April 19, 2005

Law Review ≤ Bullshit

by Guest Contributor

Itís fair to say that almost no law student would touch law review if it had no credential value. What value is left, then? Mastery of the Bluebook is, of course, a capacity more coveted than bouncing shocks on your Cadillac, but law review taught me four times the Bluebook Iím likely to ever need, and it taught me so twelve times over.

As I look back from my imminent graduation from a top 20 law school, the obvious comes to mind: working on law review generally sucks. As a staff member, the work will bore and frustrate you, and only the most optimistic will find a way to feel they are gaining something besides pain tolerance. As a board member, you can either continue to pick up dog poo like a staffer, or commit 20 - 50 hours taking on responsibility that actually looks rewarding. I defaulted to dog poo because, wellóletís just say my enthusiasm for law review hasnít changed since then and the electing board officers knew it.

I suppose I should insert the caveat that if you are the sort of person who finds it rewarding or productive to bump your head against a toilet until you pass out, then disregard this surly commentary.

Back to the credential and prestige of law review. I still canít figure out why employers like it. My theory is that everyone assumes law review means something exactly and only because everyone assumes law review means something. Of course itís possible (because everyone assumes this) that the ďbestĒ law students win the law review competition. However, to the extent that winning the competition reflects good grades, itís a redundant credential. It might well reflect good writing ability, but employers would be much wiser to see a writing sample than trust the judgment of students whoíve been qualified by students before them whoíve been qualified by students before them, etc. But, the skeptic says, being on law review proves motivation and willingness to take on responsibility and extra work.

Touchť. I concede that getting onto law review is a great way to show future employers a willingness to bring your skull repeatedly against the loo if they demand it (and they will). But that still doesnít explain why law review, as opposed to other modes of self-inflicting pain and boredom, qualifies us better.

So donít fool yourself into thinking that membership on law review makes you more special or smart or righteously entitled to priority. Getting laid is a much better means to feeling that way. But if you really aspire to clerk or land an otherwise prestigious or almost-out-of-reach job, you must try your hardest to get on and succeed in law review. Thatís the name of the game. Therein lies the final meaning: being on law review teaches us to deal with utter bullshit.

April 19, 2005 07:08 PM | TrackBack

What is it about the law review that earns it the same honor as repeatedly bumping one's head against the latrine? What repetitive tasks are so repugnant?

For the uninitiated this may help round out the picture.

Posted by: Greg at April 19, 2005 09:27 PM

I resigned after about three weeks of the nonsense. The last straw was the refusal to permit me to do the cite checking electronically and produce the results laser-printed. That is, when I did it that way the first time perfectly and beautifuly, I was told to go back and do it again by hand.

I said bye and put the time into the courses and grades instead. I got the good grades, the high grades in a couple of classes, graduated magna, Order of the Coif . . . and I have to say, those honors looked suspicious to some without law review. Of course, perhaps I would not have wanted to work with or for those some.

I do not regret resigning. I do wish I had two lives just to run the experiment about my career with and without law review.

I guess my take is that if the law is what really interests you, skip law review, do the course work well, and read more than anyone else. If a career as a lawyer is what interests you, do law review.

Posted by: Michael Ausbrook at April 19, 2005 09:36 PM

There's nothing more important than a good credential. Most law school graduates wind up woefully underemployed in crappy jobs.

If you are on law review, you should thank your Maker every day.

Posted by: Half Sigma at April 19, 2005 10:56 PM

I'd probably like law review a lot less if we had to citecheck by hand. We do it electronically, thank heaven. (The sources still need to be procured in hard copy, which is a bit annoying, but the Excel source grids and the Word revision historie are priceless.)

Posted by: JCA at April 20, 2005 12:49 AM

It depends on the law review, but ours had quite a broad range of articles, and I found that citechecking taught me a lot about areas of law and research in areas of law I wouldn't otherwise have encountered. An example was a communications law/FCC article. I learned how to research in a field that is mostly regulation-based rather than statue-based, and I learned my way around FCC rulings. This is just one example. This kind of experience can help a young law student discover his niche or realize what he's not cut out for.

Posted by: Stephen Barber at April 20, 2005 05:41 AM

As the editor on my journal who had to input staff assignments (among other things), I can say that, at least on our journal, there's a reason staffers have to do them by hand. Often, staffers are just plain wrong in their bluebooking, especially at the beginning. And as much as I love "track changes," it's generally much easier to figure out what's been done and how it's right or wrong when it's written in the margins. Even if it's pretty and laser printed-out, "track changes" can get really hard to read, especially when there are a lot of corrections.

That said, I know handwriting assignments sucks, and I salute you, person who quit law review.

Posted by: Jane at April 20, 2005 09:08 AM

I'm guessing it depends on your school. If you go to a top 10 and want to work in a big law firm, forget it.

Posted by: J- at April 20, 2005 10:05 AM

I've recently discovered that the most pernicious thing about being on law review (I'm a 3L now) is that it actually crippled my writing and research style. I became obsessed with perfectly footnoting everything as I was writing, which disrupted the normal flow of creativity that's crucial to getting the first draft out.

The academic value of law review is totally overrated. You could learn so much more in class or writing your own stuff or doing internships.

To Michael Ausbrook, kudos for being brave enough to quit! I think that law firms are getting wise to the fact that law reviews don't correspond to academic excellence anymore, since admission is not correlated strictly to grades as it once was. So someone who gets great grades but skips law review is probably going to be fine; and conversely, being on law review won't make up for average grades.

Posted by: tex at April 20, 2005 11:52 AM

"law reviews don't correspond to academic excellence anymore, since admission is not correlated strictly to grades as it once was"
There's much to pick apart in this turn of phrase, but the fact remains that the law business depends on many faulty indicia of future performance and that's not a recent development.

Posted by: J. Squire at April 20, 2005 01:42 PM

Sorry if I wasn't being clear -- I meant to say that I think the prestige of law review is decreasing because it's not correlated to grades anymore. Grades themselves may by a faulty indicia, but I think that they're the one that law firms care most about in the end.

Posted by: tex at April 20, 2005 08:36 PM

For those of you who didn't do a journal how did you answer the employer question "why didn't you do a journal?"

Posted by: Austen at July 26, 2005 09:21 PM

Wow...when I did a google search for "law review sucks," this cite (err...site) came up on the first page. Incidentally, googling "why I hate law reveiw" (with apologies to Google for trademark genericide) did not turn up this page. Apparently the plethora of hate crime law review articles drowned out this site as a search return.

That being said, I will bookmark this site. Great law review sucks discussion.

That being said, I'd like to be Michael Ausbrook's guinea pig here. I did not have the cojones to quit law review, even though it brings me nothing but sorrow and broken dreams.

Another thing before I go...I'd like to know if any of you hated third year students when you were second year students as much as I do. Honestly, were your 3L's HUGE pricks? I should have initiated my vigilante justice through law review office pranks a LONG time ago.


Posted by: steve d at March 8, 2006 04:53 PM

Your post is completely on point. You neglected, however, to mention the pain that is the comment/case note. Our law review requires us to spend our winter break engaged in this self righteous, useless, and wholly mind numbing exercise called "legal scholarship."

Posted by: LR Staffer at January 10, 2007 06:23 PM
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