Monday, October 21, 2013

Policies For Shorter Law Review Articles Go Unenforced

As a law librarian who works extensively with law journals, I can attest to the general consensus that law review editors believe that law review articles are too long.

The ABA Journal recently reported on a UCLA law professor named Stephen Bainbridge who wrote a 39,000-word law review article this fall. "But he wondered if he should cut it. Why? A joint statement from 2005 from 11 leading law reviews indicated that they wanted to start running shorter articles based on responses to a survey that reflected 'one particularly unambiguous view shared by faculty and law review editors alike: The length of articles has become excessive.'"


Currently "submission guidelines from Harvard and Yale now explicitly state that they discourage articles of more than 25,000 words." Articles that are 25,000 words equal about 50 pages. 

Professor Bainbridge decided to look at the seven most recent issues of the Harvard Law Review and Yale Law Review and check the length of the articles. He saw that zero of Yale's article were under 50 pages, and that zero of Harvard's were under 60 pages. 

Professor Bainbridge said that he didn't know if there are other journals out there enforcing the rules more strictly. "At the very least, however, it seems that Harvard and Yale are just joshing us. So [his] advice is: Write the article to the length you need and ignore the word limits."


The law review at my school favors articles that are closer to 30 pages in length. The thought is that because we are a more practical school, our audience prefers shorter, practical articles. I think it works, and there are definitely differing audience considerations than the traditional Harvard & Yale journals. It may mean that the advice to ignore word limits may depend on the journal to which you are submitting. 

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