March 28, 2005

To Journal or Not to Journal (End of 1L Year)

by Announcement

Listening to 2Ls grump about working on law review, while listening to my 1L classmates stress about getting onto law review, makes me think there's an information gap between those who think law review is nirvana and those who think it is... not.

I'd like to run a symposium on law review (and perhaps just law journals generally) before journal competition starts. At Columbia, competition is right after finals, so I'd want to have the symposium out before the end of April, in the hopes that 1Ls will read it and be able to make more educated choices. In the interest of getting the most honest reactions, I plan to make the posts presumptively anonymous; if someone wants her name or school or whatever on it, OK, but otherwise it'll just be "A 2L on the journal of gender and law" or even more scrubbed of identifying detail.

For those having writer's block on how to start talking about this topic, I'd suggest addressing such as Law Review vs. specialty journal, or Richard Posner's critique, or whether one can get tenure as a law professor without having been on law review. I'd appreciate if De Novo readers would forward this call for submissions to their friends, professors, students, or anyone who might have two cents to add to the discussion. Please e-mail submit-at-blogdenovo-d0t-org. Thanks!

March 28, 2005 02:43 PM | TrackBack

I don't have anything negative to say about law review - I wasn't invited on and didn't try to write on - but I will say that don't regret picking moot court over law review one bit. All of the people I talked to that did law review generally hated it, while just the opposite was true about moot court. Great research, writing and case prep experience - the most "lawyer-like" thing you get to do in law school - not to mention a chance to argue in competitions and practice rounds in front of faculty, area attorneys and federal and state judges.

I've only been out of law school a little more than a year and I just had a law review article selected for publication, written on a subject I loved to write about, written at my leisure.

In short, there are, I think, better experiences to be had in law school than law review, and passing on law review doesn't mean that you won't get published out in the real world.

Though I will say that the prestige jobs (big firms, federal clerkships) do look for law review, especially if you aren't top 10%.

Posted by: MJ at March 28, 2005 05:29 PM

I'm a student at Georgetown Law who recently resigned from his journal over a copyright dispute. This is an interesting area of the law review world for those authors who are interested in retaining copyright in their journal articles. Wharton professor Dan Hunter has written about my experience on his blog, Open Access Law. The link is:

Posted by: Nick at March 28, 2005 06:01 PM

Few people want to do it, but most think they have to. I had little interest in litigation, a clerkship, or legal scholarship, but I considered journal membership a prerequisite for any decent job. Law review rejected me, but I got a spot on a good secondary journal.

It was a complete waste of time. We were assigned a weekly appointment when we were to go into the office and do our assignments, mostly cite and substance checks. For those who don't know, this is the eye-crossingly dull task of looking at a set of footnotes in an article, going to the library to make photocopies of the sources in their original printed format, checking the citations for accuracy, and making them conform to proper Bluebook format. In other words, anyone who passed a decent legal writing and reasearch class and who is passingly familiar with the Bluebook can do it with maybe 5% to 10% of his available brain power. That's when I got assignments, which was maybe one-third of the time. It became routine: walk in, check the bulletin board, walk out.

After a year of this, I'm confident I didn't learn anything I didn't already know. I didn't have to write a note, so naturally, I didn't write one. By the second week of classes, I had a summer job offer, so there was no incentive to do more than the minimum for the journal.

Some lessons:
1. It's unfortunate, but membership in a journal is basically mandatory for litigation and especially clerkships. Anyone who wants to put together a decent resume would find journal membership useful, whether she has any interest in it or not.

2. Students and employers perceive law review as the best, and everything else mushed together somewhere below that. An exception may be one of the quality ideologically-focused journals that some schools have, if you want to get a clerkship with certain judges. If you can't get on law review and you have other choices, try to investigate the journals and find one you like. The difference between the business law journal and the international law journal to a big firm employer isn't significant. Look beyond what they publish and see how the organization is run, whether it leans more toward encouraging note-writing and student scholarship or toward just sliding by (depending on your career plans), and how well people there get along.

3. If you're uninterested in academia or litigation and just want to be a big-firm, corporate practice sellout (the wisest choice), feel free to put in your time and leave. If this is your career choice, getting on law review probably isn't as important, though of course it always helps.

4. If, despite this, you end up liking the journal and want to write a note or otherwise contribute to it, feel free to do that too.

Don't take the editors at their word when they pitch their journals to you. Ask around and see how things really work. Don't worry if you don't get on law review. If your grades are good, you'll still get a clerkship or a good firm job. In practice it has little effect on firm hiring if you're at a top school, and you can get a clerkship, just maybe not with Kozinski. Consider your career plans and adjust your journal applications and selection accordingly. Above all, if you can, try to do something you like.

Posted by: bc96 at March 28, 2005 07:20 PM

I didn't try to write on to either Law Review or one of the three journals at my school. Mostly because I thought it would be too much work and it was right after exams during the week I was trying to move to D.C. for my summer job. None of the journals at my school seem interesting, and I try to be above "job blackmail" for doing in "OHMYGOD, if you don't do this you'll never get a decent job."

I am a non-traditional student, my resume is already strong, my grades are middle of the road, and I don't really care much one way or the other about law review or a journal. I like my blog, but unfortunately that can't go on a resume. Honestly, I feel like the firm recruiting process is ridiculous anyway, and as I've said in the comments at Ambivalent Imbroglio before, when/if my resume is getting passed over b/c I didn't do journal or law review, but I'm a former military officer who used to do *actual* legal work and command people, well...I probably didn't want to work there anyway. I have not had any problems finding jobs that *I* want at all, that's not to say that super law school superstars would necessarily be happy in the types of jobs I have actively sought out and had luck in getting...i.e., not firm jobs.

Anyhoo...there's my two cents. Life is too short to do something if it would truly make you miserable. But if you feel a little bit of short term discomfort (or maybe a great experience if you really like it - which some people do I think) is worth the long term gain...being able to say "I was on law review" or get that extra special clerkship or whatever, then hey, more power to you. I think everyone who wants to do law review should do it, but I think that for me it is not a good decision.

Posted by: energy spatula at March 28, 2005 07:39 PM

Thanks for this topic. I hope many, many people contribute.

I am planning on trying out for law review and I need to make it, just for the resume. I am a 1L who easily made honor roll, and I interviewed for several jobs this summer. (I got none of them, and the criteria for most of them wasn't merit.) One overrding thing I heard in almost all of those interviews was how important law review was to them when hiring 2Ls, that I should get on law review for a batter chance next year.

I really don't have a career goal yet, i.e. clerkship, big firm, etc., but I can't help but feeling that law review will make whatever goal a choose a hell of a lot easier.

Posted by: Brian at March 28, 2005 07:40 PM

The meta-rule here is to remember that no one is better at thinking he knows stuff that he really doesn't than a law student. The salt is on a table in the lobby.

Posted by: bc96 at March 28, 2005 08:13 PM

I graded onto Law Review, and found the experience utterly pointless. I've heard that writing on is worse, because some employers actually hold it against you that you couldn't grade on (I know, it's stupid, but so are some hiring committees).

I probably would have been better off doing Moot Court, especially if I had done well. While I did eventually (after a year in private practice), land a premium clerkship, I don't think my law review experience had much to do with it, nor do I think it helped me much when applying for my big firm job (which I ultimately hated anyway, btw).

If law review sounds like fun to you, then do it. Otherwise, do something to gain some real skills. If your state has a program that allows law students to actually practice under the supervision of licensed attorneys, that's the best you can get. I'm currently a prosecutor. We have an intern working for us now who, by the time he's done, will have tried over 50 cases before a judge. I'd put that kind of experience up over cite-checking some boring professor's article any day.

Posted by: Spoons at March 28, 2005 09:29 PM

I am a 3L at a small school in California and didn't do law review, journals, or competitions. I did take up a couple of student org offices, and found my plate full enough that way.

My only advice would be this, remeber to enjoy yourself while in law school. It might seem like a foriegn concept, but it should be said. I've seen a lot of people get buried with a lot of stuff, losing their weekends and most of their free time. While I don't have the prestige of being on Moot Court, Mock Trial, Law Review, etc, I know that I'm at least going to be able to look back on my law school days as some fun times, when I made some great friends. It's a trade that I would make again today.

Posted by: KG at March 28, 2005 10:41 PM

There is at least one good reason (beyond "prestige") to be on a law review, and that is to be an Articles Editor. If you are interested in the intellectual side of law, and if you are willing to put in the time, it is an unequalled way to learn about the law, educate yourself, and make a (small) contribution to the development of the law. You will learn a lot about areas of the law that you never had classes in, or were covered superficially in class, and you should learn a lot about how lawyers think and argue about complex legal issues (yes, some law articles are silly and pointless, but others are by very smart lawyers arguing over issues they care deeply about). You may even find it interesting! And the intellectual skills you should learn as an Articles Editor really will help you as a real, practicing lawyer.

All this isn't to dismiss Moot Court or other activities as unworthy; it's just to say that there are aspects of being on law review which really can enrich your education (not just your resume) and make you a better lawyer.

Posted by: m. at March 29, 2005 09:53 AM

I'm a 3L and main-journal editor at a top-tier school. I absolutely second what KG said: remember to have fun in law school. But I'm going to controversially state that I think law review can be, and ought to be, fun, or at least interesting.

For me, the write-on competition itself was worth doing in its own right, as it got me thinking in depth about an interesting topic and gave me my first legal academic writing experience.

Journal itself has had some busywork--it's got to get done--but I think it's made me a better editor, gotten me in touch with a world of legal academia I wouldn't otherwise have seen, and made me a lot of friends. Plus, the resume value has been top-notch: I don't have a way to tell how I would have done in the recruiting world without it, and I probably would have been just fine, but both my summer firm jobs and my clerkship opportunities have been more prestigious because of it. Even without any resume value, though, I think I would do it all over again: it's been an important and worthwhile part of my law school education.

I say give it a shot. It's about more than the resume.

Posted by: exothermic peep at March 29, 2005 10:26 AM

I'm a 2L on the law review at a 2nd tier law school. Is working on law review duller than watching porn with the nudity edited out? Yes it is. Have I become a better person, or a better intellect for all my work? No I haven't. Will getting on Law Review get your foot in the door for higher-prestige jobs? Yes it will.

A friend of mine with the same GPA who didn't make law review had 5 interviews last fall. I had 15. The difference in access is solely attributable to the fact that Law Review is on my resume.

If some people view law school as an experience for personal growth and academic development, then skipping the write-on is fine. In fact, skipping law school is fine. Tibetian Monasteries are for personal growth and academic nourishment. The truth is that law school is the most expensive and over-glorified vo-tech academy in the world. It's about getting jobs, and if you have to crawl over broken glass for a gold star on your resume, then do it.

Posted by: Chief at March 29, 2005 12:14 PM

Oh my god...

"The truth is that law school is the most expensive and over-glorified vo-tech academy in the world. It's about getting jobs, and if you have to crawl over broken glass for a gold star on your resume, then do it."

What about if you can already get the job you want without it? What about if it's not how you want to spend 20 or 30 hours of your week (or whatever)? What if you would rather work at a really cool job during the school year, or spend your time doing Moot Court, or with your family (God forbid)? What about people who have SIGNIFICANT career experience before law school? I would rather EAT broken glass that spend a whole lot of my precious hours doing something I would hate for a "gold star" that I don't care about and that will only help me get jobs I don't want.

As I said before, I think if it's what you want to do, you should. But I think that if it's not what you want to do there are MANY ways to get a job you'll love without it. If all you care about in your job search is the prestige factor you are going to be living a very miserable life. But, once again, to each his own.

I am in law school to better my education (I already have my M.A.), and to try to meld my M.A. with my career experience. Obviously I want to improve my life. Obviously I want a job that is *better* than what I had before I went through this experience.

It's derogatory to assume that people who are not super high-competitive are flaky, or should just skip law school and go "find themselves" on a commune or something, or that they don't care about getting the most they can out of law school. I personally am just not willing to compromise ALL of my time and energy on something that I don't find fulfilling...the portion that I already give is plenty for me.

I only got four interviews this past OCI season, but I only applied to four places, and all four were places I would have definitely worked (2 firms, 2 government). I got the one I really wanted, and had more than one offer. Quantity is not quality.

Posted by: energy spatula at March 29, 2005 11:46 PM

Hey, I'm a 2L at Colorado Law, on a law review/journal thing. Law review/journal is largely worthless aside from teaching you how to Bluebook, and learning to Bluebook is largely worthless outside of court briefs. I commend those who find the articles interesting, and I especially commend those who find reading 80-page articles on obscure topics interesting. Frankly, law review/journal is simply another hoop students grudgingly jump through, and though they come out slightly better in the end, it's doubtful it's worth the time and effort.

Posted by: BuffsLaw at March 30, 2005 06:06 PM
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