Scholastica Law Review Submission Insights: 2024 Edition
A data-driven look at the legal scholarship cycle
Updated Jan 2024
Our goal is to make law review article selection easier for everyone involved.
Welcome to the 2024 edition of Scholastica's law review submission insights report! Here, we dig into our most recent submission season data (anonymized and aggregated, of course) to provide a clearer picture of the annual article selection cycle.
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. Like "When do law reviews usually open?" and "When are most decisions made?" 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.
So, 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, 2023 - December 31, 2023).
Scholastica's goal is to make article selection easier for everyone involved. So, in addition to introducing features to help law authors and editors manage articles and communicate more effectively, we update this submission insights page at the start of every year. Stay tuned for future 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 2023 article selection cycle (January 1, 2023 - December 31, 2023).
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).
This latest data pull shows that around 50% of law reviews using Scholastica actively opened/closed submissions across the year in 2023. The other ~50% remained open for submissions year-round.
A couple of methodological notes: Journals can open and close their Scholastica submissions portal anytime they want, and many do so twice a year (e.g., open in the spring and close for summer, then open again in the fall and close for winter) — so a single journal could count two times in the above chart. Historically, only around 35% of law reviews using Scholastica actively open/close submissions at different times of the year. The other ~65% remain open for submissions year-round, much like traditional peer-reviewed journals.
However, this latest data pull reflects an increase in law reviews closing and reopening submissions, which we also observed in 2022: around 50% of law reviews using Scholastica actively opened/closed submissions this year and in 2022. The other ~50% remained open for submissions year-round. Why are more law reviews closing submissions at different points in the year than in the past, and will it stick? It's difficult to say without more data. However, one hypothesis is that law review e-boards are paying attention to the Scholastica team's ongoing outreach efforts to remind them to close submissions when they aren't actively reviewing articles (via email reminders, social media posts, etc.).
Scholastica strongly encourages law reviews to close their accounts when not reviewing submissions. Over the years, we have heard from some law reviews that they sometimes remain open when not actively reviewing submissions in order to receive 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 school's 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 2023 article selection cycle (January 1, 2023 - December 31, 2023).
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, 2023. Spring submissions peaked early in February, in line with 2023 law review openings, with the highest spikes on February 1st and 2nd, followed by February 3rd and 6th.
These findings align with spring 2022, when the highest submission days were February 1st and 2nd. As in past years, 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, 2023.
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 submitted to law reviews pretty consistently throughout the week in 2023, with most submissions happening on Wednesdays, Tuesdays, and Mondays, respectively (though only marginally compared to the other days of the week). This was a slight change from 2022 when Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays were the top submission days. As in 2022, law review submissions noticeably decreased on Saturdays and Sundays, suggesting authors were less active on the weekends.
Median number of words per article
Average number of words per article
Longest article submitted in 2023
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 2023 (January 1, 2023 - December 31, 2023).
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 some law review e-boards selecting their last pieces for publication and only then rejecting the remaining submissions all 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 2023 submission season saw the highest daily spikes in article decisions on March 7th and March 11th, suggesting a sizeable number of law reviews had or were close to filling their books by those times. The 2023 spikes occurred slightly later than last year (February 28th and March 2nd, 2022). However, interestingly, the second and third highest decision days in 2023 were earlier than the previous year, occurring February 19th and 27th, respectively, as opposed to March 14th and 26th in 2022. In the fall, most decisions happened between August 23rd and September 15th, a marginal shift from 2022, when most decisions happened between August 17th and September 25th.
As in 2022, the peak 2023 decision times 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 2023 (January 1, 2023 - December 31, 2023).
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 2023 expedited decision request date periods were also closely in step with that of 2022, 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 2023 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