After an almost exactly three year hiatus, Yale Law Journal again asked me to provide a peer review somebody's article. I sent them a link to what I said last time and pass it along for your amusement:
Back in 2011 I got a request from the Chicago Law Review to referee an article for them, which sort of pissed me off. Today I got one from the Yale Law Journal:
I hope this note finds you well. I am an Articles Editor for Volume 125 of the Yale Law Journal, and I’m writing to see if you might be willing to serve as a referee for a paper we are considering for publication in the Journal.
I can but repeat part of what I said back in 2011:
Either the student-edited format makes sense or it doesn't. The whole purpose of peer review is to get students OUT of the process, not to supplement a decision that would remain in the hands of second and third year law students. A pure peer review/edit system has several advantages. First, more informed and experienced decision makers should make better decisions. Second, one key function of peer review is to provide expert advice at a stage at which the authors can still tweak the paper. Hence, the advice should go directly from the reviewer to the author, rather than being mediated through students. Third, making the decision dependent on peer review provides a strong incentive for authors to heed the advice and to improve the paper. Giving students final say means the author is incented to make the students editors happy rather than the more knowledgeable reviewer. Finally, leaving the final decision in the hands of students means that the reviewer has less incentive to provide his/her best analysis, since his recommendations presumably will not be conclusive and may not even impact the final product. The proposed Chicago system being neither fish nor fowl, there is no reason to think it will combine the best attributes of peer and student journals. To the contrary, for the reasons just noted, I suspect it will combine their worst.
Plus, there's this consideration:
By the way, speaking of my twenty-odd years in legal academics without a [Yale Law Journal] publication, if 20 years worth of [Yale] boards have rejected everything I've ever submitted to them [setting aside an online reply to a printed article], why does this board all of sudden think highly enough of my standing in the field to ask for a review? ... Shouldn't they be selecting people they've published? Or are they admitting that all those boards were wrong to reject all those articles of mine?
If my occasional rants amuse you, go read the whole 2011 post. I think it is one of my better rants.
To which I would add one more excerpt from 2011:
Why on earth would I ever want to review an article for them? To be sure, there are things one supposedly does for free for other law schools because they are for the good of the profession. Writing tenure letters springs to mind. Yet, while doing so is for the good of the profession, it can also be personally beneficial. If I write a tenure review letter for your tenure committee, the members of that committee will feel obliged to return the favor when I'm chairing our tenure committee and need outsider reviewers. Professors at other schools read my brilliant tenure review and conclude they should hire me instead of promoting the candidate. I take the job offer to the Dean and she gives me a raise. And so on. But what possible benefit do I get from giving a review to bunch of kids who may or may not end up in law teaching? I'm a rational economic actor. My time is valuable. There are opportunity costs entailed in responding to your request. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the bakerthat we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages." So make it economically rational for me to respond affirmatively.
Oh well. At least, unlike Chicago, Yale omits the implied threat that failure to comply will be held against one's future submissions.