The “star footnote” at the beginning of a law review article — also known as the “Oscar speech footnote” or sometimes the “vanity footnote” — typically includes some biographical information and a list of “thank-yous” just like the “Acknowledgments” section of a book. They can be a little silly sometimes. They also are a haven of name-dropping, some of it clearly aimed at signaling to the student editors of the journals who decide what articles to publish. (“Look, look, I am thanking Yocahi Benkler and Pam Samuelson and Jonathan Zittrain and Larry Lessig — all big names! And I once presented a draft of it at the University of Chicago! My article must be worthy!)
A recent article by Peter Strauss demonstrates another skillful strategic use of the star footnote, which simultaneously addresses another quirk of the law review world: the typical journal editor’s predilection for excessive footnotes and citations. Strauss’ star footnote includes the following backhanded expression of sort-of gratitude:
[John Smith] of The George Washington Law Review has been a thoughtful and careful editor; the Law Review has provided a number of footnotes and parenthetical characterizations it found useful.