Minnesota Law Review articles editor Carl Engstrom takes umbrage at law professor blog potshots at law review editors:
A few of us read the lawprof blogs, including this one, and it’s always dispiriting to see how much apparent contempt there is for articles editors, with authors dismissing us as “stupid 2Ls” who don’t know anything about their areas of expertise.
Personally, I'm feeling a bit touchy about this issue these days, because I recently went through a rather painful editing experience with a law review that left me with a very bad taste in my mouth about the whole process. I was asked to contribute an article to a symposium issue by a top 30-ish law review, which I did. The first substantive edit came back having made a great many changes, especially in the first half of the article. On some pages there were as many as 16 substantive changes to the text. Virtually none were to correct typographical or grammatical errors. Instead, the changes were purely stylistic.
Perhaps the articles editor thought s/he was a better writer than I am. But s/he was not invited to contribute an article to their symposium. I was. Yet, when I printed out clean versions of some of the more heavily edited pages, with all the editor's changes accepted, and showed them to some of my colleagues, the latter all thought those portions of the article were hard to recognize as mine. There were pages where it was the editor's authorial voice, not mine.
The level of stylistic changes was maddening enough given that it was a solicited piece, but there were even more serious concerns. To cite but a single example, at one point the editor commented that "Perhaps define here (maybe in a footnote) [a particular term of art].” In fact, the term of art in question had been defined in a footnote two pages earlier. This was simply shoddy. It raised lots of questions in my mind about how carefully the editor read the piece before s/he starting hacking at it.
Oddly enough, twenty years earlier, an editor at the very same law review did an even more egregious rewrite of one of my first articles as a law professor. Back then I was a newbie who had to put up with such abuse. But I'm not anymore. This time, I made them put it back the way I wrote it.
As you can imagine, this experience is a major reason I keep toying with the idea of self-publishing future monographs as eBooks on Kindle. At this stage of my career, I just don't need the aggravation.
So I'm sorry Mr. Engstrom is dispirited by those of us in the blawgosphere who complain about having their work assessed and, sometimes, butchered by 2Ls. But I, for one, remain unrepentant.