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February 06, 2011


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Thank you for raising this topic-- I've been dying to ask about it! I'm going on the market this fall and am sitting on a draft for March LR submission but I feel awkward soliciting readers. (I have several published articles but I'm a biglaw associate so I can't really look to colleagues.) I'll be grateful if anyone has tips for those of us who are new to the process. I would gladly reach out to junior faculty about exchanging drafts but I'm just not sure how to go about it.

Jessica Litman

Dear CalamityJane:
A good place to start is with faculty members at the law school you graduated from. You will be wanting their support in the fall to speak with faculty at law schools that might be interested in hiring you, so you will want them to have read your work. Meanwhile, most faculties view support of their grads who want to go on the teaching market as a continuing part of their jobs, so it's not as daunting as sending an unsolicited request to a stranger.


Thanks, Professor Litman!

If none of the professors whom I know at Yale teaches in this particular specialty, would you recommend asking someone I know or seeking out an introduction to someone in the relevant field?


I'm trying to get my act together to go on the market next fall and am submitting a piece in a few weeks. My strategy was to see who I was citing most frequently, then send them an email introducing myself, asking a substantive question about their work, and then also asking if they would like to look at a draft. All of them said yes. But...

1.) Not all of them have responded. Question: Once you are in the "awkward silence" phase, what do you do? My current plan is nothing, except to email in a week or so saying that I am about to submit, so no need to read if they haven't. Is this the right way to go about it?

2.) I know this is covered ad nauseum on multiple sites, but my current plan is to submit in two weekends (so 2/20 or so). Is that too early? The main thing is I want to have final placement by the time some of the coverage VAPs open up in March.

3.) Anyone want to read an empiricalish piece on Younger abstention?

Bridget Crawford

Josh's question about the awkward silence phase made me think. If I were a non-responding reader, I wouldn't mind receiving an email that said something like, "Thanks for agreeing to read my draft. I think I mentioned to you that I was hoping for comments by X date. I'll probably be submitting on X+Y date, so whenever you have any comments in any form, I'd be glad to receive them. It would also be great to receive your comments just on pages 30-35, if you had any quick reactions."

Jessica Litman

Let me add a cautionary note. If the non-responding reader is still a stranger, then a followup note appearing to assume that the prospective reader will, of course, want to read and comment on the draft may come off as presumptuous. If you don't know her, you also don't know whether she gets dozens of unsolicited requests, or has a partner going through serious surgery, or is on leave, or has a looming deadline or killer committee assignment that is sucking up all her time. If any of those things is true, she won't have time to read your draft, but she may well remember the emails you sent her presuming on your non-acquaintance, and you will meet her eventually. If you send off an unsolicited request to review a draft to a stranger, and the stranger doesn't respond at all, I think you're better off leaving it alone. If she actually promises to read it and then drops the ball, I think it isn't out of line to send a note asking whether she's had a chance to look at it yet.

Calamity Jane: I *would* send your draft to people you know at Yale not in your speciality. Their points of view will be much like those of the people on law school hiring committees who may find you interesting, at least in part, because they don't have anyone on their faculty in your speciality. I don't think there's much harm in trying to get a reader in the field, but be thoughtful about it. Someone who doesn't know you will give any given article a careful read only once, so if you want this person to read the final published version, you might not want to ask her to comment on your draft. Also, before asking, you may want to satisfy yourself that you're aware of any work your prospective reader might have published on the topic of your draft: this avoids putting your reader in the awkward position of deciding whether to let you know that she published what she views as a significant contribution on precisely your subject a dozen years ago.

Bridget Crawford

I agree with Jessica that a follow up to a non-responding stranger would be presumptuous. My suggestion only applies if the person did agree to review the article (BEFORE you sent a draft, because I think sending "cold" drafts is a bad practice).


Thank you for the helpful comments.

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