The Law Review Rejection

Yesterday, I received an email from a top fifteen law review:

Dear Professor Schlag,

We have carefully considered your article, [Title]  Unfortunately, we cannot accept it for publication in the [Name] Law Review. We expect this year to receive well over three thousand submissions for consideration, and yet we are able to publish only a very small number.  As a result, we find we must reject many excellent articles.

Thank you very much for your submission. We hope that you will give us the opportunity to consider your work in the future.

The Editors

Some people might read this and think: rejection.   But I am a careful reader.  And in this regard,  I couldn’t help but note, for instance, that not only had my article been considered, but in fact, “carefully considered.”  What’s more, the Name Law Review clearly wanted the “opportunity” (their word, not mine) to consider my work “in the future.”  This could only mean one thing: Next year was wide open!

So yes,  it was a rejection, but not without its high points.  I pondered the thing until a pernicious thought surfaced:  I sent them my article on Monday and I got the rejection on Wednesday.  48 hours–that did not seem like much time for “careful consideration”—particularly given the fact that The Name Law Review got well over 3,000 articles a year.

Still, this was nothing like that rejection letter I got fifteen years ago from that other law review—the one that rejected an article even though I hadn’t submitted any.   Pre-emptive rejection–as in:

Dear Professor Schlag:

If you were thinking of submitting anything to us, please don’t.  Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

The Editors

No this was not that.  Nor was it like the rejection Professor Bainbridge describes here. No, the undeniable fact is that The Name Law Review had “carefully considered” my article even if it had been only 48 hours.  As for the obvious tension I uncovered–well that simply called for interpretation.

I immediately turned to constitutional theory.

I began with an imaginative reconstruction of the law review office.  I pictured flat screens, tables, editors.   I saw my article come in, suddenly lighting up the screen.  I sensed possibilities.    Specifically, I sensed the possibility that the title of my piece intrigued the first reader.    A few paragraphs later (“In Part IV, I will…”) and my article jumped to the head of the electronic pile.  Then, very likely a second reader took over.  Excitement grew.

And yet something bad must have happened to those editors.  Doubt must have insinuated itself unbidden into their minds.    Something must have gone awry.  The article had lapsed into the obvious, the déjà vu, or the untenable.  From there, the denouement would have been  predictable.  Of course, there would have been a gnashing of teeth and anxious pleas.  Discord on the Board.   Perhaps even recriminations.   But in the end a decision was made.  Someone (they would have drawn straws) hit the send button.  Rejection.   The editors would have ambled out into the cloying humid night—desolate and forelorn–existentially tapped out.  Some would have drifted to the local bar for drinks. Others would have hit the casebooks.  The more emotionally susceptible would have been angry: “How could he submit this to us?   Why this?  Doesn’t he know what he’s putting us through?”

Realizing all this I immediately pounded out an email:

Dear Editors

I received your email earlier today.   While I had permitted myself to hope for better news, do not concern yourself for my condition. Please know that I greatly appreciate the alacrity with which you read my article.  Know as well that I will definitely send you my work in the near future.  Yes, do not be concerned on that score.  And please do not feel bad about this rejection.  I do not.  I feel honored .

Sincerely yours,

Pierre Schlag

I got a bounce-back.

I made a note to call them later that evening.

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