Courtship Rumbles

“Men want to feel like they've won something, something they've competed for against a football player and scored.”

How are law review submissions like looking for a husband? 

You set up your profile on Bumble or Scholastica, pouring your heart out in twenty-five words or twenty-five thousand words, making sure your footnotes are Bluebooked to perfection, and ticking boxes for a subset of the eight hundred or so journals and potential suitors, depending on your perspective. You craft a charming cover letter, letting the ones you fancy know that. No chatting or meeting, just sending out your emissaries into the digital abyss. 

You move on to other things, either forgetting about your profile and submissions entirely or obsessively checking your notifications. You know, like watering the garden and binge-watching the flowers grow.

What you really want is to snag a spot in the top twenty journals, and/or the single male Nobel Prize winners, but let’s be real. What you really want, is to be chosen by ANYONE. Which, let’s face it, is also a bit like winning the lottery, depending on your luck.

You can view yourself as unsuitable for any man, a castoff, a hideousness, a castrating b**** (as your doctor so delicately put it when he asked you to hop off the examination table while your knee hurt). Or, you can view yourself as deserving of something good, though it’s unclear what exactly, but something! And you’re just trying to figure out the process. Coming up with ideas, writing them up, following the rules, correctly formatting those footnotes. The first date isn’t the last. It’s a process. You get an offer from a journal, or a man, take him to a ball game or dinner, drop hints to someone higher up the ladder that you’re in demand, and keep climbing that ladder. Keep collecting offers, telling the others about your offers, ask if they will sweeten the deal.

That’s how it goes in the world of law journals. When you’re a newbie, you put yourself out there, start getting offers from the bottom of the barrel, and then play the game of journal juggling, trading offers like cards until you land the one that makes your heart sing.

I had a friend who was dating a guy for ages and he wasn’t stepping up with a marriage proposal. I mean, they were practically kids, still doing their undergraduate degrees. She was in a bit of a bind, because she was homeless and in need of someone to give her a roof over her head. She was smart, perfectly capable of sorting out her own housing situation, but she wanted a man as well, to hedge her bets. So, in the final week of class, she snagged herself a large football player. Within that week, she had a marriage proposal from the one she really wanted. This little gem of a story was relayed to me by several friends who were all masterfully playing the dating game, pitting one man against another to get the offer they desired. Men want to feel like they’ve won something, something they’ve competed for against a football player and scored.

When it comes to law journals, or football players, you start with an offer from UCLA, then maybe Berkeley, and so on until you’re in the running for the top twenty, whose names we shall not utter. Once you’re up there, it’s as good as if you’ve gotten yourself a third husband. You met all three of the husbands at Harvard faculty meetings, a perk courtesy of your first husband, and they all sit there with you at meetings, your publications adorned with all three of their names, in case they forget who they’ve been married to. A while back, you stopped publishing, except for the occasional piece in the New Yorker. Checking all those boxes on Scholastica for law review articles is such a drag.

As for me, I’ve received offers from some decent journals, learning that if you play by the rules, keep your mouth shut, and put yourself out there, the offers will roll in. And if you keep playing by the rules, you might just move up. Whatever “up” means in the world of men. At least with law journals, there’s a nice clear list that starts with Harvard. When it comes to men, there’s no official ranking. But no matter how you stack them, I’m starting from the bottom. My first man was jobless and homeless. I gave him a roof over his head, and when I suggested he get a job, he got nasty. The second one I met at work; he was a real go-getter, but also married, and I was the Second Wife. When I suggested he leave his wife so we could, you know, tie the knot, he high-tailed it back to his First Wife in New York.

The thing about law review submissions is that there are rules and boxes to check. When it comes to men, it’s all about the footnotes. And I never seem to get those right.

Tova Berger
Tova Berger
Berger practices international law and is based in Washington DC.