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September 02, 2009


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David S. Cohen

I guess I see a few different approaches here:

1) Go with the Washington & Lee rankings to compare.

2) Similar to the rule of thumb Jacqui mentions, a professor at my alma mater said to take the secondary journal's school's US News ranking and add 30 or so to it to get a rough sense of where it would rank compared to general law reviews.

3) Get a sense from people in the field what journals are respected within that field and how much.

In the end, I guess the answer is that all politics are local here. If you're at an institution already, talk to the people there who may be evaluating you down the line (for promotion, for raises, for tenure, etc.) and see what they value. If you're not already at a school, it's trickier as I don't think anyone has one definitive answer that will please everyone.


It depends completely on the secondary journal. The Georgetown IP Journal or Texas' Women and the Law journal is nowhere near the same as Wake Forest Law Review (Georgetown and Texas +30 or so) in my view (not that anyone is disagreeing with that). For me, it is more like you should add 40 to secondary journals at HYSNC and 80 to journals elsewhere. But, I have no bases for my view.


Does it really matter? Everyone finds articles on SSRN now, or by Lexis/Westlaw. People may browse the Harvard Law Review and Yale Law Journal now and then, but no one is going to peruse the Whatever Law Review or the Whatever+ Journal of Law and Mudpies. All we're talking about when we talk about placements, then, is the "prestige" factor -- which is doled out by second and third year law review editors. So top specialty journal, general law review -- isn't it all ego, and nothing more, and therefore nothing of any importance? Or am I deluded: whoever scales the highest in the rankings when he/she dies "wins?" A lot of time is spent on trading up and rankings angst that could be devoted to our reading, writing, and teaching.

Kathy Bergin

Friends in other disciplines laugh out loud when I tell them about our publication process.

I get it from a PR angle, but that's about it.

Jacqui L.

I get that it doesn't (or shouldn't) really matter - and hopefully it will matter less as time goes by and more and more people, particularly senior people on tenure committees, realize that what's important is writing good work that is read and noticed, and not necessarily where you publish. However, these questions come up year in and year out so I thought it would be useful to see what rules of thumb others use in playing the general vs specialty trading game. Thanks for all the responses.

John Nelson

Some things do matter. Some Journals are not published on Westlaw, some are not on Lexis. These are a law student's and lawyer's primary methods of finding articles. Some do not allow articles to be posted online such as an author's SSRN website. Some do not publish hard copies (which I personally prefer).

Nevertheless, I'd argue that it depends. Prestige matters if you want a job some time. If you're a purist, then I'd reckon just getting it out there is more important. After all, if it's good then it is good; if it's awful, it doesn't matter if it's published in Western New England's Law Review or Harvard's.


I think IP is unique in that the top two specialty journals (Harvard and Berkeley) are often regarded as on par with primary law reviews in the top 20-40 or so. This does not seem to be the case with specialty journals in other fields, with the exception of international law.


I actually think one has to be a bit more careful here. For one thing, it may be that the Harvard and Yale specialty journals are particularly good substitutes for placements below the top 20. Take a look at the w/l rankings, and you'll see that something like five of harvard's specialty journals are in the top 40 or so, and that Harv CRCL is or had a top 20ish impact factor. (The Roger Williams quality/productivity study bears this out too i think.)

Think also of the input of quality editing. As someone who published a piece with Har CRCL, I can say that the quantity and quality of the editing feedback I rec'd there by far outpaced the editing at every other journal I've published with (with the exception of the HLR), and that sample includes six top 20 law reviews. So if you want your tenure committees or deans, etc to be impressed with the work's quality, as opposed to placement, there is something to be said, based on my experience, for some of those specialty journals at the top. I would bet that Harv Int'l Law Review and Harv Enviro is probably preferred by specialists in that area over non-top 20 journals too.

Yale's specialty journals, like the regulation, humanities and feminism ones are also very well regarded I think.

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