Life Cycle of the Journal (Pt. II)
by Rachel Czwartacky
This is one blog post in a series about law journals written by Michigan Journal of Gender & Law. The goal of the series is to ‘demystify’ law journals, something that many first-year law students, especially those who are first generation and haven’t had many opportunities to interact with the legal profession, are unfamiliar with when they begin law school. We hope to explain some basic concepts, like what a law journal is, what law journal processes look like, and why a law student might (or might not) want to join one. MJGL hopes that providing access to information on these topics will play a small part in promoting transparency and making elite spaces more accessible. If you are interested in writing a piece for the series, want to see a particular topic covered, or have questions or comments, please email GenCoor@umich.edu
Source Gathering & Cite Checking
The prior editing rounds mainly concern “above-the-line” text - that is, the substantive text of the article that is not part of the citations, which are below the line. Roughly two-thirds of the way through editing, Executive Editors prepare assignments for Associate Editors to begin the process of editing below the line, affectionately known as “Bluebooking” after the legal manual of style and citation.
The first part of this process is to gather all the sources cited in a particular article. Associate Editors seek all the cases, statutes, books (or scans, these days), articles, and websites that an author uses to support their points in order to make them easily accessible for the next part of the process. We look to replicate as much as possible what an author is looking at when they do their citations, for example, by finding the same edition of a book so that we are looking at the same page numbers that an author used.
The second part of this process is where Associate Editors use those gathered sources to check that an author’s claim is supported by the citations in each footnote. Associate Editors also use their Bluebooks to format citations as they should appear in the published volume. Where there are questions about the appropriate citations or how something should be done where the Bluebook is vague or contradictory (not uncommon!) MJGL has a team of Production Editors whose job it is to make these calls and provide help and training to Associate Editors. The Production Editors also check and recheck the citations of Associate Editors after cite checking rounds.
Executive Editors collect the Associate Editor feedback on substantive support issues and return to the authors to request additional sources or approval on small changes to bring the article text more in line with the citations. This is the last of the substantive editing rounds mentioned above; after this, the goal is for only copyediting - making small punctuation or grammar changes and looking for typos - to be needed.
Getting Ready for Print
After authors respond to any lingering issues post-cite checking, Associate Editors do another very small round of cite checking for any new sources or citations that have come in, which the Production Editors will again check. But at this point, the goal is mainly to get ready for publishing!
The articles head to the publisher to be put into print format, and any last checks and author’s final review takes place with pages that actually look like what the published issue will look like from now on. At MJGL, we have a special set of editors called Tech Editors who have the job of going over the printed pages with a red pen for a set of last minute formatting, style, and egregious grammar edits and checks.
When we send these corrections back and receive final proofs, the Editors-in-Chief give everything a final once over before signing off and sending the issue to the publisher. A few weeks later, a new issue is born!
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