Journal is an extremely common extracurricular activity for law students, and Law Review is the preeminent journal out of the bunch. Law Review is the most competitive journal to get a membership on, and the biggest burden on your time once you are on it.
In this article I will focus particularly on law review, but I will start by discussing law school journals in general. I’m going to tell you about my experience in law review, what I think about it, and my recommendation to you!
What is a journal
Law school journals are normally student-run and they feature articles from a combination of professors and journal members in their publications. Different journals have different publication schedules and they vary heavily in the amount of work the members have to put in.
A large portion of students will wind up being on one of the journals that your law school offers. Whether that journal is law review, environmental law, federal circuits, international law, or one of the many others that are out there. There are a variety of different journals with different niches, and I recommend that after Law Review you should apply to Journals that have subject matter you are particularly interested in.
When do you apply for journal?
Basically, you have worked your butt of 1L year and it’s finally over. You think that you are finally on your way to a well-deserved vacation right? Wrong, the journal competition for most law schools begins soon after Spring semester ends. Although, some law schools (like mine) hold the journal competition during the Spring semester in March.
It sucks that you might have to work on another law school writing assignment (write-on competition) immediately after your 1L year ends, but trust me it’s a lot better than having to do it a month before your finals.
The journal competition is technically “optional” but I didn’t know anyone in my class that declined to participate in the journal competition.
My journal competition consisted of a few dozen bluebook oriented questions, some asked you to write your own citation and sometimes you had to fix citations. The last question required us to read a Supreme Court case, summarize it, and cite it. I’m pretty sure I did terribly at the entire competition. In fact, I distinctly remember that I forgot to cite my summary and figured that I had failed.
How important is journal?
I cannot stress enough how important it is that every law student, no matter your grades or career interest, at least makes some sort of effort to get on a journal. Why? Because after grades it’s probably the most important thing to have on your resume for legal job applications.
I know for a fact that several employers won’t even look at students’ resumes if they do not have at least a secondary journal on them. Part of the reason for this of course is arbitrary, hiring managers just looking for reasons to thin the pile of applications on their desk. But it’s also true that employers frequently see some real value in journal membership.
One reason why employers value journal is because you will have to write and hopefully publish a significant piece of legal writing, your Note. The Note process is nothing like what you did in your 1L legal writing class. The Note is atrociously lengthy and will consume a significant amount of your time 2L year. The fact that you are able to complete this, and hopefully well, shows potential employers that you are closer to being a “practice-ready attorney” than your non-journal peers. Blue booking/citation knowledge is also an extremely useful skill that legal employers search for, and you will certainly develop this during your tenure on journal.
Every legal employer you come in contact with will favor applicants that are on a journal, but there are some legal employers that ABSOLUTELY want journal members. Those legal employers tend to be either judges seeking clerks or Big Law firms. Clerks tend to need a thorough knowledge of the bluebook, and firm tolerance of non-journal applicants varies, but only one person from my class got a Big Law summer associate position without being on a journal.
What about Law Review?
Law schools typically have a main “Law Review” which will be featured in the title and covers an expansive number of topics. The main law review is not restricted to one or two topics like the niche journals are. Students generally gain admission into law review through the journal competition, but some schools have a write-on option for 3Ls.
Law Review is a lot of work
Speaking from my own personal experience law review is a ton of work. Besides the Note your 2L year, which is created and edited over a period of nearly a year, you also have production assignments. Production assignments in my law review were weekly, they continued over the summer and over winter break. The only reprieve you could expect from law review was the two week exam periods each semester.
The production work can be extremely tedious, actually, it’s always tedious, boring, and time-consuming. Most of the time you are editing citations, finding sources, and editing manuscripts for publication.
The Note is during your 2L year, and the production assignments are only for staff members. Some staff members elect to be editors 3L year, which is considered more prestigious than simply being a member of the law review. What I have heard from editors is that their work is even more demanding, so unfortunately you will not be able to avoid law review’s time consumption by switching jobs.
At my law school, and what I have heard at others, law review is by far the most time-consuming journal. One of my friends was on the International Law Review, and they had one measly production assignment a semester. This was the typical assignment rate for every journal except for law review. The reason being is that my law school’s law review published several times a year, so it required far more production work.
Law Review is definitely worth it
Even though I have my criticisms of Law Review and journal in general, I would recommend that you should participate in the journal competition if you have the opportunity. Law Review is a lot of work and a huge consumption of time, but it is also the single biggest resume booster, after grades, that you can have. Membership on any journal is a good thing, but Law Review is the most prestigious and has the best chances of separating you from other job applicants.
Some Big Law firms refuse to give interviews to students not on law review, others might give you an interview but you’re starting the race behind other applicants that are law review members. Law Review is also helpful if you are interested in pursuing a career in legal academia, especially if you can manage to get your Note published.
Law Schools have some variation in how students make it on to Law Review. Usually it’s a combination of grades and score on the journal competition. Some schools will also offer a limited number of spots to “write-on” applicants. Generally, you will need to be in the upper GPA threshold in your class to have a chance on Law Review. At my school you had a strong chance of making Law Review if you were in the top 15% of the class, and a 50/50 shot if you were in the top 35%, but these numbers vary school to school.
Other journals can make excellent opportunities
Although Law Review is the most prestigious journal and has the biggest ability to open doors, it is not the “end all be all” of journal. If you do not make it on Law Review, do not reject any other journal you made simply because it’s not Law Review. Any journal you get accepted into has the ability to improve your skills as a future lawyer and open doors for you in seeking a job.
I hope this article has helped you in your thoughts on Law Review and journal generally. To summarize: Law Review is a ton of work and it’s difficult to get on, but that is no reason not to apply and give it your best shot. Law Review and journal generally, is the best bang for your buck resume booster, and you should certainly take advantage of it!
Check out some of our other great articles here!