he noise the man made was somewhere between a grunt and a groan. I was sitting in an interview for a summer internship with a reputable non-profit organization. The interviewer was scanning over my resume. "Oh, Law Review," he said, followed by this overwhelmingly negative noise. Before I could even attempt to explain my case note’s relevance to the organization, he began to ask about my prior work experience. I subsequently relayed this story to several peers who all have responded in a similar manner: "he must not have made law review in school." After all, the popular rumor during first year is that law review is a "must" on your resume and you can’t get a job without it. But could having law review on your resume actually be a bad thing? Was he was judging me for wasting my time on footnotes instead of gaining advocacy experience and directly helping people?
This incident left me stunned for a few weeks or so while I debated heavily if participation on the school’s review had truly been a waste of my time all year (a position taken by many of my friends not on law review). After much reflection though, I have concluded that law review has many overlooked benefits beyond the opportunity to master the Bluebook. In this review of the review, I will analyze several major aspects of the law review and journal (collectively referred to as "law review") experience. Because footnotes are the most widely known aspect of the law review experience, I will start my analysis there.
Articles Groups: Footnotes & Writing Skills
Footnotes are the most notorious aspect of law review. They certainly have amounted to a disproportionate sum of work for me during my 2L year. For three hours each week, my assigned articles editing group, consisting of an editor and four or five associate members, gathers to discuss and edit approximately fifty footnotes for one article. This is twenty minutes more per week than a standard three credit course…just without the credits! Another one to five hours each week is spent checking the sources for accuracy of cited information and an initial round of edits to the footnotes. This weekly drill begs the question "where is the real world application in all of this?" If my collective legal internship experiences have taught me one thing, it is that most practicing lawyers do not use proper citation formatting in their every day work, and there appear to be no consequences to this. Motions and appeals are won and lost on the law, and not whether lawyers have abbreviated case names according Tables 6 and 10. However with that being said, as an intern it has often been useful to have a thorough understanding of citations, and my bosses all expect me to be a master in that area. Additionally, one’s documents simply appear more professional when the citations are correct.
Footnotes are not the only aspect of articles groups. The groups are also tasked with editing their assigned works. This to me has been the most valuable aspect of the editing groups. Groups provide a forum for students to discuss good and bad writing techniques. For students like me who grew up with MLA and APA grammar manuals, editing groups can be a fun, social means for exposure to the Chicago Manual (i.e. the manual recommended by the Bluebook). Group editing is also a fantastic way to learn how to communicate complex ideas succinctly and effectively. Even well drafted articles may have a complicated, although possibly grammatically correct, sentence that confuses its readers. The opportunity to discuss the best ways to clarify others’ writings teaches students how to improve the quality of their own writing.
Case Notes & Comments
Second year students are responsible for authoring an article of publishable quality with an opportunity of publication during their third year. Most students select to write either a case note or a comment. Case notes and comments are two types of articles. A case note examines issues either recently decided or with a decision pending. Comments examine undecided issues within an area of law. The articles also provide students with an opportunity to learn about areas otherwise not taught in the standard law school courses. Students are free to pick a topic of their choice, and in doing so commit an entire school year to researching and writing on that topic. This provides a fantastic opportunity for students to advertise their passion for and knowledge of a particular issue or area of law. Publication also indicates a student’s ability to compose a thorough legal analysis to prospective employers.
Third Year Editor Positions
Third year editor positions provide a plethora of experiences. While some positions are heavy on citations and grammar, other positions rely on other skill sets. Editors in charge of publicity, symposiums, and soliciting articles get the opportunity to converse with persons in various fields. Other editors get to hone in on leadership and management skills. Because these positions are more contoured to individualized personalities, interests, and skill sets, they promise to be more fulfilling than the generalized second year associate position.
Comparison to Other Extracurricular Activities
Participation on a law review is a universally recognized honor. Still, many first year students ask if they should partake in a law review or other activities while in law school. This question assumes that a person must do one or the other. It is actually quite possible, and I highly recommend, that students be fully active in a variety of extracurricular activities. Law review can actually enhance participation in other activities. For instance, many moot court competitions have prizes for best brief. Brief scores can also help determine which teams advance. Knowing how to write and cite flawlessly can provide an advantage before the oral advocacy rounds even start. Effective writing and citation skills are also beneficial to participation in clinics and pro bono organizations that involves drafting documents and motions on behalf of a client. Because law review solidifies a student’s foundational writing skills, it is a practical experience to have on its own and in conjunction with other activities.
In conclusion, from my experience, I can say that the law review experience is well worth a student’s time.