Paul Caron has a preview of survey results forthcoming in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review on how student articles editors select pieces for publication.
It’s somewhat hard to know what to make of the preview, because (as I read Paul’s post) Paul is only providing a glimpse of a few results of the survey rather than an overall summary of its findings. Still, the preview is interesting: it suggests that lots of articles editors are influenced by proxies for article quality, such as prior publishing record and the author’s home institution. I trust none of this is surprising to most authors, many of whom have been law review editors themselves. Nonetheless, it will be helpful to have more solid data on these issues.
One important piece missing from the preview is the role of expedited review. My sense is that expedited review can act as an equalizing factor for authors with fewer proxies working in their favor. Articles editors often pay much closer attention if an article has offers from another journal, and (as a general rule) less prestigious journals are less demanding in terms of the proxies they seek. As a result, expedited reviews can be more meritocratic than the process of initial reads. That’s my impression, at least.
Finally, the heavy reliance on proxies by many student articles editors creates a significant opportunity for other editors. The proxies are imperfect, obviously (and some are even weaker than others.) This means that if an editor puts in the work and reads articles carefully, asks for faculty input, and doesn’t rely as much on proxies, she’ll have a good shot at picking up articles that are significantly better than the pieces published by competitor journals.