There is a very interesting disucssion going on in the Prawsblawg "angsting" thread about when and if it is approrpriate for a law professor to renege on an accepted publication offer from a law journal in favor of accepting an opportunity to publish with a higher-ranked journal. In the hypothetical (or real) scenario (the comment was originally published yesterday, but allegedly is not an April Fool's joke), a student editor reports serving on "the flagship journal at a T50 school," which "offered on a good piece, and the author accepted. Thereafter, we filled the volume and closed down review (rejecting all remaining articles and turning off new submissions). Now, 2 weeks after we closed down, the author wants to back out of the deal in order to publish at our peer school. They are 2ish spots above us on USN, although there is more distance between our journal ranks on W&L. Their EIC wrote us and thinks the article is more topical to his school/publication. He offered to 'trade' us an article. We are dumbfounded on many levels, particularly considering the precedent this sets. Thoughts appreciated."
Regardless of whether the situation is factually accurate (and I sincerely hope it is a joke), the discussion of appropriate responses to such a situation are both fascinating and disturbing--commenter reaction to the alleged sitution is indicative of something interesting, regardless of whether the scenario is accurate or not. The discussion in the comments carries over into the next page of the thread.
(1) I am surprised that so many commenters think it appropriate, albeit troubling, to renege on an accepted offer in this situation. While there are clear instrumental benefits to publishing in higher-ranked journals, I would expect professors to put more value on the importance of modeling professional behavior to student editors--and withdrawing the piece after acceptance seems clearly unprofessional at best.
(2) One commenter suggested that withdrawal would constitue an "efficient breach" (though later commenters corrected that conclusion). I suspect that a number of students, years after law school, mis-remember efficient breach as "a breach that benefits me." As someone who discusses the theory of efficient breach in my Remedies class, I hope that my students wouldn't come away with that impression.
(3) Is the valuation (overvaluation?) of prestige antithetical to ethical behavior? I suspect that it might be, but respect for prestige and hierarchy seem very deeply engrained in the American legal culture. Again, I would hope to see professors model a greater respect for integrity--even, and especially, when modeling integrity means going against the current prestige hierarchy.