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February 22, 2011

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Former EIC

Interesting post. When I was a law student, I remember one article that was constantly beset by computer problems. There seemed to be a struggle between the author's computer and the journal's. This meant we were constantly catching weird glitches in the article. It made for a lot of extra work, but what sticks out in my mind is how very rude the author was in response. We students were already spending long nights with his article and then he would send us berating e-mails about the speed of our work or the appearance of errors. Now that I am a law professor and this person is one of my colleagues, I am never able to feel fully comfortable with him (even though I am pretty sure he doesn't realize I worked on one of his articles as a student).

I too get frustrated with student editors who refuse to let me use first person or require citations for every sentence including original thoughts, but I always remember the late nights I spent working on articles before I speak.

Jacqueline Lipton

I also like to bear in mind (as an author) that this is supposed to be somewhat of a learning experience for students so one should bear with student editors in a way that one may not have to bear with professional editors in peer-reviewed journals. Even when things are going wrong and even if I'm getting a little annoyed at certain editorial glitches, I try to frame my responses to students in a way that explains what my concerns are without becoming rude or hostile. It's not a very useful experience for them if authors are unpleasant without clearly explaining their editorial concerns. I suppose it's not a very useful experience even if authors clearly explain but are rude about it. On the other hand, it unpleasant responses do give students some experience of dealing with difficult people in the "real world". I know of at least one law review editor who seemed not to mind having to deal with a difficult author because it was a challenge she felt that she was learning from. It's never fun but sometimes dealing with unpleasant people can also be a learning experience.

Jessica Owley

JL - yes! This was exactly what I was about to post. There is no question that publishing in student-edited non-peer-reviewed journals is an anomaly in academia. One of the justifications I give others for this structure (perhaps misguidedly so) is that they are a great learning experience for students. They have an opportunity to learn about areas of the law they haven't studied in class, review new arguments, work with law professors, and to read a lot. The process of reading the articles alone helps students of course, but the process of working with an author to understand and improve their work is invaluable. Skills I gained as a student editor myself (as I suspected many of us were) has helped me not only in academia but also helped me as a law clerk and lawyer. Remembering that these are students and this is a learning experience for them might temper some frustration.

(and at least we don't have to pay to get things published or wait months to hear back from single-submission peer reviewed journals)

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