Let me start by saying that I have a cold and am thus crankier than usual. And let me add that I am not “over” having students work as editors and as staffers on their law reviews. Law review work trains students to read critically, to consider structure and tone, to look for valid supporting arguments, and to proofread obsessively–all good skills for great lawyers-to-be. And peer-reviewed journals have dangers of their own. (I was going to point my readers* to an online version of an exquisite article by one of my favorite authors–John D. Ayer, Aliens are Coming! Drain the Pool!, 88 Mich. L. Rev. 1584, 1587 n. 13 (1990)–but the Michigan Law Review hasn’t yet put that volume online. Suffice it to say that Jack’s article does a great job of pointing out the pros and cons of peer-reviewed versus student-reviewed journals, and fn. 13 is a hoot.)
But I am on page 4 of a 33-page edit of one of my pieces by the editors of Well-Known Law Review. (I don’t want to embarrass the editors here, even though I am irked beyond measure by their edits.) Not only am I tempted to replicate footnotes 1 and 4 in The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule as a response to the editors’ numerous requests to add more footnotes, but I am also reminded that even the brightest and most mature of law students is not a subject-matter expert in any of the articles that his or her law review is publishing. What would be the harm, except for the time commitment on the part of a professor, in having a professor review any proposed article (including my own articles, of course) to make sure that the proposed article isn’t bunk and review any proposed student edits before the edits get sent to the authors of accepted pieces?
I don’t want so much deference to my writing style that the editors miss any mistakes or errors of logic. But there’s a reason that I’ve started putting clauses in my publication agreements that prohibit law review editors from changing my writing style. Today’s experience with the proposed edits by Well Known Law Review has caused me to conclude that I need to be even more specific about what “changing my writing style” means.**
My bet is that a colleague professor could persuade student editors to be more judicious in their editorial suggestions. All I can say is that I am now wholeheartedly sorry for any editorial comments that I made to authors while I was a law student, and that karma is a powerful thing.
And now, back to my review of those darn edits.
* Both of them.
** I would make an exception if the student editing my article were, for example, a former professor of English. I don’t get the feeling that that’s the background of the person who sent me Well Known Law Review’s edits, though.