There has been recent listserv buzz about law review submissions this season. Jessie Hill has been blogging as well. In particular, people are asking questions about a new electronic article delivery service - Scholastica. The California Law Review and University of Chicago Law Review have announced that they will no longer accept submissions from ExpressO, but only via direct email or Scholastica.
Scholastica is different from ExpressO in one critical way: it costs $5 a pop to submit an article. It's unclear if Scholastic will offer a bulk pricing scheme to reduce overall cost - the CLR suggests as much. And perhaps the journals are switching because the Scholastica interface is better than ExpressO. But I have a suspcion that a driving force behind the switch is that journals want a higher barrier to submission than currently exists.
I attended a meeting of law review editors a year or two ago spoke with a number of EIC's. Everyone agreed that that volume of submissions via ExpressO was intolerable. This lead journals like the Stanford Law Review to reject all electronic submissions, other than via its own portal.
I'm not surprised that something had to give. A five dollar price tag will surely reduce the number of journals targeted submissions by faculty. Those dollars will add up quickly - especially if they're funded out of each faculty member's professional budget. (Not to administrative assistants and their supervisors: faculty may be asking you to submit articles one by one, journal by journal, to save money.)
It might have a greater impact on those who are not yet in the academy - and therefore won't be reimbursed the cost of submissions. Why only 'might'? Because for now, at least, Scholastica is apparentlly offering "economic hardship waivers" to "authors who are unemployed, students dependent on financial aid, and authors from developing countries." Applicants for such waivers are asked whether they meet current HHS povery guidelines. If nothing else, I expect Scholastica to cap the total value of waivers for each applicant. And I suspect that few legal scholars will qualify - Skadden, DOJ, and VAP salaries are hardly poverty wages.
I'm not sure this is wholly a bad thing. My sense is that authors now submit to two, three, or four times as many journals as they did fifteen years ago. This avalanche has been demoralizing to student editors. It seems to have led more authors to the dubious choice to submit work to journals they would never publish in - which strikes me as a really lousy thing all around. And I suspect - without any data to back me up - that it has only amped up letterhead bias. If I were a student editor facing 2500 articles and a 5% yield on offers, I'd certainly be searching for shortcuts.
What's the long term future for ExpressO? Perhaps ExpressO will have to raise prices to stay in the game. In the short term, at least, it appears that ExpressO may be underpricing itself out of the market.
Update: Mike Madison shared his thoughts about Scholastica and the future of print law journals here.