Maximize Your Article's Impact
Congratulations! Your article has been researched, written, edited, and—hurray!—published. After all that work, why stop with one article? With some imagination, you may be able to develop one or more spin-off pieces for other publications. Sometimes this may involve a reprinting of your article in full. More often it will take the form of an excerpt or abridgment.
An example of a full reprinting might be an article that first appeared in a traditional law review that is then reprinted (with appropriate permission and attribution, of course) in a more specialized journal. On the other hand, your article may be too long and footnote-laden for reprinting in full. It may need to be distilled before it would be appropriate for a more practice-oriented readership.
Here is an extreme example of article spinning: The author published an article on the history behind a famous Contracts case in the Cooley Law Review. The article was later reprinted in full in the Green Bag Almanac and Reader and in Stereoscope, a publication of the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. Excerpts from the article were published in the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society newsletter Society Update, the Historical Society of Michigan magazine Chronicle, and the Scribes newsletter The Scrivener. One manuscript became six articles.
Another example involves a history of Scribes that I co-authored for The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing. Shorter spinoffs were then published as columns in the Michigan Bar Journal, the State Bar Labor & Employment Law Section’s Lawnotes, the Illinois Bench & Bar newsletter, and the Detroit Legal News. Spin, spin, spin.
WHERE TO LOOK
In addition to general-purpose bar publications such as state bar journals, do not overlook the many, more specialized section periodicals published by the American Bar Association and many state bars. Their editors are in constant need of good manuscripts in their fields and are more likely to consider publishing full or partial reprints.
The American Bar Association alone publishes almost 60 journals, magazines, and newsletters. The New York State Bar Association has 24 section publications. The State Bar of Michigan also publishes an array of section periodicals. (The ABA Journal, read by nearly half of the nation’s 1 million lawyers, would be a prime placement, but forget about it. In recent years their articles have been written almost exclusively by staff reporters and freelance journalists.)
Michigan also has 29 local bar associations and nearly 50 special-purpose ones. Here’s a list with links. Many of the larger ones publish magazines or newsletters, generally monthlies or quarterlies. Their editors too are copy-hungry.
Finally, consider the weekly legal newspapers found in many metropolitan areas. Typically they publish one or more bylined articles wrapped around the legal notices. You might be surprised at the extent of their readership.
HOW TO PROCEED
For such second- and third-tier periodicals, get hold of some back issues. Sometimes they are available through the organization’s website.
Skim the issues to see what kinds of articles they carry—at what length, with or without footnotes, their citation style, etc. It is also wise to obtain manuscript submission instructions. They might be printed in the periodical itself or available on a website; otherwise, email the editor.
After you have massaged your article into shape, feel free to change the title (just cite the original title in your attribution footnote). Then give it one more spell- and grammar-check.
In the absence of instructions otherwise, submit your manuscript to the editor as a Word document, using 12-point Times New Roman, with a transmittal email explaining the article’s significance and derivation. Also supply reprint permission (if necessary), a short author bio, and a high-resolution photo. As a former editor I know that the easier you make the editor’s task, the more likely you will see your work in print.
Go for it. You did the work, now reap the reward. Use these strategies to maximize your article’s readership and impact. And since you obviously enjoy legal writing, consider joining Scribes – The American Society of Legal Writers.
Otto Stockmeyer is a WMU-Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus. At one time or another Professor Stockmeyer edited periodicals published by the Ingham County Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, and the ABA Solo, Small Firm & General Practice Division. Versions of this post have appeared in The Scrivener and Lawnotes.