Many authors want to publish in the best journal they can.
Journal reputation used to have a strong effect on big an audience an article reached, since more libraries subscribed to, say, the Yale Law Journal than the Temple Law Review. But now that most researchers find articles online, that impact is probably lessened. There will still be an effect: some researchers, finding a list of articles, might choose to read the ones from the more prestigious journals and skip over the others. They might assume that articles in the more prestigious journals are better because the competition to be selected was harder. Or they might assume that the articles are edited better.
Journal reputation does undoubtedly affect the author's reputation. Having a publication in a more prestigious journal is better for many purposes, such as getting teaching jobs and receiving tenure.
So, for various reasons, you might try to publish in the best journal you can. But which are the best journals?
Scholars have tried various methods of ranking law reviews -- by reputation, by the prominence of authors, and by rates of citation. See Ronen Perry, The Relative Value of American Law Reviews: A Critical Appraisal of Ranking Methods, 11 Va. J. L. & Tech. 1 (2006). There is no one perfect ranking.
Citation studies are the most common. method for ranking law reviews. These studies look at how often a journal was cited -- either in other journal articles or by courts If a journal is cited a lot, it is assumed to be influential.
Law Journals: Submission and Ranking (Washington and Lee University School of Law)
This database compiles information from a study that counted citations to journals in two large Westlaw databases: JLR (journals and law reviews) and ALLCASES (federal and state cases). Users may choose to see the list arranged by journal title or by ranking, including all journals, only specialized journals, or only journals from one country. Users may also select individual journals to compare.
The database does not rank most foreign journals. And, because its rankings are based on Westlaw, it will not pick up citations outside law (e.g., if a law review article is cited in a political science or public health journal).
Compilations of Rankings
US News Law School Rankings + Washington & Lee Citation Rankings:
Two professors (Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit) compile (and regularly update) Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals, (SSRN abstract=1019029) (last revised July 2016).
Two tables provide information about the general (or "flagship") law review at each U.S. law school. The first table summarizes submission requirements. "The second chart contains some information about rankings of the journals and the law schools associated with them. The first three columns are the overall ranking, academic/peer assessment score, and lawyer/judge assessment score for each school from the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings. The other three columns are data about each journal from Washington & Lee’s law review ranking website."
14 citation-count studies
Kincaid C. Brown, How Many Copies Are Enough? Using Citation Studies to Limit Journal Holdings, 94 Law Libr. J. 301 (2002).
The author compiled a list of citation-count studies (1930-2000) and created a table consolidating the results. He undertook the project to help with the library's decision about how many copies of journals to subscribe to. But you can use his results for other purposes—e.g., deciding where to submit your article for publication. Appendix B, p. 314 (p. 14 of the pdf), lists 14 studies. Appendix A, pp. 310-13 (pp. 10-13 of the pdf), is a table listing journals, arranged by an average of their rankings in 18 different lists. (Some studies had more than one list -- e.g., one by number of citations and one weighted by number of pages published.)
Google Scholar Metrics
Robert M. Jarvis & Phyllis G. Coleman, Ranking Law Reviews: An Empirical Analysis Based on Author Prominence, 39 Ariz. L. Rev. 15 (1997). HeinOnline (Note: LexisNexis version lacks tables.)
Tracey E. George & Chris Guthrie. An Empirical Evaluation of Specialized Law Reviews, 26 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 813 (1999). HeinOnline. Ranks top 100 specialized law journals, based on author prominence. For critiques and the authors' response, see
Gregory Scott Crespi, Ranking International and Comparative Law Journals: A Survey of Expert Opinion, 31 Int'l Law. 869 (1997). HeinOnline
Gregory Scott Crespi, Ranking the Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, and Land Use Planning Journals: A Survey of Expert Opinion, 23 Wm. & Mary Envtl. L. & Pol'y Rev. 273 (1998). Hein Online
Expresso (Berkeley Electronic Press). Submissions Guides (for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2014-15) rank law journals based on how many articles were submitted to each journal through the online submission service the previous year, with separate lists for general, student-edited law reviews and for subject-specific law journals.This measures quality by how desirable other authors find a journal. It might also give you an idea how competitive it is to get a publication offer from a given journal.
Note that these lists do not include the journals that do not use Expresso, including the Harvard Law Review, the California Law Review, and other journals that are widely respected.
Connecticut Law Review Symposium:
Theodore Eisenberg & Martin T. Wells, Ranking Law Journals and the Limits of Journal Citation Reports (May 31, 2012), Cornell Legal Studies Research paper No. 12-30, available on SSRN.
Two professors (Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit) compiled Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals, (SSRN abstract=1019029) (last revised July 2016). Two tables provide information about the general (or "flagship") law review at each U.S. law school. The first table summarizes submission requirements. "The second chart contains some information about rankings of the journals and the law schools associated with them. The first three columns are the overall ranking, academic/peer assessment score, and lawyer/judge assessment score for each school from the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings. The other three columns are data about each journal from Washington & Lee’s law review ranking website."