Top International Law Journal Or Mid-Level Mainline Journal?

by Roger Alford

Two stories on choosing between publishing in a mid-level mainline journal and an international law journal:

Story Number 1: I had a colleague a few years back who was going up for tenure that year and had outstanding offers to publish her article from the Harvard International Law Journal and the Rutgers Law Review. She was particularly concerned that year about getting tenure first and foremost and therefore canvassed the opinions of various tenured faculty members about her choice. The uniform answer: Rutgers Law Review. As a tenured faculty though, she looks back on that decision with some regret and wishes that she had chosen the Harvard International Law Journal because she has a strong suspicion it would have been read and cited by more scholars in her field.

Story Number 2: I had a colleague at a major law school who is an old friend who doesn’t write in the international law field but writes prolifically on the subject of negotiation. He did a one-off piece on negotiating the Middle East peace conflict. He called for guidance on where to place the article because he really wanted to target international scholars. He had an offer from Yale International Law Journal and wanted to know what was the cut-off for expediting with mainline journals that made it more worth his while to go with one of them instead of the YILJ. Given his objectives, I recall that I said something like top 25, otherwise go with YILJ. He ended up going with the Yale International Law Journal, and the article is cited quite frequently.

As most readers know, thanks to Washington & Lee Law School’s “Most Cited Legal Periodical List” there is now objective data to assist in making such choices. According to that website these are the top ten international law journals in terms of citations (excluding Tulane Law Review which I don’t count as a true international law journal), together with their overall rank among all law journals:

1. American Journal of International Law (#18)
2. Virginia Journal of International Law (#54)
3. Fordham International Law Journal (#61)
4. American Journal of Comparative Law (#69)
5. American University International Law Review (#75)
6. Harvard International Law Journal (#78)
7. Yale International Law Journal (#82)
8. Michigan Journal of International Law (#83)
9. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law (#85)
10. International Lawyer (#99)

This is very helpful as far as it goes, but I am still troubled with the possible implications of this information. This data would suggest that by and large international law scholars will be cited with greater frequency if they go with mid-level mainline journals than top international law journals. But do our international law colleagues really read and cite those journals with greater frequency? Is it really better to go a with any top fifty law journal (such as Houston Law Review, or Depaul Law Review, or University of Cincinnati Law Review to name but a few) instead of a top five international law journal? I rather doubt it.

I would be quite curious what your opinions are on this topic, as it is a perennial problem for many international law scholars. Scroll down and vote.

Given the choice between any top fifty mainline journal or any top five international law journal you should publish in which journal:
One Of The Top Fifty Mainline Journals
One of the Top Five International Law Journals

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