A Little Bit of Economics in the Law...

As long-time readers might recall, one of the reasons I started this blog was a lack of desire (credentials?) to join a traditional law school journal. Therefore, I am not intimately familiar with the mechanics behind submissions and acceptances of articles. However according to people in the know, some basic elements of game theory are applied by potential authors on a fairly regular basis during application season in an attempt to work their ways into the more prestigious journals.

This is no surprise as successful publication in journals correlates to, and indeed is often a prerequisite of, grants of tenure and pay increases (incidentally this might explain why I was never again asked to do an article review after I gently panned a piece a while back). This correlation only becomes stronger with the prestige of the journal.

However as journal editors apparently rate structure and organized processes above the excitement I get from legal geeks utilizing rational economic decision-making, there is apparently a movement afoot to quash the more strategic maneuvering some submitters seem to be fond of. More on this at Dorf On Law here.


  1. Anonymous7/4/12 14:05

    There is also a movement to encourage it! The linked article discusses both "exploding" offers (ones which must be accepted immediately) and journals Pledging to give authors at least a week to accept their offers (and thus try to trade up). The low-ranked journals give exploding offers because they tire of being "farmed" for the best articles by higher-ranked journals.

    It's like a very efficient slush pile. The lowest-ranked journals read everything; the best of what they like is then snatched away by mid-level journals, and the best of those are snatched up by Harvard and Yale. Obviously the best journals oppose exploding offers, whereas mid-level journals wish to do itthemselves but abhor the practice by the lower-ranked journals. Fascinating.

  2. Thanks both for reading and for the insightful comment.

    I suppose I should have made it clearer that editors, particularly those at the lower levels, are fond of using the economic dark arts as well.

    That there is an element of elitism involved in this situation in addition to economic decision-making only makes it closer to what can be seen in most other better-discussed markets.

    Now, that isn't to say that it doesn't work; despite the elitism of top journals looking down on all others and mid-tier names looking down on the lower-ranked for practices they utilize, it strikes me that there are benefits to this system.

    As all authors are presumably getting at least one set of eyeballs on their articles, even if they are lower-ranked eyeballs than they would like, everyone is able to get some (often much needed) feedback on their articles. And, one would think that the 'efficient slush pile' will, more often than not, lead to articles showing up in just about the journals they should based on quality and subject matter.

    Fascinating indeed!