October 25, 2005

Feminism Ruined Me for Other Men

by PG

Or rather, the Journal of Gender & Law seems to have ruined me for other journals. Nor is it just me -- friends on the Law Review and other publications have told me that they miss JGL. The trouble with a journal run on feminist principles of avoiding hierarchy as much as possible, giving everyone a voice and making decisions on a collective basis is that you get addicted to the damn thing. This is particularly dangerous to 1Ls, who don't know what non-feminist journals, i.e., all the others, are like.

After a year spent reading articles and voting on their acceptance, spending all of one's journal work time on source-gathering, cite-checking and blue-booking is less inspiring. I'm honestly surprised that most journals seem to manage to motivate their staff members without giving them the direct investment of taking part in major choices, which investment makes the gruntwork feel worthwhile because it's a necessary part of the larger process in which one has gotten to play a role. One sometimes has to do that work on an article one dislikes, but that's only part of the job instead of the whole thing.

There are sound arguments for why 1Ls have no business taking part in the decision of whether an article should be accepted by a journal. If, as Richard Posner declares, law students are unfit to be running the journals because of their inexperience and limited knowledge, people who have just begun law school presumably are even more unworthy.

Still, being given more responsibility than I ought to have had was good for me, if not for the quality of the publication. I became familiar with the major and oft-cited texts in feminist legal theory and sharpened my editing skills tremendously. Moreover, this style of running a journal, though perhaps unsuited to the Law Review, doesn't appear to have harmed JGL; I don't recall the 1Ls' ever voting down a majority of the senior members' preference. The weight of greater experience and knowledge comes out in the discussions that occur before a vote is taken, though this doesn't always work out as you might expect.

As a general rule, the 2Ls and 3Ls who have taken constitutional, family, labor or whatever law is implicated in a given article will have more to say about whether it's any good. But sometimes 1Ls have surprisingly useful background information that would go unmentioned in a cabal comprised solely of upperclass students. For example, I attended one submissions meeting where a piece dealing with religious law had left me unsure; though not fantastically written, it made what struck me as an interesting and useful argument. The 1L who raised her hand to discuss it first, however, changed my mind completely as she listed its demerits of overreliance on sources that were now considered out-of-date in the field, and its lack of an original statement as it cribbed the argument from well-known scholars.

The specialty publications have an advantage in recruiting 1Ls because they'll tend to get people who are interested in the specific subject, so that on a journal of gender & law, 1Ls with a prior interest in the topics on which the journal publishes will be overrepresented and thus shine more than a random selection from the class likely would. The law reviews, which publish on everything from trademark to administrative law, may not find this same use for the newbies, and in any case would lose all their credentialing status.

October 25, 2005 02:22 AM | TrackBack
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