In the annals of ill-conceived solicitations from law reviews, the one I received today (a mass mailing to law professors nationwide) from the Fordham Law Review is likely to be added to the list of "what not to do":
As you may have heard, a group of law reviews, including Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Yale, recently announced their intention to limit the length of articles. For example, Harvard Law Review will not publish articles longer than 70-75 law review pages "except in extraordinary circumstances."
The Fordham Law Review...disagrees with this policy. We believe that quality is more important than quantity. Therefore, we will continue to focus only on merit in choosing what articles to accept.
Yes, indeed, that's exactly what the top law reviews were saying: "We don't care about quality or merit, we care only about number of pages." But, thankfully for the verbose and undisciplined, there remains a journal courageous enough to publish unreadable, reinvent-the-wheel tomes posing as articles: the Fordham Law Review! What would we do without it?
The decision by the top law reviews to emphasize a strong preference for shorter articles (and 70 pages is not exactly short!) was, of course, driven by qualitative considerations, not quantitative ones: namely, the entirely correct perception that, with rare exceptions, articles clocking in at 80 or 90 or 120 pages were unnecessarily and gratuitously long, and that their scholarly merit suffered accordingly. The idea that, in the wake of this decision, only the student editors at the Fordham Law Review will be considering "merit" is, shall we say, a bit amusing.
On the other hand, one smart thing the Fordham Law Review editors do say in this solicitation letter is the following: "we realize that a student editor's role should be to aid the scholar who wrote the piece, not to burden him or her needlessly." That's the real mystery about the student-edited law reviews which are, as we've remarked previously, a scandal: any of the 17-or-so high-profile student-edited law reviews could gain an immediate edge over the competition by adopting the policy of no editorial harassment of authors (no subliterate "editing for style", no demands for meaningless parentheticals, no requirements of "authority" in support of the banal and the trivial, and so on). Why hasn't it happened?