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I am a lawyer/practitioner (not in academia) and have a law review article of legal scholarship. The article was originally a joint venture with someone who left and abandoned the project, but did contribute to the overall thesis and drafted maybe 10-20%.

My question is how to deal with authorship. If this were in an scientific field, I think the person would be considered second author. But legal scholarship rarely has multiple authors and anything with a second author typically implies roughly equivalent contributions.

What’s the appropriate level of recognition? My name & their name both? My name only and a footnote recognizing their contributions? My name and their name with an asterix indicating they did less work?

The person in question does not care at all, has left the field, and has given their blessing to take their name off entirely. But I want to do something that feels fair to us both. Thanks for any suggestions!

2 Answers 2

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I see 3 issues:

  1. How is it customarily solved? I don't know in law, but I know that in my own field (Biology) there is no consensus. It ranges from "only people who have made a substantial contribution should be listed" to "anybody who walked by the lab while the paper was being written" to "anybody willing to write me in as an author later" (see publication cartels.)

  2. What is the right thing to do? This is a judgement call. You have said that the other author has moved on and does not care, and that his contribution was minimal (10-20%). My opinion is that the right thing to do is not to include them.

  3. What do you want to do? I tend to be generous with authorship, short of including people who have not contributed or joining a publication cartel. It also helps me sleep at night to know I've done something to pay back those who have helped me, and 10% is well above my threshold for feeling thankful. So if I were in your shoes, I would include them as co-author.

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  • Thanks! This is correct in that I am not sure what is typical for #1, but I do want to do the right thing by us both. You say in #2 you wouldn’t put them on it and in #3 you would—which do you suggest?
    – Anonymous
    Apr 30, 2023 at 4:16
  • What I meant is that it's a judgement call between what's technically right and what feels right. I suggest you include him as coauthor.
    – Cheery
    Apr 30, 2023 at 12:50
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If the standard is one author and you can be the only author and the other person doesn't care but you want to be fair you can be the sole author but remark "thanks to ____ for work on parts a,b,c" somewhere in the paper and satisfy all parties. There'll only be one author, the other person will think you're nice but also thankful you didn't bother them, you will have a clear conscious.

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  • I’m not sure what the standard is—was hoping someone could clarify for me since I’m not in academia. My knowledge is just based on my own research and the seeming rarity of co-authorship in legal scholarship. I’m interested in any insight into the field’s standards, if anyone out there knows.
    – Anonymous
    Apr 30, 2023 at 4:14
  • Ah in that case I'm not qualified to comment on what the standard ought to be. Let's wait for someone else Apr 30, 2023 at 19:57

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