Scholastica Law Review Submission Insights: 2023 Edition
A data-driven look at the legal scholarship cycle
Updated Jan 2023
Our goal is to make law review article selection easier for everyone involved.
When do law reviews usually open? When will peak submission times be? When do editors issue the majority of article decisions?
Each year, the Scholastica team hears similar questions about the law review submission cycle from editors and submitting authors, all centering on one word — when. And we get it! So much of the legal scholarship cycle comes down to timing as editors and authors race to place new articles and get them published. So they naturally want to know when key activities have historically tended to happen and if that's changing.
At Scholastica, our goal is to make law review article selection easier for everyone involved. So, in addition to introducing features to help authors and editors manage submissions and communicate more effectively, over the years, we've worked to dig into our data (anonymized and aggregated, of course) to provide a clearer picture of the annual article selection cycle. With that said, can we definitively answer the big "when" questions on everyone's minds?
Unfortunately, no. While there are observable submission trends (which we unpack below), there are no hard and fast rules. There will always be variability in terms of when law reviews open, when authors choose to submit, and when e-boards make decisions since many unpredictable factors go into it!
However, we know access to past submission season data can help authors and editors make more informed choices around timing their submission and article selection activities throughout the year. So in the spirit of scholarship and transparency, we still want to share the patterns we’re observing over time and any outliers. The below series of graphs highlight findings from the most recent submission cycle (January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022).
We'll update this resource at the start of each year, so stay tuned for future submissions insights. Now, without further ado, let's get to it!
When do law reviews open?
We know it's helpful for scholars to get a sense of when law reviews historically tend to open (and presumably initiate article selection) since many have periods when they are NOT reading submissions. The graph below maps out, by day, when law reviews opened during the 2022 article selection cycle (January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022).
As was the case in all previous Scholastica submission cycle data pulls, most law reviews began opening in late January and late July, and the days with the most law review openings were February 1st and August 1st, respectively.
These findings are unsurprising. The firsts of February and August have long served as memorable days to mark the beginning of the spring and fall "submission seasons," so many law reviews aim to open by or on those dates (something we've also anecdotally heard from editors).
However, it is worth noting that there have been some observable changes in opening patterns in recent years. In 2020, we observed that some law reviews chose to open later in the fall submission season than usual, with a noticeable spike on August 10th. And in 2021, we observed that some law reviews opened later in the spring submission season, with noticeable opening spikes on February 8th and 15th. We hypothesized these instances of later law review openings might have been due to e-boards adjusting their article selection timeframes to give editors and authors more time to prepare amid added work/life stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with this theory, some law reviews did announce adjustments to their opening dates to accommodate authors during those peak pandemic years, as seen in this 2021 Twitter thread by Adam Zimmerman, Professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles.
This latest data pull shows that only around 50% of law reviews using Scholastica actively opened/closed submissions across the year in 2022. The other ~50% remained open for submissions year-round.
We can't be sure whether the pandemic was why many law reviews chose to open later than usual in fall 2020 and spring 2021. But the shift towards more law reviews adhering to historical opening patterns in 2022, following the loosening of pandemic measures in the U.S., suggests it may have been a factor.
A couple of methodological notes: Journals can close their submissions, and many do so twice a year — so a single journal could count two times in the above chart (e.g., once for opening in the spring and once in the fall). Historically, only around 35% of law reviews using Scholastica actively open/close submissions across the year. The other ~65% remain open for submissions year-round, much like traditional peer-reviewed journals. However, this latest data pull shows that only around 50% of law reviews using Scholastica actively opened/closed submissions across the year in 2022. The other ~50% remained open for submissions year-round. Why the change, and will it stick? It’s difficult to say without more data, but one hypothesis is that law review e-boards are paying attention to ongoing outreach from the Scholastica team to remind them to close when they are no longer actively reviewing submissions.
Scholastica strongly encourages law reviews to close their accounts when not reviewing submissions. Over the years, we have heard from some lower-ranked and specialty law reviews that they sometimes remain open when not actively reviewing submissions to get more papers to consider when they are ready to start filling their books. In such cases, we advise law reviews to add a note to their "For Authors" page explaining that they are seeking rolling submissions with information on the points in the year when they plan to review articles (e.g., we review submissions during the months of XYZ).
A note for authors: If you come across a law review with an open Scholastica account that reported it is closed for submissions elsewhere (i.e., on its publication website), please contact us to let us know. We will reach out to ensure that the law review closes its Scholastica account if it is no longer seeking articles.
When do authors submit to law reviews?
The next question law review editors and authors tend to ask after “when do law reviews open?” is “when do authors tend to submit articles?” Editors want to be sure their law reviews are opening during peak submission times, and authors often want insight into the best times to ride submissions waves or to try to stand out during the “off-season.”
The graph below details, by day, when articles were submitted to law reviews during the 2022 article selection cycle (January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022).
As was the case the previous two years, over 80% of submissions were sent to law reviews in the six weeks following February and August 1st, 2022. Spring submissions peaked early in February, in line with 2022 law review openings, with the highest spikes on February 1st and 2nd, followed by February 10th and 15th.
These findings align with spring 2021, when the highest submission days were February 1st and 15th, a departure from 2020, when most submissions occurred slightly later in February on the 11th and 14th. However, it appears most authors submitted articles somewhat earlier in 2022 than in 2021, with more concentrated smaller spikes in submissions after February 1st. Whereas, in 2021, February 1st and 15th tied for the highest submission volume days, and submissions stayed relatively high through February 19th.
Fall law review openings followed the same pattern as all previous annual Scholastica article selection cycle data pulls, with most submissions occurring in the first two weeks of August.
Over 80% of submissions were sent to law reviews in the six weeks following February and August 1st, 2022.
Submissions by day of the week
If you’ve been wondering which days of the week authors are most likely to submit to law reviews, we have you covered with a new graph below.
As you can see, authors were submitting to law reviews pretty consistently throughout the week in 2022, with the majority of submissions happening on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, but only marginally compared to the other days of the week. However, law review submissions noticeably decreased on Saturdays and Sundays, suggesting authors were less active on the weekends.
When do law reviews make decisions?
We know many editors and authors, especially, are eager to know when law reviews tend to make decisions. Editors want to ensure they're moving on articles quickly enough, and authors want to know when to expect those long-awaited decisions.
Given the complicated mechanics involved in law review article selection, there’s no way of projecting when law reviews will make decisions during the year. And there tends to be a fair amount of variability year over year. However, we know many editors and authors are still eager to get insight into past seasons.
The graph below shows when law reviews using Scholastica issued decisions looking at all of 2022 (January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022).
As in previous years, unsurprisingly, the number of daily publication decisions starts noticeably rising about three weeks after the February/August starting point for the two submission seasons.
Law reviews make publication offers every day of the year — which makes sense given the complicated selection mechanics involved.
Looking at the graph, you may be wondering the reason for all of those large spikes in decisions. Aren't most law reviews reading articles as they come in during submission seasons and making decisions as they go? Based on discussions with law review editors, we're pretty confident the cause is e-boards selecting their last pieces for publication and rejecting all remaining ones at once. Many law reviews keep submissions in play until they're sure they have all the articles they need, just in case some fall through. The spring 2022 submission season saw the highest daily spikes in article decisions on February 28th and March 2nd, followed by March 14th and 26th, suggesting most law reviews had or were close to filling their books by those times. In the fall, most decisions happened between August 17th and September 25th.
Compared to the graph of when law reviews made decisions in 2021, it is interesting to note that the 2022 graph appears to have more scattered peak decision days throughout the year. There was a somewhat unusual decision spike later in the spring submission season on May 9th and a noticeable outlier spike in the fall submission season on October 31st. These findings suggest that some law reviews may have filled their volumes later in the spring and fall submission seasons than last year. Or perhaps some just waited a little later to reject all remaining submissions after making their final article selection choices.
As in 2021, the peak 2022 decision times appear to correlate with the academic calendar. At most universities, law students start preparing for midterms and final exams in November and May, respectively, which are both points when most law reviews appear to have made their final decisions. Knowing that and observing the data, it doesn't seem like a leap in logic to infer that most law reviews aim to make article decisions before those more hectic times of the year.
Expedites by due date
As authors receive publication offers from law reviews, some choose to ask other law reviews they would prefer to publish with to decide on their article before responses to the decisions they've received are due. These "expedited decision requests" are a form of communication between authors and law reviews that some law review e-boards respond to quickly, some respond to in a moderated fashion, and others choose to ignore.
Below is a graph of when authors submitted expedited decision requests via Scholastica by the due date, looking at all of 2022 (January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022).
A reminder: Authors create expedited decision requests. So this chart reflects author activity, not journal editor activity.
After seeing the previous graphs, this chart of expedited decision requests confirms the patterns identified above. Expedited decision requests follow a similar bimodal wave as submissions and decisions.
The peak fall and spring 2022 expedited decision request date periods were also closely in step with that of 2021, with the highest expedite levels from late February to about the third week of March and late August to about the first week of September.
Time from submission to publication offer
Finally, another aspect of the article selection cycle we know many authors and editors are curious about is how long it usually takes an author to receive a publication offer after submitting to a law review. So we decided to dig into that this year
The graph above shows that 90% of publication offers happened within 45 days after submission, with around 50% occurring within 12 days. This suggests that authors should prepare to wait at least a month before expecting any publication offers (though it is very possible to receive offers sooner). Authors should not necessarily rule out the potential of getting a publication offer from a law review later in the year, either. The 2022 data shows that Publication offers were issued as far as 300 days post-submission.
While there's no way of knowing why some articles received publication offers 100+ days post-submission, one hypothesis is that law reviews seeking rolling submissions may wait to review them in batches, which could lead to longer delays for some articles. Or law reviews may be keeping some papers in their queue across seasons if they think they could be a potential fit for future issues.
There are also MANY more human and qualitative considerations that need to be understood to complete the picture.
While this post was numbers heavy, looking at the quantitative and temporal dimensions that affect law review article selection, there are also MANY more human and qualitative considerations that need to be understood to complete the picture. All law reviews have individual historical trends and known opportunities and concerns that will affect when they open and which articles they select. For example:
- There may be times when journals are looking for very particular articles because they filled all but a handful of available slots earlier in the year.
- The length of each law review’s article selection process (i.e., three days vs. two weeks) will affect when it can make offers and consider competing ones.
- Some editors want to build up a queue of hundreds of articles to compare all at once, while others want to read articles as they come in a rolling fashion.
The best takeaway we can derive from the data is that authors should not miss opportunities to submit when they know most law reviews are active, but they should also not ignore the reality that law reviews make decisions year-round. We would encourage an author to avoid attempting to game the system to get their article published, but instead default to a more basic tool: communication. Target a journal for publication, and then ask the journal when the best time to submit an article to their editors is – they might just tell you, and in more concrete detail than these aggregated charts ever will.
The previous charts offered insight on a calendar-year basis for activity by legal scholars and law review editors. But the data do not answer the question, "when is the best time for law review submissions?" The answer depends on the article, the author, the law review, the editors, current events, communication – in other words, the complicated mix of individual and institutional dynamics that make up any social decision-making process.
In closing, we wish legal scholars and law review editors the best in their publication pursuits!
- The Scholastica Team