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28 April 2006


Rick Lempert

I fully understand Steve's reactions, but there is a culture clash here, and I have some sympathy for the law review editors. Law reviews pride themselves on checking each cite and often not just for form but also for substance in that at least some editors will look at the cited article and if they don't think it supports the point made will query the author to be sure the cite is correct. Putting aside my view that this is a pathology of law reviews - professionals should be responsible for the accuracy of all they write and shouldn't need students to check their work - consider the perspective of the law review editor who lacks the capacity to check data or analyses based on it. So while the editor would be willing to have his/her journal take responsibility if a cite is incorrect in form or misquotes something, etc, he she/does not want responsibility or blame if something is wrong with the analysis. Thinking (a bit of self-aggandizement here) that the law review will be held responsible for not catching statistical errors in the same way a reader would think less of not just the author but of the journal if the form of the citation is wrong or there is a misquote, the editor wants to be sure the journal is not blamed. An honest disclaimer might be something like, "We can barely understand the statistics in this article much less check the data and analysis, but we have done our usual fine job in changing "whiches" to "thats" and being sure the dates of all cited article are correct." But this isn't very dignified so Steve had to deal with various other versions. None of them, I am sure, were intended to suggest that his paper had any deficiencies (I expect it never occurred to the editor that they could be read this way), just that the law review should not be blamed if it did.
For what it's worth, I have never heard of anyone else who has published an empirically based article having to confront such silliness, but I mean it when I say that I have some sympathy for the editor because I appreciate his/her mind set. The real problem is not the editor's; rather it is a system which leaves it to students to determine what pieces are worth publishing, allows articles to be of almost any length, requires oodles of mind numbing and unnecessary footnoting and has no peer review. The bright side - law reviews often publish excellent work, including empirical pieces, some of which might not be published elsewhere.

Al Brophy

Thanks for the story. Yet more evidence that faculty are taking an increasing interest in what happens in their schools' law reviews. One minor point here: if others are going to go around the law review editors, it might be a nice courtesy to start with the faculty advisor.

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