Critique of Rankings

Connecticut Law Review Symposium:

  • Ronen Perry, The Relative Value of American Law Reviews: Refinement and Implementation, 39 Conn. L. Rev. 1 (2007), HeinOnline, manuscript available on SSRN.
  • Alfred L. Brophy, Relationship Between Law Review Citations and Law School Rankings, 39 Conn. L. Rev. 43 (2007), HeinOnline, earlier version available on SSRN.
  • Ronen Perry, Correlation versus Causality: Further Thoughts on the Law Review/Law School Liaison, 39 Conn. L. Rev. 77 (2007), HeinOnline
  • Alfred L. Brophy, Law [Review]'s Empire: The Assessment of Law Reviews and Trends in Legal Scholarship, 39 Conn. L. Rev. 101 (2007), HeinOnline, SSRN (ranks most-cited secondary journals).

Theodore Eisenberg & Martin T. Wells, Ranking Law Journals and the Limits of Journal Citation Reports (May 31, 2012), Cornell Legal Studies Research paper No. 12-30, available on SSRN.

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Related Guides

Writing for & Publishing in Law Reviews Series

Other Gallagher Guides for Writers & Editors

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