Date based archive De Novo: April 2005 Archives

April 29, 2005

Today/ 04.29.05

Today in History (1992) - In response to the Rodney King beating verdict, residents of southeast Los Angeles riot.

Posted by PG at 02:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Subsitute Exam Question

Now that Prof. Volokh has given away an answer to one fact situation that could have gone on his free speech exam, I offer another possibility, ripped straight from the Conspiracy headlines and my moot court issue (though coming a little too late for his deadline even if he wanted to use it):

"Do Arianna Huffington and Belle de Jour have a cause of action from the Guardian's false claims of having gotten 'previews' of their forthcoming works?"

Answers would have to explain why the Guardian satires should be legally recognized as such, considering that they lack the kind of "parody, not to be taken seriously" notice that Hustler appended to its Falwell advert. Answers that addressed whether the Volokh Conspiracy might have any share in the liability for further presenting the satire as fact would get extra points.

Posted by PG at 02:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

On Law Review, the universe, and everything

I'm a bit late, but I wanted to offer my BRIEF thoughts on law reviews. First I think the advice from all the contributors is invaluable to this "ambitious 1L." But I think Prof. Property Law summarized my feelings on the subject very well. To paraphrase her:

"I went to law school with the twin goals of getting good grades and getting on law review. Well neither of those goals materialized as planned. I didn't get good grades and I didn't get on law review. I then found something I cared about deeply and that has gotten me far greater success than I ever imagined. I encourage all of you to look beyond grades and law review and find the thing that you care about and work towards that. You will be rewarded far greatly than if you commit to the competitive world of law school."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by Armen at 05:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

There Oughtn't Be a Law

WorldNetDaily and the Drudge Report are questionable legal authority, so I thought I'd ask De Novo readers about a claim made in both outlets' stories regarding a joke about shooting President Bush for his Social Security policy. 'A government source told Drudge, "Even joking about shooting the president is a crime, let alone doing it on national radio ... we are taking this very seriously."'

While obviously the Secret Service needs to investigate everyone who makes a threat against the president, no matter how absurd and unlikely to come to violent fruition, I was surprised that speech clearly categorizable as a joke -- even a very poor one -- could be considered a crime. Has anyone ever been arrested, charged or prosecuted for it? Watts v. United States limited 18 USCS ß 871 to "true threats," placing the burden of proof on the prosecution to show that the remark was not made in jest.

UPDATE: Note to self -- always check Volokh first.

Posted by PG at 02:19 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Peeping PG

Having just complained of a firm's calling its ranking in mergers-and-acquisitions a "fun fact," I now turn around and reveal my latest leisure activity:
looking up people on Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, through the "search by party name" function, to see in what cases they've been involved.

Tonight's victim pops two:
one suit from 1931 that only says, "Motion granted, and appeal dismissed, with costs";
and Republic of Paraguay v. Allen, which appears to be one of the appellate decisions about states' failure to inform the consulates of foreign nationals that said nationals had been arrested and were on the fast to execution, that led the Supreme Court to take Medellin.

I mentioned elsewhere that I don't understand why people panic over exams. I'm beginning to realize that it's just because I employ a different coping strategy: denial.

Posted by PG at 01:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

Redefining Fun

Sometimes I feel like law firms talk down to potential hires. This may be logical, considering that the average age of people already working at a given firm is about two decades older than the average age of law students (even in these days of second careers and Older & Wiser clubs). Nonetheless, it occasionally comes off as peculiar, because the language of teenybopper cheer is juxtaposed against the reality of competitive hard work.

For example, one firm forwarded what it describes as "brochure detailing fun facts." Even a charitable definition of "fun" couldn't include information about the size of the firm, America Lawyer's Corporate Scorecard, influential lawyer or top litigator lists. And these are the facts given first, while points about the catering department and free lunch, full service gym and personal trainer, vacation time and training retreat are put at the bottom.

Knowledge about fields of practice, mentoring, pro-bono commitment and billable hours requirement genuinely is useful to students who are considering a firm, but even that I'd categorize as practical rather than fun. And neither giving nor accepting an offer based on the employee's fondness for minor benefits makes sense. As much as law students appreciate the receptions, study breaks, lunches and swag, those who are likely to make the best long-term assets for a firm (unless it wants to be in a constant arms race with other employers for the best catering and most vacation) are going to be more attracted by the solid factors necessary to career fulfillment than by a shallow conception of "fun." The firms that have impressed me most, in my limited interaction with them, have been the ones whose employees seemed to enjoy their work, not their perks.

Posted by PG at 02:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2005

Today/ 04.26.05

Today in History (1986) - In Ukraine, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant explodes, creating the world's worst nuclear disaster. Thirty-one people are killed directly by the accident and many thousands more are exposed to significant amounts of radioactive material. About 700 -- mostly elderly people -- have decided to live with the dangers and have returned to their hometown.

Posted by PG at 01:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2005

So Much for Morrison & Foerster

When I was in college, like many (perhaps most) liberal pre-law kids, I assumed I never would work for a large corporate law firm, instead dedicating my life to government or nonprofit work. If I ever did "sell out," I wanted it to be to Morrison & Foerster, not so much for their pro bono work as for the joy of having as an e-mail address. Ah, truth in advertising.

However, A. Rickey's post (and Jewish Buddha's) about the not-in-name-only dubious associations of other big firms has made me rethink my preference for MoFo. Consider that not only Covington & Burling but also Baker & Botts* and Sullivan & Cromwell** have been identified as Illuminati law firms. If you prefer to work for sketchy government agencies, there's always Heller Ehrman***.

Wow. When the public interest folks gave me the handout on the evil of BigLaw, they didn't say anything about worldwide conspiracies!

UPDATE: / sarcasm. The people who figure out how many hours are lost to traffic jams, illness etc. each year ought to study how much time is lost to idiotic theorizing.

[All of the below are pulled from conspiracy theory websites.]

* Look at Baker & Botts, the Houston family firm and power base of Secretary of State James A. Baker III. This law firm was formed after the Civil War by die-hard Confederate and Masonic officials in Albert Pike's Scottish Rite and military clique. With their British imperial racial notions, Baker & Botts and Scottish Rite freemasonry have dominated the Texas power structure ever since. Secretary Baker's grandfather, Captain James A. Baker, brought English race scientist Julian Huxley in to supervise the "race purification" study program for Texas, at Rice University. Secretary Baker's family wealth and power came from their representing Harriman, the international oil companies and George Bush's Zapata Petroleum, all sponsors of the population control, or ban-dark-babies movement. This movement is synonymous with the Scottish Rite.

** Yes, Allen Dulles was a lawyer. He worked for the powerful illuminati law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, whose clients included multinational corporations as well as foreign governments, and whose big money deals shaped the destiny of the planet.

According to several reputable authors, the Dulles brothers directing Rockefeller's management group and law firm at Sullivan and Cromwell on Wall Street, later administered the American affairs of I.G. Farben-Germany's leading industrial organization-linked intimately to Hitler and the rising Third Reich. The Dulles law firm also directed U.S. business affairs for Fritz Thyssen, Hitler's primary financial backer. Thyssen later introduced Allen Dulles to the rising Nazi fuehrer, after which brother John negotiated loans for the Nazis.

*** This agent told me about an operation ordered to be carried out by high Washington personnel in mid-1992, under the code name, Operation Mount Rushmore. He said that it involved the San Francisco law firm of Heller, Ehrman White, and McCauliffe, (579) and several Mossad agents reportedly working for the firm.

Posted by PG at 11:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Day Five: What Hasn't Been Said?

Today ends De Novo's weeklong symposium (Days 1, 2, 3, 4) on the decision to join a law journal, though we may have additional responses during the weekend, particularly from 1Ls Armen and PG. Hopefully the posts have provided useful information to those trying to figure out whether journal is right for them.

Chris Geidner reflects on his experiences as Editor in Chief of the Ohio State Law Journal; Milbarge gives three pieces of advice that don't contradict each other (though they may seem to); and Anonymous wraps up his series of posts on what he wished he'd known before joining Law Review.

De Novo appreciates all the contributions, links (especially from Legal Theory Blog and JD2B) and comments -- please keep them coming! Also remember that we take suggestions for future symposia, so if there's a law (school)-related question on your mind, share it with us. Finally, with 3L co-founders Nick, Chris and Jeremy graduating this year, De Novo would love to get more people who would like to "sit in review"; e-mail if you'd like to join us. All of the above should go to submit-at-blogdenovo-d0t-org. Thanks!

Posted by Announcement at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anonymous: If You're Going to Join Law Review, Know What You're Getting Into (Parts IV and V)

The pointless ferocities of intellectual life shock businessmen, who kill only to eat. --Mason Cooley

Dear Ambitious 1L:

To recap slightly, over the past three days I've given you three pieces of advice on things to do before applying to law review. I've suggested that you decide what you want out of law school, find out what the job actually entails, and make sure you believe it's important. Today I'd like to close with the final two things I think you should consider in making your decision.

4. Tally up the Costs and Benefits
Only you will be able to tell whether you should apply for a journal of any kind, let alone one of the large reviews. Hopefully what this symposium has put together will help, but the best advice I can give is to talk to the people you will be following into the reviews, and get their opinions. The most important thing is to get a number of different voices. Specifically, I'd look for:

A Current Member of the Editorial Board, or One of the Outgoing Members: This would be an Articles Editor, Managing Editor, or even the Editor in Chief. They're probably rushed out of their minds this time of year -- outgoing members slightly less so -- but if you can corner one, they're the folks to ask about whether it's worthwhile. On the plus side, they've probably made the most out of their 2L law review experience, and believe the most in the organization they work for. On the other hand, remember that these are often folks who have a lot of their image/ ego/ self-worth wrapped up in the job. I've noticed something similar to Stockholm Syndrome (to use the term inappropriately) among this group, in which they have to consider the job the most inspiring thing they've done at law school. Otherwise, they've made a big mistake.

A Staff Member Who Ran for the Editorial Board and Didn't Make It: Here you may need to put a little bitterness-filtering between the information you receive and what you expect as reality, but it's worth hearing from these folks too. The fact is, not everyone makes editorial board, the process for selecting it is normally very opaque and in some ways unfair, and if what you really want is to be on the management side, you should talk to someone who made the same gamble as you and lost. Not only will you find out if it's "worth it," but you may also pick up some ideas of what to avoid next year.

A Staff Member Who Didn't Run for Editorial Board: This, by the way, is me, and we're probably a bit more cynical than most. Often, we're the folks who looked at the process, the product, and the time we put in and thought, "You know, I only get to go to law school once, and there's a lot more that I want to do with it." There are other deterrents, such as having families and children one doesn't want to put on hold. But there's a reason that 3L staff members, whatever their title at your review, probably don't have much in the way of responsibility. Having us around would often be a real morale-killer, and without the promise of any future status or prestige, there's not a lot to motivate/ threaten us with. If you're looking for the "cost" column, we'll fill it out for you.

(Speaking of which, I'd like to make a brief aside on points raised by Heidi Bond and Prof. Fleisher. Both pointed to pluses of law review having to do with "having fun, once in a while" and "making friends." These reasons, while true, seem rather weak to me. Yes, you'll make friends with the folks you work with on law review, and you'll have fun despite the Bluebooking. If you couldn't do this without 350+ hours of Bluebooking, well, my advice is probably a waste of time. One of the reasons I didn't run for an editorial position was that my social circle was gradually becoming the law review. While I like most of the folks I was working with, I really missed the time I could have spent with my old friends. Making friends is all well and good, but it's a bit insane to make them based upon proficiency on a write on. Again, not saying I didn't like my cohort, but I missed my non-law review friends something chronic this year.)

Someone Who Didn't Make/ Didn't Try For Law Review At All: As I said in my first piece, finding someone who you otherwise think is very successful, well-liked, and well-respected who wasn't on law review, and finding out how difficult/ pleasant it was for them to manage, should be an important part of your consideration.

Professors You Respect: Figure out what they did, as well. Most will have done law review, while only some will have done editorial positions. One of the reasons I didn't run for the editorial board was a straw poll of professors whose lifestyles and personalities -- not their academics or subjects -- I really respected. While there was a single exception, most of them had not run for an editorial position. It helped when I was concerned that not doing so would ruin my chances for success in the future.

That's a lot of people, especially since you're probably going into exams about now. Don't worry about it. If you're still in doubt, do the write-on, and then ask these people before you get the results. At least when that offer is made to you over the summer, you'll be able to do more than I did: say "yes" without knowing what you were doing.

5. If At All Possible, Don't Be A White Male
I hesitate to mention this, because it's only been lightly touched upon by other contributors, but given the weight that diversity policies hold these days, it's worth being explicit. Many law reviews (and certainly mine) strongly emphasize their diversity policies. I'm not going to rehash Gratz or Grutter here (and given that De Novo isn't a law review, I'm going to be rebellious and not cite the cases), or consider whether diversity is a good or bad justification. The fact is that you should endeavor to find out just how much weight your journal puts on race and sex as a factor, and include it in your considerations. This is a positive factor if you're a minority, but a negative one if you're not.

This is especially important if what you really want out of a law review is an editorial position. Take a look at the male/female ratio on your journal for the last three years, in comparison to the staff intake. (Racial data is probably more difficult to manage, although you might get a rough guess from staff or editorial board photos from prior years.) If the law review has a lower-than-equal number of, say, women who make law review but an equivalence on the editorial board, you can have a strong suggestion of the number of "slots" available for you. Depending on how positive the correlation is between your law review's diversity policy on write on and it's diversity policy for editorial board, you may end up in a situation where non-minority applicants are functionally competing for a much smaller number of editorial positions than their numbers would suggest. Not a nice thing to say, but pretty much honest. Of course, given the opaque nature of many editorial board elections, this is difficult to prove and easy to suggest, so take it as given.

Anyway, this has been a very long series of letters, Ambitious 1L. My goal, however, was to provide you with everything I would have wanted to know this time last year, be it positive or negative. I've tried to avoid the obvious question--given the chance to do it again, would I still say "yes"--because it won't be very helpful to you. Instead I've tried to give you the tools to make what is, in the end, a very important decision.

I hope that this, and the rest of the Symposium, has been useful to you in the next few weeks. Good luck in whatever your decision is.


Posted by Guest Contributor at 02:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Milbarge: Three Pieces of Advice for Journal Applicants-to-be

(Austin Milbarge is the pseudonym of the co-founder of Begging the Question.)

Here's the short version of my experience. I went to a top-25-or-so law school with one "regular" law review, two specialized journals, and a clinic that also produced a journal in its subject matter (my co-blogger Fitz worked on that one). I was on the Law Review, spending one year cite-checking articles and writing my Note, and my third year as a Board member responsible for shepherding a few of those articles through the process and nursing along a few second-years writing their Notes.

The application process for the LR was pretty light, as I recall. We had to write a brief memo based on a supplied fact pattern, using provided sources. (We had to pay a fee to offset copying costs.) Analysis and style mattered, and of course they were sticklers for all the Bluebooking. I prefer this type of "closed memo" to an "open" one because it avoids the temptation to gather every possible source and work oneself to the bone over it. And, for the LR Board, it's easier to grade if you have all the sources on hand. A few spots were awarded to the best writing samples, and the rest were awarded on a combination of grades and the writing score. (We were never told how we made it.) I think selection processes are largely fungible, because you're generally going to get the same people regardless of which method you use. The people with the best grades tend to write the best memos, so except at the margins, the points you assign to each won't matter much.

The clinic-journal process included an interview and was primarily dependent on the clinic director's assessment, while the specialty journals just had a written submission application, I think. While some schools' specialty journals are quite prestigious, ours weren't, really. But the clinic-journal was highly respected in its limited field, and I'm not just saying that for Fitz's benefit. That kind of thing varies widely.

Those facts highlight just how idiosyncratic the journal experience can be. In addition, our LR was relatively small, which gave me a different experience than I would have gotten at a bigger journal. (We had about 15 third-year board members and about 25 second-year staff members even though we put out a journal equal in size to those put out by staffs twice as big.)

Piece of advice number one is to get to know your journal a little bit before you apply. Most journals have, or ought to have, an open house to let interested students come by and see the offices, get a sense of the place, poke around a bit, and ask some questions. Failing that, just drop by. Trust me, those egocentric nerds love to talk about themselves -- they won't turn you away. (If they do, that tells you plenty.)

Ask them how the process works, ask them what second-years do, what third-years do, how one gets on the board, etc. Since they're hanging out in the office, ask them how much time they spend there. Ask if they have an intramural softball team. Ask them what they've missed out on because they've done the journal. Almost no one on our LR did Moot Court, which I sincerely regret now, but I just didn't have the time, and there was
also one class a semester I didn't get to take. If they have a refrigerator, that's good. If it's stocked with Red Bull and No-Doz, that's bad.

The point is that even though you're going to get the sales pitch, you're going to find out a lot about what's it like to be a member of the journal on an everyday basis. For some people, the office is The Office, and they spend very little time there. I basically lived there for two years. (It helped that our secretary made me pie.) At our LR, the third-year board members had a lot of management responsibilities over the second-years. Some journals have rigid divisions between "notes editors" and "articles editors," but we didn't. Since a big part of your time on a journal will be spent writing a Note, it's worth knowing what kind of support system you'll have and how that process works from picking a topic through publication decisions.

The upshot isn't that you have to know everything about the institution before you apply, but rather that more information is always good. It suprises me how many people apply for a journal without knowing anything about it, when so much information is readily available if they would just take a few minutes to scout the place. Now, that being said, it's important to have as many perspectives as possible. Talk to a trusted faculty member -- my suggestion would be to pick a younger one because he or she would have gone through all this more recently.

After the denizens of the journal office tell you how much they love it, ask them for the name of a member who hated it -- there's always at least one. Then go talk to that person and see if he or she just doesn't play well with others or has some valuable insight into why it might not be right for you. A handy tip is that if the disgruntled one hates the journal because of the people there -- a common complaint -- remember that most of the people you would work with will be classmates of yours. If you hate the people at the top of your class, chances are you might hate seeing them every day in the close quarters of the office (or better yet, answering to their petty demands).

Piece of advice number two (after Know Thy Journal Before Thou Applies) is Apply Anyway. Even though that sounds contradictory, it's really just a corrollary of the principle that more information is better. I know that some application processes suck. Ours was easy enough for me to do in one night about a week after exams were over. Even if yours is much more taxing, I still think it's worth a few nights' work
(a) so you won't regret not having done it when you see the doofuses that made the journal,
(b) so you can see the look on their face when you tell them to take their journal membership and shove it, or
(c) so that you at least have the summer to decide if you want to do it or not.

It's very, very tempting right after exams are over to want nothing to do with school, but that sensation will pass. Complete the application, and then spend some time over the summer thinking about whether you really want to do the whole journal thing. You can always turn it down if you make it, but at many schools you don't get a do-over once the school year starts if you change your
mind. (Our journal didn't allow third-years or transfer students to join, so we only had the one shot.)

I'm sure there's some Game Theory terminology I could employ here, but the idea is to put yourself in the advantageous position and give yourself more options. And if you don't make it, you're no worse off than if you didn't apply at
all. Finally, note that you probably won't know all your second-semester (or fifth quarter or whatever that system has) grades by the time you need to apply for the journal. Don't self-select out of it just based on some low first-semester grades -- your next set of grades might be a lot better, or at least enough to make a difference with a journal that uses grades in its selection process.

My third piece of advice, after telling you to Apply Anyway so you'll have more time to decide whether you want to do it, is to Decide Early. Okay, now I'm just messing with you. What I mean is to make that decision sooner rather than later. Because you followed piece of advice number one, you'll know in advance when you can expect to hear the results of the selection process. By that time (generally a month or so before school starts), you need to have made up your mind. This is especially true at a small journal like our LR or many specialized journals, but it's not fair to others if you decide you don't like it
and quit halfway through the semester. For one thing, the work that would have gone to you will now have to be done by others. Also, it might be too late to bring in a replacement, and that would have the effect of denying a spot on the journal to someone else.

Now, it's one thing if you've done some homework, think you know what you're getting in for, and then find out that it's vastly different in reality. (And of course, I'm leaving aside valid reasons to quit like genuinely hostile work environments.) But accepting a place on the journal is a commitment that should be honored. I'm not equating the two, but if a lawyer accepts appointment as counsel to an indigent person, the lawyer generally can't withdraw absent a showing of "good cause." Similarly, I think you should have a pretty good reason for quitting your journal, something more than the hope that you'll have more fun elsewhere. (This threshold requirement is of course a
little stricter if your journal is a credited or graded class, because quitting after the normal drop-add period would likely screw up your schedule, GPA, and progress towards graduation.)

Since you've taken piece of advice number two, you've got the summer to decide what your answer will be when you get the call congratulating you for making the journal. And in a perfect world, no one would be undecided (or quit once the school year starts) because they've taken piece of advice number one and know what they're signing up for.

I'll leave it to others to debate the value of the student-run law journal as an institution. I think there are pros and cons, and I think the institution will change a great deal in the near future. But you're not applying to some faceless entity; you and your buddies are applying for admission in the clubhouse in the corner of the law school building. Spending that much time and energy has to be a personal decision based on how you feel about that specific journal. Law Reviews as an institution may be the greatest thing in the
legal world since the Magna Carta, but that doesn't do you much good if your
time working on one is hell on earth. And regardless of the value of that membership once you leave school, the journey ought to be worth something, too. A year or two is a long time to be miserable. To avoid that, get to know your journal so you can make an informed decision about working there. You wouldn't say yes to a law school's offer of admission without doing a little investigation, and the journal experience should be no different. If you apply armed with that knowledge, you'll feel much better about your decision, whatever it is.

If anyone wants to discuss this at greater length or more privately, feel free to email me at milbarge AT gmail DOT com. Thanks to De Novo for the space, and good luck to those of you applying to journals!

Posted by Guest Contributor at 10:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Learning Our Own Lessons

This year, I served as the Editor-in-Chief of the law review for which I have toiled during the past two years. On Thursday, I said goodbye to the Ohio State Law Journal. As I told the members of our journal, I truly have enjoyed my experience over the past two years, as well as the opportunity I was given to lead such a nationally prominent scholarly publication. The experience has not, however, been without its difficulties.

Although I came into the position of Editor-in-Chief with ideas -- many gathered from Journal members before and in the immediate aftermath of my election -- of how to implement my "vision" for the Law Journal, I quickly found that reality was much more challenging than "vision."

In the first months of the school year, I believe I came up with more ways to apologize for missteps than our law school has students on law journals. There were many challenges, issues, and whatever other words you can come up with to avoid the word "problem." Trust me, Iíve tried.

The problems I faced at the Law Journal were not due to incompetence or lack of caring from anyone. To the contrary, they came about because I had failed to appreciate how much everyone -- not just me -- wanted to see the journal succeed, and was willing to make it happen. Although it took me a while to truly understand that, and although the job of Editor-in-Chief easily fits the bill as the most challenging task I've yet taken on, I wouldn't give it up. Not a day.

Student-edited law journals teach us law students about the law, about how to deal with authors, about legal writing, and -- of course -- about Bluebooking, and they do so in unique ways that are very worthwhile to law schools and the legal profession. They do much more though, in a way that makes me continue to support their dominance in todayís legal scholarship marketplace just as much as I did when I joined Law Journal.

As U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley remarked at a recent panel discussion held at the Moritz College of Law, the administration and faculty of a law school have many opportunities to teach students about professionalism. Sometimes, however, he noted that the best lesson our schools' professors and deans can teach us is achieved by pulling back and letting us struggle. We have to learn for ourselves how to become professionals. We need to work together -- in good times and bad, as it were -- to find some of the solutions on our own.

That is, in effect, the greatest lesson I will take from my time on Law Journal. Although I was enthralled by our symposia and thoroughly enjoyed picking and eventually publishing articles and student notes, the difficult lessons I learned about my own strengths and weaknesses are lessons that will stay with me forever. They are lessons all of us learned in the past year, and we, as well as the legal profession we are about to enter, are all better for it.

Although, as I said, I wouldn't give up this past year for the world, I am honored to take my leave of the journal. In a few short weeks, another year of law students will take on the Ohio State Law Journal as their own. The same transition is happening at student-edited reviews at law schools across the nation.

I wish the classes of 2006 the best, and I hope they learn from the experience as much as I have -- about the law and about themselves.

Posted by Chris Geidner at 02:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

D.C. Represents

Eugene Volokh was posting about D.C. statehood today. He doesn't think the Constitutionally-mandated unfairness of Washingtonians' lack of representation in Congress should be fixed by increasing the Constitutionally-mandated unfairness of giving each state two Senators regardless of the number of inhabitants. His preferred solution -- give D.C. residents a vote in Maryland's Senate races -- seems to have its own partisan bias. Why Maryland, eh? Why not have Washingtonians join the D.C. suburbanites to dilute the Republican majority of the rest of Virginia?

In fairness, though, Volokh's solution actually is the historically preferable one; D.C. residents voted in Maryland's congressional elections until 1800. (I know this random factoid from an old piece on D.C. statehood that I wrote for my undergrad paper; copied below the fold.)

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for Washingtonians to dissolve the Political Bands ...

Not being a Washingtonian -- except by sympathy and affection -- I don't have a right to declare the District's independence. But someone should. Surely Jefferson would do so, were he alive today. As he didn't write the Constitution, he hopefully would not be too invested in Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 which gives Congress the power "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding 10 miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States." Then again, despite his dislike of excessive federal power, Jefferson might consider having the nation's capital declaring itself a separate country somewhat immoderate. The current state of affairs, however, is not much less absurd.

Current residents of Washington share some of the grievances of Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries. Congress "has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only." And "imposing Taxes on us without our Consent" always brings out the mutiny in Americans, as demonstrated by the "No Taxation Without Representation" license plates on many D.C. vehicles.

Two main controversies surround the district's political status. One is that of representation: District residents pay federal taxes yet have no meaningful presence in Congress, which decides how those taxes will be spent. More than half a million people cannot vote for senators or a genuine representative. Their delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) can try to influence other members of Congress, but she cannot vote. Children in the District cannot become members of Congress unless they move to a state. The United States is the only democracy that denies representation in the elected legislature for the people living in the capital.

The other question is about home rule, or rather the lack thereof. With congressional oversight of the District, any decision the city government makes has to be reviewed -- and can be overturned -- by Congress. In the past, Congress has even overturned ballot initiatives passed by D.C. citizens. This is not the normal federalism, wherein state laws cede to federal law. The citizens of the District can't even decide what to name their local airport. If Congress wants to name it after a president who was unpopular in D.C., Congress may do so. Renaming National Airport for Ronald Reagan may seem to be a small matter, but it has symbolic significance for the residents of an area. As former chairman of the NAACP Julian Bond once said, "What would people in Omaha do if Congress just decided to name their airport 'Malcolm X International Airport'?"

Concerning Washingtonians' voting rights, the Constitution contains a seeming paradox. On one hand, the section giving Congress control of the District would impede home rule. On the other hand, the Fourteenth Amendment commands equal protection for all citizens. It is perhaps particularly relevant for Washington when considering the large number of African Americans -- many of whom are descendants of slaves once denied their civil rights -- living in the area. The Fourteenth Amendment would thus require that District residents have a voice in national government equal to those of their neighbors in Maryland and Virginia, even if Congress continues to oversee the city's government. This voice, after all, speaks not only about local issues, but national ones as well. The District has sent thousands of its residents to fight in America's battles, yet none of those servicemen and women had any part in the decision to go to war. The Capitol Hill police risk their lives to protect the members of Congress, without having elected them.

Several solutions to this injustice exist. Many suggest having D.C. residents vote in Maryland's congressional elections. Such was the system until 1800, and no major problems with it were reported. Indeed, had Alexandria not been retroceded to Virginia, its residents would be in the same state -- so to speak -- as Washingtonians. The District could become a state itself, as it is already treated by Congress for more than 500 purposes. If the Supreme Court continues to refuse to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment for the District, Washingtonians, just like women and minorities, may have to fight for their rights through the political process. DC Vote ( educates and acts to generate awareness and change.

Regardless of how enfranchisement happens, all Americans have an interest in seeing that it does. At the most basic level, one might consider the possibility of eventually having to live in Washington for career or family reasons, and having no one in Congress forced to listen to one's grievances. As of now, the rights of D.C. residents fall woefully short of the city's motto: Justitia omnibus.

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Irrelevant and Irreverent

Completely off the topic of law review/ journal -- I must remind those who also were eagerly awaiting the DVD release of Harvey Birdman that it is now available. Hurrah! It has all the episodes, including High Speed Buggy Chase, famous for its Scalia "cameo."

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Day Four: By the Numbers

An alum of PG's law school and current professor at Nick Morgan's lists five positive aspects of law review, and JCA follows up yesterday's post with a Top Ten of reasons to write-on. Seth Wood reminisces fairly happily about Virginia Law Review, Professor Eric Goldman notes that law review can provide surprisingly helpful, and Ming Shui joins Amber Taylor in advocating for specialty journals.

Let it never be said that De Novo is too high brow, or (heaven forfend!) pretentious, as along with all this seriously written advice, we recommend WittySexKitten's remarks: "Can you bend over while I shove internet sources up your ass to figure out how to cite? Yes please, give it to me again."

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Shui: Specialty Journals Can Be Very Rewarding

(Ming Shui is a 2L at Michigan Law and the Executive Technology Editor of the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review.)

I, like many law students, aspired to be a member of the elite, those who spend half their waking lives in the library gathering old tomes of legal wisdom, copying page after page of scholarship, memorizing all the abbreviated words on T.6, and doing tasks that a fourth grader could do in her sleep. Sure there would be hours of mind numbing source gathering and cite-checking work to be done, but the glory of being on law review, the accolades, the recognition, LINE ON THE RESUME would make up for such shortcomings. Luckily, I was rejected from law review. Instead, I accepted a position on a specialty journal, the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review (MTTLR).

To understand why being on a specialty journal was the right choice for me, some background information is in order. I graduated with a technical degree and came to law school to pursue IP law. Iím also fairly active in the school, holding executive board positions in several student organizations. If I had gotten on Law Review, I would have given up participating in these groups in order to have enough hours in the day to read, sleep, outline, and maintain some tattered semblance of a social life. Being on MTTLR, I was able to get journal experience and still do all the other things I wanted to do in law school.

Life on a specialty journal moves at a slower pace than life on Law Review. MTTLR publishes twice a year. That means there are fewer sources to gather, fewer cites to check, and a less hectic schedule to get things done. It meant that our articles and note editors usually gave us two or three weeks to get an assignment done so that we could schedule our time without worrying about being rushed due to some project being due a particular week. But in completing our assignments, we worked as hard as anybody. We trekked to the other libraries, copied microfilm, sought out obscure books, ranted about unlocatable materials; we just didnít do it as much as Law Review. Despite doing the same work, a specialty journal still translates to lesser prestige and recognition than Law Review. But, as many of the other commentators point out, joining a journal for prestige is the wrong reason to join.

This is not to say that there are no rewards for being on a specialty journal. Accepted articles are in an area of law that Iím interested in reading about. I can stay involved with other activities in law school. Itís also easier to get an Editorial Board position. Being on the Editorial Board gives me a say in the future of our journal. There are other perks as well. MTTLR recently received a significant amount of funding for a symposium to be held next year on the trade-offs between copyright protection of content owners versus technological innovation. The ability to help shape the law on this topic is one of the reasons I came to law school in the first place. I doubt that Iíd have the opportunity to be involved on such a project if I was on Law Review.

In short, working on a specialty journal gave me same kind of bluebooking experience that students on Law Review receive, allowed me to read articles on topics that were in my field of interest, and gave me the time to pursue the other activities I wanted to be involved in during law school. Did it hurt me in getting a job or clerking? I don't think so, but I can't be sure. It might have affected some firms, but the trade-off is well worth it for me.

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Goldman: Expected Costs and an Unexpected Benefit

(Eric Goldman is an Assistant Professor at Marquette University Law School. He blogs on Tech & Marketing as well as personal observations.)

Like some of the other commentators, I approach the decision to join law review on a simple cost-benefit basis. Christine Hurt offers her thoughts on the benefits, but let's drill down on the costs some more.

First, there's the question of time. Law review is time-consuming. Anonymous talks about 350 hours of time, a decent enough estimate. However, I think the more useful inquiry is the quality of those hours. From my perspective, this is the crux of the dilemma about joining law review. Bottom line: many functions of a law review are extremely painful.

For example, consider cite-checking. Validating/ confirming information is never as much fun as creating something, but doing it while mastering the arcanity and illogic of the BlueBook makes the process even worse. BlueBooking is also unsatisfying -- no one, not even the BlueBook authors, could ever cite-check an article perfectly, so we also feel like failures. Cite-checking and editing also is pervaded by a sense of irrelevancy; no one really cares if you use the proper citation format for the Law Reports of the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa (see T.3, page 299), and once you realize that, the entire process becomes overwhelmingly pointless.

As a result, you should consider the quality of the hours, not just the quantity. For me, the hours spent cite-checking and editing on law review rank at the very top of some dubious lists: the list of hours of my life that I derived the least enjoyment from, the list of hours I wish I could have back, and the list of hours I would reallocate to things that would make me happier.

Alternatively, you can think about law review hours in terms of opportunity cost. Allocating ~350 hours a year to law review is a major commitment. Consider if you could invest 700 hours in your law school career in other activities that would build your skill set, add to your resume, make more of a difference to the world and be more enjoyable.

For example, let's assume you want to become a law professor. Law review membership is one credentialing tool that potential hiring schools use to sort candidates. However, there are other tools, such as publications. So instead of investing 700 hours in law review, you could invest those hours in writing a law review article. Better yet, write two articles: one using the time you would have spent to write a paper for law review, and the other using the time you spend on cite-checking or editing someone else's article. A student who writes and publishes two good law review papers while in law school will stand out in any crowd.

Whether measured on the raw utility of law review time, or on the opportunity cost, law review fares poorly. Despite that, I advocate law review membership for some interested candidates based on my own personal experience, where my participation in law review was career- and life-altering. Let me explain.

In law school, I hated writing papers. They took substantially more time than studying for a final exam, so I made the rational choice not to take any classes that required me to write a paper (this was before the ABA instituted a seminar requirement). However, I had to write a paper as part of my obligations for law review. During my research, I discovered a then-recent case called Cubby v. CompuServe, which dealt with an online service provider's liability for content that it hosted. Based on this case, I chose to write my law review article on online liability issues, and during that process, in 1992 I made the decision to become an Internet lawyer--a decision that proved to be prescient given the coming dot com boom.

Had I not written the paper and gotten turned on to Internet law, who knows where my career would have taken me. Because of the paper, I got pulled into a topic that became the centerpiece of my future career. Because of this effect on my career and life, in my case the results of being on law review overshadowed its torturous aspects.

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Wood: In Retrospect

(Seth Wood, UVA Law '03, clerked at the 5th Circuit and works at a D.C. firm.)

Law Review serves completely different functions for different people at different times. I will try to hit on the major functions and why an average, everyday law student should invest (see also sink, donate, give over, throw away) a weekend and try out for the journal.

At the most mercenary level, LR acts as an easy proxy for intelligence. It is the A-B honor roll from high school. Most law schools do not give their students a class ranking and definitely do not list the best third or quarter of the student body for a given grading period. Consequently, for employers who want an easy means of separating out applicants, LR makes an easy first cut. Of course, failing to list LR on one's resume does not prevent one from getting a prestigious job or even a worthwhile clerkship. If a student has a good connection to a particular employer or judge, that student won't have to rely on LR so much.

For most potential employees, however, that LR acts as an easy way of comforting the employer - "I can either take law school tests well, or I can bluebook and write a quality journal tryout at least one weekend in my life!" More seriously, one might argue that those who actually make LR have some other traits (dedication, devotion, turning all the night time into the day) that would prove useful to a judge or a firm.

At the more highfalutin level, LR gives students a chance to interact with authentic Legal Scholarship ™ and the law professors who write it! For most students who can't decide whether to try out for LR, this benefit likely won't push someone in one direction or another. Those who like legal scholarship will likely try out for LR. Even if they don't make it, they'll probably spend a great deal of time editing articles for a specialty journal at their school. In truth, those who work on pieces typically can become about as involved as they like. A senior Editor/ Leader person usually doesn't have enough time to dedicate 100% of her efforts to editing a piece. Consequently, that Leader splits up editing responsibilities amongst a number of new people. If you have a particular interest in the article, that Leader would probably love for you to take a crack at editing/ formatting/ whatever.

Okay, so LR can get someone a job and a shot at working with law geniuses. Is it fun? That completely depends on the people with whom you work. As a regular ed board member, a standard 2L position, you will have to perform fairly menial tasks and invest a fair amount of time. As a managing board member -- articles editor, EIC, etc. -- you likely would take charge of editing an entire piece, would assist in selecting articles for publication, etc. In essence, with great seniority comes great responsibility. If you choose to take on a managing board spot (admittedly, a lot of ed board folks are quite happy to remain on ed board through their third year), you will spend a great deal of time in the LR office.

If you enjoy spending copious amounts of time with the other people who have been selected to the Managing Board, you'll have a great time. If you are stuck with special people who actually discuss versions of the Bluebook in manner reminiscent of High Fidelity, it might not be as fun. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of very normal and fun people. LR generally and Managing Board in particular made my 3L year more enjoyable and more fulfilling. While some people ultimately might not like the experience, if someone has any inkling to try out the journal, that person should spend a weekend and see if the Review would fit their preferences.

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JCA: Don't Forget Your Second Wind: Writing On

(JCA transferred to a top ten law school in the Midwest and blogs at Sua Sponte.)

School policies vary on this, but I'm fairly certain that most schools have a process by which post-1Ls dissatisfied with their writing competition results (or, for that matter, transfer students) can write on to a journal. My own school's policy permits anyone, up until January of their 3L year, to earn a staff position on any of our journals by completing a comment that meets the official content
standards. But it's worth a look all the same.

Figure: You've just finished your writing competition, and you didn't make the journal you were hoping for. Maybe it was Law Review. Or maybe you aspired to a particularly fascinating topical journal. Either way, your only option now is to write on. Should you do it?

Here are the Sua Sponte Top Ten Reasons Why You Should:

10. You want to be on that journal. Why should an unsatisfactory showing in the writing competition stop you? Plan B is right here in front of you, jumping up and down and waving.

9. If you have the time to do a journal, you have the time to write on. I won't lie: it takes a ton of time to write on. My own write-on campaign required nearly a hundred hours of research, three stages of proposals at two drafts apiece, and four drafts of the actual comment (which wound up being 48 pages long) before I was accepted for membership. But this is work you'd be doing anyway as a journal staffer, and once you write on, it's not as though you
need to repeat it.

8. Editorial positions are frequently open to write-on staffers. If your goal is to gain editorial experience, or even just the prestige of a board position (and let's be honest, the credential value of such things is a nontrivial motivator), chances are you can reach it just as well as a write-on staffer as you
could as a traditional one.

7. Journal work does not suck. It can be tedious, it can be boring, it can seem like a low payoff for a big investment. But so can any other aspect of law school. If law school holds your interest, a journal probably will too. Even the dullest citecheck will usually lead to you learning something you hadn't previously known. And most of the staff workload is easier than writing on in the first place, so you'll have already done the hard part.

6. Journals can be social hubs. Especially if you're in a large law school, joining a journal (whether Law Review or a topic-focused journal) can hook you in to a circle of people who share many of your interests and are happy to discuss them at the journal-funded happy hours.

5. The experience matters. A previous symposium participant commented that the time you spend on your journal could be better spent networking and career-prospecting. This is not entirely true. You should definitely network and pursue all the connections you can offline, but journal experience will make the networking that much easier. It's solid evidence of your capabilities, something that any potential employer evaluating you will appreciate.

4. You'd like to be published. A published comment is a staple for future professors, valuable if you're applying for clerkships, and a positive feature on any other resume. Your note topic will be a good icebreaker in any interview, particularly if you've written on something related to your practice interests (but even if you just share a laugh over how obscure it was).

3. You'll gain entry into another alumni network. The journal itself is good for networking: people who have worked on it before will appreciate your connection to it, and your journalmates of today will be your own insta-network after graduation. Don't worry about not having made it on the "usual way" impacting your role on the journal: once you're on, there's no distinction made between traditional and write-on staff.

2. The people who will be your colleagues. Topical journals may attract some of the most committed activists you'll ever meet. Your fellow Law Review staffers may include some future Supreme Court clerks among their number. Yes, you may meet and befriend these folks anyway outside the journal. But having the journal in common creates another bond whose value stays firm over time.

1. You don't get a do-over in law school. Much of the non-journal activity on which you could spend your time in school will still be an option once you graduate. But this is your one shot to write onto a journal, an experience you'll keep for the rest of your life. If you don't want this, if you wouldn't enjoy it, then it could well be worth skipping. But if this is really something you want to
try, now is the time to do it. Don't miss out on it just because the writing competition didn't work out the way you'd hoped. With enough focus and determination, there's always a way up the mountain.

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Fleischer: Five Plusses of Law Review

(Victor Fleischer is an Acting Professor at UCLA School of Law. He has working papers and a blog.)

I was on the law review at Columbia back in the mid-'90s. A few things I'd add to the debate:

1. It will make you a better writer. Yes, the work is dreary. But it will make you a better editor, at least if you take the work seriously. Line editing is an important skill even if you don't plan to clerk or become a lawprof.

2. It will make you a better student. I learned a ton from my colleagues on law review. Just from chatting about class or how silly an article we were working on was, or whatever. Maybe not more than I learned from my profs, but close. Plus you'll get good advice about what certain professors are looking for on exams and that sort of thing.

3. It will make it easier for you to switch jobs down the road. There are good networking effects from law review. If you ever want to teach, clerk, or even just lateral from an okay law firm to an elite law firm, you're more likely to have a contact if you're on the review.

4. You'll have fun, once in a while. I made a lot of friends from law review that I wouldn't have made otherwise. Law schools tend to be clique-ish, and once you've made your circle of friends it's easy to stick with it. Law review will force you to get to know the nerds and gunners you've been avoiding in the hallway. Some of them aren't so bad.

5. Youíll get preferential treatment from some lawprofs. It's crass to say, but at most schools (less so at UCLA, for institution-specific reasons) lawprofs are aware of who is on law review and are more likely to elicit their thoughts in class, hire them as RAs, recommend them for jobs, and so on.

So, yeah, the Bluebooking stuff sucks. I used to gaze longingly at the B-school happy hours as I trudged across campus to find a pin cite for some irrelevant, unnecessary citation in the Journal of Financial Whatever at 7 pm on a Wednesday. But there is grunt work in your future as a young lawyer, law review or no law review, and you might as well learn to enjoy it. You'll have some late nights and miss an episode of 24 or West Wing here and there, but c'mon, you'll deal.

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April 20, 2005

Day Three: Duck, Duck, Goose

Er, that is, Anonymous, Anonymous, and one friend of feathered beings. Today we have two anonymous posts, including Part III of Anonymous's running series (1 and 2) and an Anonymous even more bitter about Law Review than the first. By way of contrast, we also have Heidi Bond, an out-and-proud lover of law review.

And check out two posts about the experience of writing on to a journal after the initial competition, one from JCA and the other from Adam Wolfson.

Thanks to contributors Heidi, W&V and Prof. Hurt, and especially to Prof. Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy, for linking De Novo's symposium. We hope that prospective journal applicants are finding it informative, and that everyone else is finding it interesting, entertaining and provocative as well. Please continue to comment and e-mail!

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Anonymous: If You're Going to Join Law Review, Know What You're Getting Into (Part III of V)

Make Sure You Believe In It (What Is This All For, Anyway?)

Dear Ambitious 1L:

Having given you an extensive description of what the work was like on a law review, today I hope to be brief. Today I'd like to turn from what the work is to why it is. If you can believe in a cause to which you're committing 300+ hours, then (much like a martyrdom) the struggle will be worthwhile. If you don't, you'd better start finding some very good reasons for getting involved.

Accreditation and Employment
First and foremost, the journals are accreditation tools. For professors, they serve to accredit scholarly work, the idea being that "better" articles are accepted by "better" reviews. Prof. Gordon Smith gives a good explanation of both the system and its ethical consequences at The Conglomerate. Meanwhile, his Conglomerate co-author Christine Hurt summarizes nicely the various forms of student accreditation in an early piece in this Symposium. Having law review on your resume is a proxy for good legal writing (or at least a means to write a Note), academic achievement, and showing potential employers that you "do not view all projects through a cost-benefit lens." Professor Hurt has much more experience in such things than I do, and I'm wary of disagreeing with her as to how important such things are to employers, judges, and legal academia.

Nevertheless, while I'm not as dubious about the practical merit of this qualification as my fellow Anonymous contributor ("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"), I remain skeptical of the credential as a practical matter. Let's put it this way: if you do view all employment opportunities through a cost-benefit lense, then your law review credential is essentially lying for you, a lie you're not going to be able to maintain. If you don't, then within the first two years of your first job, you're going to be able to demonstrate that you'll go the extra mile for your firm even without law review. If you play your cards right, you're not going to need to fall back on the credential in later jobs: you'll be able to fall back on achievement. I truly hope that when I come to my second firm interview, I've got a better story to tell than law review.

But importantly, accepting Professor Hurt's thesis, look at what it says about the job: for the credential to work, it must fail--significantly fail--any rational cost-benefit analysis. Otherwise it's not sending the needed message: in Professor Hurt's terms, it doesn't show law reviewers to be "Type A." Along with the zero-cost nature of staff time, this conception of accreditation is not merely the compensation for frustration, but the source of much of it.

A law review could benefit from having -- rather than undifferentiated staff members -- a few people with some very specific skills: resource and project management skills, prior editorial experience, or whatever technical requirements the review has. But most reviews won't hire with those skills in mind: deviate from the write-on, and you're admitting to employers that you don't choose based upon the Elite.

For instance, I remember a committee discussion regarding implementing a standard technology platform across the review. Transferring half a decade of hodge-podged systems to a common platform would not only have saved time, but had the potential to save everyone hundreds of hours. (Did you know that many library databases will provide XML and web services useful on law review intranets?) Even if we hadn't worked miracles, at least we wouldn't be supporting half a dozen platforms that no one really understood anymore.

During this conversation, someone said, "Of course, the problem is that if we don't have a staff member with these skills next year, we can't do anything." To someone who'd hired staff in businesses, this question seemed nonsensical. "The odds of a 1L class not having a single PHP programmer seems remote," I said. To which he replied, "Yes, but what if he doesn't make it past the write-on?"

Hold your breath: here I started talking crazy-talk. "Well, we can just ask for resumes. We know we need someone who can keep the system running, and we just make sure we pick him or her up." From the reaction I received, you'd have thought that a cardinal just recommended elevating Dr. Ruth to the papacy.

The diminution of credential value, from letting it be known that someone was accepted for a skill beyond grades and write-on, was not worth any possible gain. Spending less time on administrivia, spending more time on adding substantial editorial value to our articles -- these needs could not stand up to the importance of making sure that the law review remained the domain of an "elite." There's some sense to this. If the credential is the driving force that allows major reviews to get students to donate time, then diluting it may not pay off. But when you're considering whether to apply, make sure this consideration is enough. In my experience, it trumps higher ideals.

Contribution to Legal Scholarship
Before you accuse me of being too cynical (I'll leave that to the other Anonymous), though a law review's pre-eminent purpose may be accreditation, that's certainly not the only one. While some are skeptical of the role of student-run journals in legal academia, don't despair of your work contributing to legal knowledge. Whatever else I'd say about my time this year, I know I was working with fellow students, and across a community extending across law schools and even academia generally, to expand scholarship in a meaningful way. That counts for something.

There are voices--very prominent ones--who would disagree. I've already mentioned Judge Posner's famous complaint regarding student-edited reviews. His criticism was picked up by others, including Professor Brian Leiter of the University of Texas Law School, who was even more strident in his attack. ("In fact, as everyone knows, the majority of the articles that the Yale Law Journal and Harvard Law Review publish in a given year are intellectually worthless.") According to this school of thought, law reviews aren't staffed by seasoned professional editors or those with "pertinent disciplinary expertise," a lack that results in weak scholarship faddish or trend-oriented subjects, published in (to again quote Prof. Althouse) "[u]npublishable, unreadable books."

These criticisms overstate the case by quite a bit. First of all, the archetypal inexperienced student editor in her mid-20's is no longer a valid stereotype. Not all, or even most, editors of student-run law reviews are academically naive, and often bring to the table skills and experience that improve a piece in the way that few traditionally academic editors can. Just because student editors aren't hired with these skills in mind doesn't mean they don't end up on staff.

One can also say that the inexperience of law students help reviews cater for a dual audience: academics and practitioners. In my research work before law school, I was often stunned by how much a scholarly journal would play "inside baseball": if you were not already an academic expert in the field, articles might very well be impenetrable. Legal scholarship in student reviews, by contrast, tends to be accessible to those who might need a quick introduction to an area outside their field, a key argument for an issue before them, and maybe an attempt to counter the most immediate objections. At least in theory, that's useful to practitioners who don't have time to access an entire library.

But let's assume that you are the stereotype of the early-twenties editor with no experience but an undergraduate degree: your effort isn't for nothing. By participating in this system, you help the 'let a thousand flowers bloom' nature of our discipline that ensures that a large number of scholars can get their work before an audience. Professor Leiter complains that "student-edited law reviews have been crucial for many of the most intellectually insubstantial developments in 'legal scholarship' over the past thirty years," but in contrast, legal scholarship hasn't been stifled by entrenched cliques of established professors. Even assuming that much of the Yale Law Journal is worthless--and I certainly wouldn't say that, having relied on that source among others in my Note--we are in no danger of silence nor lack of argument.

Finally, let me assure you that even the lowest-level staff work, the truly annoying stuff has some purpose. While footnotes grow like weeds in a law review, with some becoming long enough to be mini-essays in themselves, any blogger feels an immediate twinge of recognition when she first starts researching on Lexis or Westlaw. These digressions filled with redundant citations? Footnote after footnote of "see also" and "but see"? These are hyperlinks. And just as hyperlinks are the lifeblood of a blog, they're an important part of scholarship, showing how this flower fits into the rest of the bouquet of related work.

Checking references like this (illustrating how links can seem irrelevant until you add a contextual parenthetical)* may be tedious drudgework. So is checking hyperlinks on a website. Nevertheless, it's a valuable editorial function ensuring that your readers--who may be using this article years down the line--can rely upon the work as a research tool. That may not be much, but it's nothing to scoff at either.

Before applying for a law review, I'd recommend that you read Posner and Leiter's points, but read them critically. There's a lot to be said for the scholarly experience you'll receive and what you'll learn, even if the price is hours in the library. Of course, if this were the main purpose of a law review, life would be better: the Bluebook would be set up to deal with the reality of electronic sources**, law reviews would choose staff on the basis of skills that could reduce the workload for everyone, and some of Posner and Leiter's concerns could be addressed more directly. But so long as you can tolerate the fact that credentials come first--and especially if you enjoy the idea of being able to say you grabbed that brass ring--the contribution to academia might be enough to drive you forward.

Next: Tallying Up the Costs and Benefits

*That's bluebooking humor for you. One dubious benefit of the experience is that you'll understand a whole new realm of tedious in-jokes.

**For instance, why not have a Bluebook standard for electronically-publishing your article and providing metadata that could be used to by others to create aggregate indexes? Or allow third-party software to use such index to create (and automatically check) citations? We could save ourselves a lot of time in the coming years.

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Bond: Your Mileage May Vary

(Heidi Bond writes Letters of Marque at the University of Michigan.)

Let's start with a caveat. I'm the still-chirpy Executive Articles Editor of the Michigan Law Review. I like this stuff; I liked Bluebooking; I liked writing my Note; I like reading articles and arguing about them and figuring out how to make Law Review work. Our previous Editorial Board, Volume 103, was a fantastic group of individuals. I respect, admire, and appreciate everything they did to make my Law Review experience fulfulling (more on this later).

That being said, you should know what you're getting into.

Citechecking: A bad reason to join Law Review

Most people do Law Review for the wrong reasons. Or, I should say, the wrong reason. That reason is, almost inevitably, the resume line. And let's face it -- the resume line is nontrivial. At a lower-ranked school, the resume line might be what gets you a firm job. At a higher-ranked school, the resume line will, all else being equal, leverage you into a more prestigious clerkship (but see here for an explanation of why being on Law Review will make things unequal).

I think that Law Review -- as an institution -- is one of the greatest travesties of legal academics. As 2Ls, we are picking scholarship to go into the top journals of academics. Some institutions rely on our decisions, to some extent, to make tenure decisions. This is horrific. And, if you think about it, it's kind of an outrage to take the brightest 2Ls in a school (if that's really what we are, which I
don't insist on) and stick them in the library checking commas. For many many hours. On end. Without pay.

That being said, while it's absolutely ridiculous to give 2Ls the job of choosing legal scholarship, if some 2Ls are going to do it, I wanted to be one of them.

And that, I think, is the reason to want to be on Law Review. Nobody really wants to citecheck. And it's really ridiculous to say, "Here you are, new Law Review members, you were all the cream of our writing competition crop. Now you will spend the rest of the semester doing what a retarded monkey can do." Citechecking is the application of time and red pencil to a manuscript. There's no magic there.

So if you say, "Gee, I want to be on Law Review because I want to citecheck," then check yourself into a mental institution, not Law Review.

The Resume Line: A Second Bad Reason?

During my interviews with firms, I basically got the impression that they wouldn't have cared if I was on Law Review. Your mileage may vary at lower-ranked schools. At Michigan, grades mattered, and that was basically that. Law Review was of less interest to potential employers than the fact that I could fold an origami stegosaurus. They just wanted things to talk about, and if you gave it to them without making them feel uncomfortable they liked you and they gave you an offer and that was that.

I have no knowledge of clerkships, and no real way to test the hypothesis. Because our Law Review procedure selects, in minor part, for grades and writing ability, and because clerkships also select, in maybe less minor part, for grades and writing ability, it's hard to know whether the resume line made a difference, or the substantive qualities that got you on Law Review in the first place make a difference. Certainly there are judges that say "Law Review required" on their list of criteria here. So it seems likely that it would help with clerkships. But as has been pointed out previously in this symposium, it's not altogether unlikely that you could be a stronger applicant without the Law Review time commitment. Heck, I'd be willing to bet that I could have gotten a better grade in one of my classes last semester without Law Review's interference.

One Good Reason: Editorial Board

I mentioned earlier how horrific it is that we, second year law students, are evaluating legal scholarship. That being said, if some second year law students are going to do this, I want to be one of them. In the last two months, I have seen a dizzying amount of legal scholarship. I've read papers that have fleshed out a seminar paper; I've read papers that made me think about things I had never thought before. And I've been forced to talk about them with fellow students, formulate opinions, argue back and forth, and figure out what makes a good article, what makes a good volume (it's not the same thing as a collection of good articles), and where we think that legal scholarship and the Michigan Law Review will go.

It's a really fascinating job, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences in what has been, for me, an extraordinarily rewarding law school career.

As far as I can see it, the deal we make with the devil is that we get extraordinary responsibility -- the responsibility of evaluating legal scholarship -- in exchange for dealing with the bother of cite-checking. One excellent reason to do Law Review, in my mind, is to get into the substantive Ed Board positions.

Another Good Reason: Writing a Note

The other thing you get to do -- ahem, have to do -- when you're on Law Review, is write a student Note. As far as I can tell, writing a student note is either one of two things:

  • Hell
  • Incredibly Rewarding

Sometimes, it is both. If you want to be an academic, writing a Note -- and publishing it in a journal that gives you street cred -- goes a long way. If you want a clerkship, publishing a Note will matter. Writing a Note also prepares you to do other things -- like write seminar papers -- in a much more organized fashion.

You do not need to be on Law Review to write a Note. However, the people I know who have a chance at publication while in Law School have all been on journals with strict Note requirements, or have had external deadlines set (e.g., they're writing on to Law Review).

And people who intended to write Notes, and didn't apply to Law Review so that they'd have more time to write a Note? Yep; they played more videogames instead. If you're a self-motivated person, who doesn't need external deadlines, you probably don't need to be on Law Review. If you're not, make the push.

One Final Reason: Something I didn't Consider

When I started Law Review, I thought I wanted to be on Ed Board and write a Note. Law Review has really helped me in one last way: friends. Believe it or not, my taskmasters on the previous Ed Board turned into friends. Those friends are a year ahead of me; they have navigated the clerkship process, and have been willing to talk to me about their experiences for hours at end.

Sometimes, law school is short on mentorship, and long on isolation. Law Review reversed that process for me. I mentioned earlier that the Volume 103 board was an amazing group of people; I meant it. They made my life so much easier by answering specific questions when career services wouldn't. I didn't even realize I needed advice and help from people in the class above me. Now that I have it, I can't imagine what I'd be thinking without it.

In sum, there is no magic in Law Review. There is only hard work. But that hard work can be very, very rewarding, particularly if the people you are working with are reasonable, hard-working, engaging, intelligent people. Law Review's been good to me, and I wouldn't trade it for any other experience in law school.

Your mileage may vary.

(See also Heidi's advice on how to apply to law review.)

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Wolfson: Second Chance

(Michigan Law student Adam Wolfson blogs at Don't Know It from Adam.)

In all of these articles about the utility and process of getting on Law Review, the perspective has rightfully been from the position of those who were successful in their respective LR application procedures. For those out there who have yet to participate in such a competition, it may seem that this is the perspective of the lucky few. In part, that probably skews the perspectives a bit, but I also don't think it's entirely luck that gets you on to Law Review. The write-on process usually rewards those who really put in the effort to both write a coherent piece and citecheck it to death. Same goes for editing exercises and grading on.

But what about those who don't make in onto the Review in such a way? Is there possibility for Law Review life after rejection?

At some schools, the answer is yes. And, here at Michigan, that is definitely the
case with me.

When I first found out that Law Review had given out its acceptances this past
summer, I was understandably frustrated because I didn't get the call. I wrote my application like everyone else and felt it was pretty good, but I still didn't get the good word from those LR Editors. A few days later, in a conversation with a friend who was on Ed Board, I was informed that there was still a way to apply. If I could complete a publishable-quality Note by the end of the year, then the MLR would accept me as an Associate Editor for the next Volume. After thinking it over for a day, I decided I would like to attempt this "second chance" write-on, and I got underway almost immediately.

I think the question for people who are put in my position is whether it is even worth it to attempt this write-on. After all, if you look at the rest of the articles in this Symposium, there are marked advantages and disadvantages to being on Law Review. Whereas the LR definitely helps in clerkships applications and the possibility of future academic employment, if you have no interest in such things, don't want to publish, and/or already found a job through on campus interviews or your own efforts, then writing on may just be an exercise in masochistic punishment.

For me, it was all about the clerkship. It was worth it to me to undertake the Note-writing process because I knew having Law Review on my resume would be an aid when current clerks were sifting through applications come September. Now that I've made it, I'm also excited to be involved in the publishing process, but I'd be lying if I cited any other motivation for the past 8 months of writes and rewrites. Who knows what motivates others, but I'd be willing to bet that over 90% of second chance writers have a similar goal in mind.

So, how does one go about writing on? First, I think it's all about staying on track and having the right attitude. You've got to remember that the Ed Board intentionally makes writing on a difficult process. If it was easy, everyone would avoid the competition at the end 1L year and just write a Note during their second year. Knowing this, you should act accordingly. Pay attention to deadlines and really make the effort to get more than the minimum done by every due date. If they want a list of research by October 1st, get them a list of research and your outline. If they want the first third of the piece done by February 1st, have a rough draft of the entire Note finished by then.

The beauty of the write-on process is that it goes on for so long. Writing a 30-45
page, double-spaced Note (with copious footnotes filling up many of those pages) should be a tough but manageable task for any law student who has the drive to finish it. Putting in the extra work early to get ahead of the game pays dividends in the end.

The second major piece of advice I can give is to let your Editor know that you are eager to put in the effort. While this could quickly cross over into pandering, a certain amount of enthusiasm lets them know you are serious abut completing the write-on process. Since Law Review is all about legal scholarship (some of the posts in this Symposium are a little more cynical on this subject than I), showing that you are excited about contributing your own piece of legal scholarship goes a long way in providing incentives for your Editor to give you back timely edits and to really put in the extra effort to help. In other words, don't kiss up, but be enthusiastic. It's a nice chance you're being offered. If you are really serious about getting onto LR and let it be known from the start, it will be a positive experience for both you and the Review.

Third, make sure you're writing on for the right reasons. Heidi has a good post on this subject, and I encourage you to read it. If you're applying to Law Review through the second chance option just because you want prestige on your resume, then it's going to be a long couple of months, and I'd hazard a guess that the Note will be more of a nuisance than a source of pride. What kept me going on my own Note-writing process was that (i) I really enjoyed writing it, and (ii) I knew the end goal justified any tough times I had with writing/researching/etc.

Fourth, buy a copy of Eugene Volokh's Academic Legal Writing. I can't stress enough how valuable this little tome was to my Note. Volokh does a great job of breaking down how law articles are supposed to work, offering ideas on how to get a Note topic, and providing clear advice on how to write a forceful legal piece. It's not too expensive and will really help you figure out exactly where you want to go with your Note. Also, it's an entertaining read.

In the end, not many people decide to write on. Whether it's because the perceived value of Law Review passes with the end of job interviews, or the task of writing a Note seems too daunting, many understandably decide not to pursue the second chance option. I write this post to let you know that it can be done, even if it seems an uphill battle. Write-ons must prove themselves, and that can be an exhausting effort after a couple of months. But, if Law Review is worth it to you, I can't recommend writing on highly enough. I was accepted just last Friday, and my Note is now on the fast track to an October or November publication. While a certain amount of pride is involved, it's more just a nice validation of a lot of hard work.

If your school has a second chance option, I say go for it. Just remember it's not easy and that you shouldn't expect it to be so.

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JCA: Of Marathons and Mandalas

(JCA transferred to a top ten law school in the Midwest and blogs at Sua Sponte.)

Late in my 2L year (or was it early in my 3L year? Time flies when you're hosed to the point of oblivion), I sat down with a trusted faculty advisor and talked about setting my priorities for the remainder of law school. She recommended I focus on our intramural moot court competition, which she'd particularly enjoyed while a student at this school. I knew I was interested in moot court after a wonderful 1L experience. But at the same time, I hadn't yet had the experience of being on a journal. I wanted to try my hand at the moot court competition, yes, but I also wanted to take a crack at writing on to law review.

"Why?" she asked me frankly.

I was in a somewhat unusual position: I was a transfer student. I'd made law review as a 1L, but left that school before I had a chance to pick up my official bluebook. Part of the reason why I wanted to be on law review was because it felt like something I left behind, something I wanted to regain. But even if I hadn't made it at my old school, I still would have wanted to try for it after transferring. Just to have tried.

My faculty advisor frowned. "Because it's there is a good reason to climb mountains," she warned me, "not to do law review."

Fast forward several months. I did write on to law review, after all. (Moot court was less of a success, but that's a topic for another symposium.) And in retrospect I'd have to say that as much as I love my faculty advisor, I'm going to have to disagree with her on this one. Because it's there is perhaps the best reason to do law review.

Supposedly there are all sorts of benefits to be gained from the experience of doing editorial busywork or wringing a publishable comment out of your otherwise copious free time. I'd freelanced and owned my own business before law school, though, so the benefits of learning to write against a schedule and edit against a standard and otherwise multitask were somewhat redundant for me. Likewise, since I didn't succeed in my write-on until after I'd already resolved both the search for a law firm job and the clerkship crapshoot, the credential value of my staff position was already heavily amortized by the time I earned it.

Let's take a step back for a second. I know we're all supposed to be risk-averse utilitarians in law school, expecting a profitable return on all of our investments. But if there's one thing we've all learned (directly or indirectly) since coming to law school, it's that risk and reward are not invariably proportional. Nor do they need to be for us to achieve happiness, pace welfare-maximizing theories. Even in our extracurricular lives, we regularly preach the value of playing the game over the incremental boon of winning it.

I'm greatly inspired by the Tibetan monks who spend days and days sifting colored sand through their fingers into the intricate patterns called mandalas. These are admired as much for their transience as for their beauty; indeed, the same monks who made the mandala are the ones who pick up the brooms and sweep it away, once its ceremonial purpose is exhausted and the ritual is complete.

Long-distance runners do this too: they'll train exhaustively and push themselves to their physical limits to finish that marathon. They're not doing it because they care so much about the little medal that everyone gets at the end. They're doing it because exploring their limits teaches them something about themselves. Because seeing just how far you can go can be a euphoric experience, especially when that turns out to be further than you'd imagined.

Law review is not athletic. It's not necessarily artistic. But a seemingly unending late-night citecheck or note revision when you're exhausted and behind in your reading can feel a lot like a distance run, and the intricate and implacable fussiness of citation formats has a lot in common with the monastic sand-sifting that leads to something just as beautiful and ultimately insignificant. Sure, there
are other things you could be doing with your time. Sure, there are mercenary reasons to spend it doing this instead. But this is law school taken to its extreme, the purest taste of the craziest work we do. And it's definitely a part of the experience that's worth trying, just because it's there.

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April 19, 2005

Law Review ≤ Bullshit

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.

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Today / 04.20.05

420 -- Unofficial day to smoke marijuana, made so by (take your pick) Albert Hofmann, H. P. Lovecraft, and/ or a group of California teenagers.

Also, happy 85th birthday to Justice John Paul Stevens, who in December will be celebrating his 30th year on the Court. May he have many more. At least four.

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Day Two: Texas Tuesday

Today we have two entries from University of Texas School of Law. Marquette Professor Christine Hurt discusses the benefits of joining a journal, particularly its signalling effect to employers. The Captain of the Flagship Lollipop, Wings & Vodka, lists the little-known perks of being Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Law Review, while keeping it real about what keeps him red-pencilling.

And although with absolutely no hook to the 'Horns, today also has the next entry in Anonymous's series (part 1 here) on what every 1L should know before joining Law Review.

We welcome readers' comments and e-mails regarding these posts; please let us know what you think of the advice and other remarks offered.

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2BEIC or Not 2BEIC: That Is a Lame Title

(Mike Laussade (a.k.a. BuffaloWings&Vodka) is the incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Law Review. He smells nice. )

Having attained a certain level of what I hesitate to call, well, greatness, I often get asked by people, mostly girls, attractive ones, "Mike, How did you do it?" But the important question here is not how, but why. And to that, I say the following:

Look -- I'm not in this for the perks. Yes, I have my own office. And it has its own refrigerator, big screen TV, and massage chair. And it comes with a personal attendant, an English fellow named Gareth, who has worked for my law review for thirty-three years and has spent every one of those years in the service of the EIC, acting as a concierge/ butler/ bodyguard.

And, yes, I have an expense account, good up to $50,000 that allows me to order in for most of my lunches, buy clothes for what has become, without a doubt, the hippest wardrobe in the law school, get any electronic gadget that happens to catch my eye (ex: four different iPods -- one for pop, one for metal, one for reggae, and one for Books on Tape... God, how I love Sue Grafton), and entertain guests in some of the nicest clubs and restaurants in town.

And, yes, I have a monthly use-it-or-lose-it travel stipend that sends me Cozumel or Cyprus or Aspen at least once every two weeks. But I'm not in this for the perks.

Nor is it just about my career. Fine, so I get three e-mails a day from firms wanting to know if I could spend just a week with them this summer so that they might be able to say that they had me as an employee. Fine, so I had to buy a new phone line just to handle all of the preemptive offers from federal judges trying to get me to accept a clerkship with them before the recruiting season starts. Fine, so Iím getting pressure from the administration to drop one of my fall classes so that I can teach a seminar on a topic of my choosing (FYI: Currently torn between "The Nineteenth Amendment: WTF?" and "Advanced Topics in Personal Injury: Making Your TV Ad Work for You"). And, fine, so Iíve been admitted to the super-secret Id Society, whose members include half of the federal judiciary, three-fourths of the 100 most cited American law professors, and five-sixths of the cast of Friends. But this isn't about my career.

This is about the law. This is about the articles, about the editing, about the search for truth. I stay in the office until 9:00 every night because I enjoy nothing more than seeking out improperly italicized spaces and numbers that are in small caps. I stay here because I like putting red pencil all over the work of professors who gave me crappy exam grades. I stay here because, in a legal world short on right answers, I take comfort in the absolute correctness of an accurate quote or a well-formatted journal cite.

This job isn't for everybody. But it's the only job for me. Think twice about applying for your journal's editorial board. But do think about it.

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Hurt: Answering the Questions

(Christine Hurt is an Assistant Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School and a member of The Conglomerate.)

This recurring question of whether first-year law students should apply to be a member of a law review has three dimensions: (1) What are the tangible benefits of being on any law review; (2) what are the intangible benefits of being on any law review and (3) What are the benefits of being on the main law review as opposed to a specialty law journal.

(1) From reading law students posts on this topic, I sense that law students try to view law review membership through a cost-benefit lens. Will the amount of hours that I put into this project yield a proportionate benefit, namely getting a better legal job or a judicial clerkship? I do not have a good answer for that.

I know from participating in law school hiring at a large law firm that law review is generally seen as a proxy for grades or at least intellectual achievement. If you are in the top 10% of your class, then you can play basketball all day long if you want to and still get a law firm job. If you are not in the top 10% of your class, then membership on a law review signals to employers that you can write well and think well. So, if you want to get a law firm job, law review will give your grades a boost, but it generally is a neutral item if your grades are stellar.

However, law review membership is important for other types of law jobs, namely judicial clerkships and law teaching jobs. First, you will have a great writing sample if you take your note seriously that a judge will like to see. No other document you create in law school will be as scholarly, as thoroughly researched, and as polished. Secondly, law review membership will signal to these groups that you are an intellectual, that you enjoy writing, and that you are able to analyze issues on a policy level. I do think that law teaching candidates who did not show some interest during law school in scholarly writing have a hard time convincing employers years later that they developed that intellectual curiosity in practice.

Lastly, law review membership has symbolic meaning to all future employers. From a large law firm to an appellate court judge to a law school appointments committee, prospective employers want to hire people who do not view all projects through a cost-benefit lens. Employees who try to discern whether putting in extra time on this brief is merited given their flat salary are not stellar employees. In the law teaching realm, professors who realize that they will get paid virtually the same whether they invest 10 hours a week prepping their classes or 100 are not going to be the best professors. In addition, writing scholarly articles usually does not pass the cost-benefit test either, especially after a professor is tenured.

Employers like to see individuals who invest themselves in projects because they enjoy the work and strive to do well. This quality also prompts employers to ask if you had an editorial position. Employers don't truly believe that being an Articles Editor gives you a leg up in the practice of law; they want to know if you are the kind of person that likes to climb ladders that are put in front of them. For good or ill, employers look for Type A qualities.

(2) As to the intangible benefits of being on any law review, I can say that I learned more being an editor on the Texas Journal of Women and the Law than I learned in any law school class. I learned a lot about the law, about argumentation, about legal analysis, and about writing. If you do want to go into law teaching some day, then law journal work can be helpful. You will meet law professors from other schools, host symposia, and read the works of the leading law professors of the day. You will also learn to write well, which is a skill that is difficult to acquire in law school classes.

(3) Obviously, only membership on law reviews that are perceived to select students with good grades can work as a proxy for good grades. However, if you have good grades, then you may be able to choose the law journal that most interests you. The intangible benefits will be equivalent at any law journal. However, I would choose one that is sufficiently well-established to have good papers to edit and publish. Some specialty journals don't publish that often and scramble for good papers, so you will get less experience. I chose after my first year of law school not to do the write-on at Texas, which was mandatory even for students in the top 10%, but instead to hold an editorial position as a second-year student on the law journal that ten or so other women and I had started during our first year (Texas Journal of Women and the Law). I remember a fellow student tell me that this decision would "ruin my life."

I am happy to say that it did not, although I have probably had to answer the "why weren't you on TLR" question way too many times.

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Anonymous: If You're Going to Join Law Review, Know What You're Getting Into (Part II of V)

Know What You're In For (A discussion of law review production processes)

Dear Ambitious 1L:

You'll notice that today's post is rather long. The good news is, if you already know how your law review works at an operational level (or you're a 2L reading for enjoyment) you can probably skip it. But if you're anything like I was last year, you have no idea what you're signing up for, what you learn from it, and where you would fit in to this complex realm of 'legal scholarship.'

The short answer is, I can't answer that on my own. Nor can any single contributor here, though you'll get a good idea of the options from all of us together. While there's some similarities in practice between various reviews, each is going to be subtly different in structure. I'm going to cover the bare basics of my experience of what a staff member does, and then describe two possible systems of managing the work. But what I have here is far from exhaustive, and I hope that other readers who've been through this process will add their own experiences in comments.

I'm also going to concentrate on the first year of staff work, for two reasons. First of all, it's based on what I've experienced. But more importantly, not everyone who writes onto law review will become a member of the editorial board (and some don't want to) while everyone who joins will go through this process.

What You Do
To my knowledge, there are two work processes that are relatively uniform across every review: substantive citation checking ("subbing") and bluebooking. In reality, you'll usually do both things at the same time, but they're actually very different skills.

Substantive citation checking is, when you come down to it, ensuring the integrity of the article. Most law review articles consist of a forest of footnotes under a vast canopy of summaries of prior research, detailed explanation of theory, and usually an argument. Altogether these result in what Ann Althouse describes as unpublishable, unreadable books. The flourishing of footnotes in turn derives from the law review's insistence: Judge Posner complains in his famous Legal Affairs article that "On the side of substance, [law review editors'] especial preoccupation is with trying to maximize the number of footnotes, citations, and cross-references in order to create the impression that everything in the article is proven fact."

In any event, substantive citation checking boils down to ferreting out all the sources cited in those footnotes and making sure that they say what the author says and that they actually support his point. In some cases, materials will be available without you leaving your desk, through services like JStor or HeinOnline. Sometimes this is easy: the author has given you the correct citation information, appropriately cited to a particular page, and the piece is available and searchable online. Other times it's a real pain: if the author cites to an obscure passage of Anna Karenina but doesn't give you a page number, guess who's probably going to find it?

It sounds dull, and it often is, but in an "eat your vegetables" way. After a year of doing this, you'll have no problem with electronic research, you'll know the library the way you know your closet now, and in one form or another you'll have been exposed to some major (and a lot of trivial) works of scholarship. Nothing else I've done in law school has required this consistent use of the library, nor done more to help me understand how legal academic research functions.

The downside is that it's time-consuming and none too enlightening. You'll have access to all these materials, but very rarely will you be reading large excerpts. For the most part, you just need to check that a citation to Source A says Proposition X in support of Comment Y. Depending on the structure in which you end up subbing, there can be very little intellectual content.

The other skill demanded of a law review staff member is bluebooking. If you've made it to the point that you're considering law review, you know what bluebooking is. And if you start working on a law review, you're going to learn a lot more. Again, the process of bluebooking itself can teach you a lot: attention to detail; dealing with complex, frequently non-intuitive and often contradictory rule sets; and if nothing else, patience. Further, your work will be scrutinized by those in the year above you, so in many reviews you'll get frequent feedback of a sort rare in law school. Especially if you screw up.

The downside? It's bluebooking. Again, if you've read this far, no explanation is necessary.

Of course you'll do other things as a staff member, but I'd be surprised if the bulk of your time isn't spent on some combination of these tasks. If I left something out, I hope other staffers will leave word in the comments.

How It's Done
There's one other dimension to the production process that may dramatically affect your experience as a 2L staff member: organization.

My review utilized a very Taylorist organizational scheme. Every article was split into dozens of pieces, and each piece was handed out to a staff member depending on who was available on any given day of the week. Each piece was estimated to be roughly equivalent in difficulty, although of course this is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy. One assignment might be nothing more than twenty pages of ids requiring only one or two sources; the next day, the same staffer might be checking in the microfiche collection of a far-flung library. As a process, this focuses most of the staff work on what's happening in the article "below the line." You're not looking at a big piece of the article, and you probably won't until very late in the process.

Like most Taylorist systems, it's relatively efficient and fairly flexible. Because only editors are attached to a particular article, the availability of any junior staff member doesn't impact production deadlines or produce bottlenecks. Junior staff members, in turn, can be asked to sign up for a given number of days, but they have more choice in which days they work.

But as a junior staff member, you have--and unless you're very enthusiastic, you feel--no ownership over any particular piece. Bits of at least three dozen articles, notes, or essays passed over my desk last year, and I doubt I could tell you what a quarter of them were about. I read only two from beginning to end: one was relevant to my Note, and the other just annoyed me. Other than that, there was no real reason to engage with any of the pieces. Indeed, after four hours of frustrated editing, one becomes sorely tempted to read anything else. At least until your third year, think "cog in the machine."

The alternative is something I can only speak of at second-hand. (If anyone has good stories about their own experiences, please leave a comment.) My impression is that a smaller number of reviews employ project teams on each article, and that staff members work in more detail on a smaller number of articles. I can see how this would be less flexible, and thus threatening to deadlines. Further, I suspect team members might get frustrated by being stuck with a difficult article, or just a piece they don't like. That said, at least when that piece is printed, it's easier to point to something and say "I was part of that."

Again, however, this is only my impression of the grass on the other side of the fence. In any event, before you apply for law review, ask a current staff member how your process works. It may sway your decision.

Two Years and Out
Finally, one production truth that would seem universal to any major law review: we have very short institutional memories. Some reviews have full-time employees who will remember how things were done since time immemorial, but otherwise no one working on the review has any more than two years of experience. Furthermore, many of your "bosses" may be entering their first real management role.

I say this because if you've come from a business background before law school, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Remember what I said about staff time being zero-cost? Cost is what induces profit-driven organizations to improve their work-processes, and at least in my experience, the law review process isn't very efficient at all. Staff morale is the only real organizational constraint on the editorial board's demands on your time. Frequently you'll find that a single process change could save twenty or thirty hours of work distributed among ten or more workers. Don't expect it to happen: saving fifty people twenty minutes isn't a real victory in the law review paradigm, even if you'll do the same process once a week for the rest of the year. You're not managing funds at Citibank or overseeing distribution at WalMart, and if Stanford does it better Harvard isn't going out of business.

The cynical view would be to say that once one group has gotten through the hazing process that is 2L year, there's little incentive to get rid of the rites of passage for the next bunch. My guess, however, is that it's more about risks and rewards: without cost, there's no upside to unsettling current processes, nor any incentive to go through the pains involved in change.

I hope this gives you a little guidance on what to expect from work if you succeed in your write-on. There's joys and frustrations to the work, and in many ways it's good experience. I'm well over any sensible word limit, though, so I'll leave until tomorrow a discussion of the what all this work comes down to in the end.

Tomorrow: Make Sure You Believe In It

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April 18, 2005

I'm Sure You've Heard By Now

... about the NYU 2L whom reportedly asked Justice Scalia whether he sodomizes his wife." So ran the text of an e-mail, with an explanatory link, that I got from a Georgetown Law friend Thursday night. At that time I hadn't heard, actually, but I certainly have in the last several days, and at this point commentary seems extremely belated. The practical usefulness of Eric Berndt's action was addressed by his schoolmate Law Lush:

My opinion on the stunt: lame. I know many people who will defend it and that's understandable. I personally didn't think it was warranted here. Whose mind are you going to change? Scalia's? He already thinks law schools are full of elitist know-nothing liberals frothing at the mouth to sign onto the "homosexual agenda." The people in the room? 99.9% of them already agree with you.

A couple of misconceptions have appeared in people's posts and comments. The first, that Scalia himself necessarily supported the sodomy prohibition because he believed it to be constitutionally permissible, is one most law students understand to be incorrect. Scalia voted to rule Texas's flag-desecration prohibition to be unconstitutional, while wishing the flag-burners could be punished; this is a man who can distinguish between his personal preferences and what he thinks the Constitution says.

Second, Scalia's First Amendment also is broad enough to cover the impropriety of federal marshals' mistreatment of journalists covering Scalia himself, so don't blame that incident on the justice.

Still, there may be a point to the question: if Scalia was sodomizing his wife (or she him) before the Lawrence v. Texas decision declared sodomy bans to be unconstitutional, then he must feel that it's permissible to break the law. The Scalias live in McLean, VA. And if he thinks Virginiaís statute prohibiting both same-sex and opposite-sex sodomy is OK to break, why does he think that? does he think that there is something the state shouldn't be regulating, even though the Constitutional text doesn't forbid them from doing so?

The offending students's letter to his classmates has an interesting argument, and I agree with the point that people who believe others' sexual lives should be subject to the police power have little room to be upset when their own sex lives are put into public discussion.

Will Baude's claim that the rules of etiquette ought to be more stringent than the government's power over its citizens strikes me as a slightly odd one for a libertarian. Will could argue that we have a general etiquette rule against asking people about their income, while the government routinely does so for tax purposes. The distinction I see is that the government doesn't publish the tax information of private citizens, while it does put its accusations of sodomy into the public record. Some information ought not be communal property, and generally that's the kind of information we consider rude to inquire about. Obviously people may volunteer it; if Monica Lewinsky hadn't, and Linda Tripp hadn't passed it on, there would have been no Clinton impeachment. But even then Republicans kept saying that it wasn't about the sex, it was about the lies, because they understood that most voters found the inquiry idiotic.

I've never heard someone scream "Bad manners!" for forcing sex offenders to disclose their status, and even before Megan's law, we were not troubled by job applications that asked whether someone had been a pedophile, rapist or exhibitionist. In contrast, I think many of us would be annoyed if an employer had inquired about our consensual sexual practices pre-Lawrence. But why should we be, when we were commiting a crime under the laws of some states? People's actions can be more reflective of their intuitions than of their legal reasoning. Scalia probably wouldn't have, say, broken Prohibition laws if he'd been a sitting Justice at the time, or violate various other restrictions on personal liberty.

None of this is to say that moral intuition should govern law, because obviously people's moral intuitions can vary widely and have discriminatory effects, and we got these prohibitions in the first place because of people's putting their sense of morality into legislation. (A law genuinely intended to address public health rather than morality would not have been written as the sodomy prohibition was, and the lack of discussion of public health in Texas's brief would have killed that rationale at the rational basis standard used by most states, though not at the hyper-deferential* one used by federal courts.)

There's no substance to a debate that pits my moral intuition, that intruding into someone's privacy is wrong absent a legitimate state interest, and another person's intuition, that it's permissible as long as there's any rational basis for it. The result is that Scalia mocks Kennedy for finding a right to privacy in the Constitution, and Eric Berndt mocks -- for that is the effect of his question, if not the intent, and perhaps the worst consequence of his action is that now we are contemplating a justice's sex life -- Scalia for failing to find such a right.

* I haven't started studying for my constitutional law final yet, but there may be a different "rational basis" for economic regulation than for other types of state regulation. See the Breyer comment linked. Also "The day is gone when this Court uses the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down state laws, regulatory of business and industrial conditions, because they may be unwise, improvident, or out of harmony with a particular school of thought." Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma. Black's law dictionary defines state police power as "The power of a state to enforce laws for the health, welfare, morals, and safety of its citizens, if enacted so that the means are reasonably calculated to protect those legitimate state interests" (emphases added).

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Day One: Alternatives to Law Review

With some law school journals' already accepting 1Ls for membership and board positions, and Review competition ready to suck up any energy remaining after exams, we felt this was a good moment to publish advice and other thoughts from people who have been there and have (or haven't) done that. The De Novo symposium on Law Review/ Journals will run this week; submissions are still welcome, especially from 1Ls who would like to post their reactions to this accumulated wisdom. Talk to us at submit-at-blogdenovo-d0t-org.

Today De Novo offers posts from two Ivy League law students, Amber Taylor and Anonymous, on what one might do other than the obvious -- i.e., joining the flagship journal of one's law school. Enjoy!

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Taylor: The Specialty Journal Experience, or "I Didnít Make Law Review: Now What?"

(Amber Taylor is a 3L Class Maledictorian at Harvard Law School.)

So you attacked the write-on competition with gusto, but somehow you weren't admitted to the elite. You're disappointed, certainly, but another option beckons. You can work on a specialty journal. There may be a few different ones; maybe you get to choose which one you want. If so, choose wisely. You'll be immersed in minutiae for the next two years, so make sure itís not a field you find terribly dull. If thereís not a specialty journal that appeals, do something else. Take clinical courses. Conduct independent research. Write the Great American Law Review Article (many journals accept submissions from recent graduates, clerks, and practitioners). If your heart's not in it, walk away.

But you don't walk away. You join a specialty journal and start working your way up the masthead. What will you encounter as an editor for a specialty journal?

First of all, you'll be working a lot less than the Law Review types. Many specialty journals publish only once per year. This means you'll probably have much more time to finish your assignments (and a more flexible schedule) than those on Law Review. This does not mean, however, that you can afford to turn in things late. We have deadlines, printing schedules, and the like too.

I've noticed that most specialty journal editors take their responsibilities far less seriously than the Law Review people take theirs. Maybe this is because LR has some form of secret discipline involving peanut butter and toothbrushes, or maybe it's because people who should have walked away did not. I hate to belabor a point that most honorable people should have internalized in grade school, but if you take on a responsibility, you must follow through. Yes, outside pressures manifest themselves -- classes, interviews -- but if you have promised to do something, you should do it, even if it's "only" journal work. Do not disappear for weeks with an article and refuse to answer your phone. Do not email the EIC and tell him you can't complete your assignment next week because you've decided to take a jaunt to another continent. (Both true stories!) Our work is important, and our success depends on your commitment.

In addition to flaky editors, you'll probably run into some flaky authors: authors who "stet" every change, authors who disappear for weeks on end at a crucial point in the editorial process, authors who clearly submitted their piece to every journal with the word "law" in the title regardless of the topic. There's nothing you can do about this. Learn to enjoy the humorous aspects of the situation. By the way, most professors to whom you make publication offers will bolt if they get a positive response from any halfway decent Law Review. This can be frustrating, but they don't want to be ghettoized in specialty journals forever. Unless your journal is the preeminent one in its field, get used to this.

You're going to get to know the Bluebook. This will serve you well in summer jobs -- you'd be surprised how many partners care about comma placement and proper abbreviations. But the Bluebook's not always clear. When in doubt, run a Westlaw search of whatever Law Review you respect and see how they resolved the ambiguity. Half the time they won't have consistent citation format either. (Feet of clay! Feet of clay!)

There's a lot of heartache involved in working on a specialty journal. It's not for everyone. But getting the chance to work with brilliant authors on great pieces of legal scholarship you care about while not spending 40 hours a week in a Law Review office can make it all worthwhile.

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Anonymous: If You're Going to Join Law Review, Know What You're Getting Into (Part I of V)

Dear Ambitious 1L:

When you're thinking of joining your law review, keep this in mind: 350 hours. That's a conservative estimate of the amount of time I spent doing work for my review, and I don't intend to work that much next year. Over anything else I say, I want you to think about that number. Law review is going to demand at least that amount of time from you.

While I'm not going to tell you who I am, it's fair to tell you this much: I've spent this year as a 2L working on one of the top ten (at least if you count the rankings of such things) law reviews in the country. As such, much of what I say will be more useful to those who are thinking of joining a similar enterprise: the "name" journal of a top-ten law school. For others, the benefits may be greater or the costs less extreme. As with any anonymous information, consider what you know of the source. Nonetheless, I hope this--and the rest of De Novo's symposium--gives you a bit more to go one as you fill out your applications, fingers shaking with hopeful trepidation.

1) Know Why You Want It
I know it seems early to think about this when you're a 1L. It's the end of your second semester, exams are looming, your university has helpfully scheduled financial aid deadlines to coincide with your study period, you're trying to prepare for your 1L summer job, and here's some know-it-all telling you to make long term plans. Again: making them now can save you 350 hours.

After I'd been accepted to law review last year, a few of my friends who hadn't made the dubious cut told me exactly how doomed they were. The doors of the academy were closed to them. The best judges would never let them clerk. At best, they might make a close-to-top law firm and spend their lives toiling in gilded cages. It was all over.

This turned out to be ludicrous, although I don't fault them for feeling that way at the time. The structure of law school, especially the almost pre-ordained path from first semester all the way through to summer interviews, beats into us an idea of the One True Path: 1L grades lead to law review, which flows to a top job, propelling the student to a good clerkship and (maybe) sitting behind a Supreme when Roe v. Sturgeon gets decided, all with the inevitable force of a waterfall. An entire school of creative individuals run in the same direction, and it's sometimes difficult to remember that there's other channels to what we want.

What happened to the friend who craved the clerkship but didn't make law review? She took all the right classes, attended just about every visiting lecture from every major judge, and spent her 350 hours earning a reputation among her professors and administrators. In short, she spent time networking and researching, and if she doesn't have that clerkship in the bag, I'll be shocked. The one who wanted to become a professor? Same thing, except a greater concentration on publishing a student note. I'll be surprised if his second work isn't published next year.

Three hundred fifty hours is an awful lot of time. If you know what you want, you can do a lot with it.

There's a lot of good things that you'll get out of law review -- and a lot of frustrations -- and I'll go into some of those in the next couple of days. The process can be a good and rewarding experience if you know what you can realistically expect to get out of it, if it matches what you want, and if you're willing to put up with the exhaustion and the sheer lack of time. Additionally, if you have no idea what you want to do after your 3L year is over, law review is a great way of keeping your options open: it's a kind of fungible brownie point towards clerkships, jobs, or a future in academia. If you have a specific goal, however, and the joys and frustrations of the process itself don't appeal to you, you should spend some time considering your other options. Find that 3L who got the clerkship and didn't spend his time slaving over drafts. Seek out the newly-published author who went around the standard "note" process. Ask them how they did it: sometimes it's worth swimming against the stream a little bit.

Tomorrow: Know What You're In For (Law Review Production Processes)

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April 17, 2005

This is the end, my only 1L year, the end

Aside from the obvious connection to Apocolypse Now, my oral arguments did not go as horribly as previously though. In fact it went quite well once I mustered enough courage to speak without a quiver in my voice. Of course the downside to being done with Oral Arguments is that you realize other aspects of one's 1L year will also soon, VERY QUICKLY, come to an end.

Remember getting your admission letter (or e-mail, or telegram, or fruit basket)? The first visit? The apartment hunting? The typical first time greeting: "Hi I'm where'd you go for undergrad? Oh cool, and what'd you major in? Oh cool." Locker assignment. Requesting your first transcript. Getting called on for the first time. The list is endless, but the time is not. And in a few weeks, but for some interviews and write-on competitions, very few things in law school will be for the first time.

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April 13, 2005

Yet Another Plea to the Blawgsphere

While the call for law review posts for the upcoming symposium is important, I can't help but feel that the selection of courses for the fall semester of my 2L year is a bit like planning out the rest of my life. Is it just me or does everything ride on this? It's almost like not getting in the right courses will end my life as I know it. Worse yet, I won't get to do all those wonderful EC activities that 2Ls do if I don't have the perfect schedule with the right clinic and the left advocacy course.

So I'm sending out this general plea to upperclass law students and practicioners...what courses (or types of courses) have you found helpful in practice? I'm not asking, "What looks good on my transcript?" Rather this is more substantive. For anyone also having this dilemma or anyone with words of wisdom, this was a reply that I got:

"Legal accounting will be the single most practical course you take in law school if you do *any* kind of private sector work -- litigation, transactional, counseling, in-house, etc...."

What about that Spanish for lawyers? What about that business class? The film and law class? All comments like the one above, which then details how accounting comes into the profession, would be greatly appreciated by every 1L (imho). [Ed. Note: I hope ambimb picks this up at blawg wisdom or otherwise]

Posted by Armen at 11:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Talk to De Novo

We're still accepting submissions for the symposium on law review/ journals, which will be running next week. Send us an e-mail and vent all of your rage toward the ineptitude of your editors or staff; wax rhapsodic about how awesome everyone on your journal was and how one of the article authors became a lifelong friend; tell us why you decided law review was pointless; explain why law review is essential if you want to clerk or teach or die happy.

1Ls, 2Ls, 3Ls, LLMs, JSDs, clerks professors, practitioners, judges -- all are welcome to submit anonymously or not. Please e-mail submit-at-blogdenovo-d0t-org. Thanks!

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Westlaw Gets Punk'd

Today's point-winning opportunity on LexisNexis requires one to know nothing except that Lexis is massively superior to Westlaw. Sample questions:

6. Which research system provides headnotes that are comprised soley of the courtís own language which helps eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation or misleading analysis?
A. LexisNexis
B. Westlaw

7. Which legal research systemís headnotes are not comprised soley of the court's own language and have been criticized by the judiciary for their focus and language?
A. LexisNexis
B. Westlaw

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April 09, 2005

One for the Birds

How often does someone discover the intersection of law and chickens? particularly before Heidi Bond does?

I was surprised to hear recently of the Rev. Al Sharpton's advocating that African Americans join a PETA boycott of Kentucky Fried Chicken, due to the company's inhumane treatment of animals. Apparently the Rev. Sharpton actually is getting onto the bandwagon quite late; Professor Derrick Bell of NYU Law wrote to KFC about their policies years ago. This is a man who resigned from two different law school faculties -- including a tenured post at Harvard -- in protest of their hiring policies toward women. So I believe that he would make a sacrifice of not just KFC, but also the entire Yum! brand. No Long John Silver's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell or A&W Restaurants.

(Though if fastfood franchises are as scarce around NYU as they are in Morningside Heights, the sacrifice probably is eased by unavailability. The nearest Taco Bell is in Harlem and allegedly has bulletproof glass, though someone pointed out that that means it's really the safest Taco Bell of all. At least as long as you're inside.)

Posted by PG at 07:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 08, 2005

Not To Get Too Personal, But...

Even aside from my general annoyance with senses of entitlement, I'd have to agree with co-blogger Armen about the absurdity of outrage over not getting into a law school when various numbers and rankings would seem to dictate that one should. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that my GPA was so low; the result was that I was slaveringly grateful to any school that admitted me. University of Houston? Yes! Go me, go me...

When schools rejected me, I shrugged and figured that they had their reasons. Prof. Kerr's own school summarily refused me (not even a waiting list offer), and I wouldn't challenge the GW Law admissions office's judgment, despite my being wait-listed or accepted at several schools ranked higher on the Holy List. Even within New York City, the apparent disparity occurred: I got into Columbia (#4 on the current list, though perhaps not for long) at the last minute, but was flat-out rejected by Fordham (#27, but ranked significantly lower two years ago).

Maybe some schools value LSAT more highly than GPA and these were the schools that looked favorably upon me. Maybe Georgetown really liked my essay, and George Washington found it offensive to Yankees. Maybe affirmative action worked for me in some places and not others. In the last analysis, no one accepted to Columbia should complain about not getting Fordham. Or in the case of Leiter's informant, no one admitted to Stanford and Harvard should be bitching about Georgetown's waitlist.

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An Applicant's Dilemma

I just saw this post by Prof. Leiter (hat tip: Kerr at VC) about the "possibility" of law schools rejecting a person because they may be "too qualified." (Shocking...I know). But quite frankly I'm more appalled at the reaction this is getting than anything else. See, e.g., Kerr, "This practice is scandalous. Or at least it should be."

First, the original student's e-mail to Leiter reeks of elitism and a sense of entitlement. Paraphrased, I can write the entire e-mail in just one sentence: "I have all the numbers, gimme gimme gimme." I've written here before that it is preposterous to predicate anything on GPA and LSAT scores (a habit all too familiar to most pre-law students). At the time I was speaking of succeess in the legal world, but this applies just as much to success AT A GIVEN LAW SCHOOL and by extension admissions. It's really convenient to look at the LSAC's predictor tool and write some checks and wait for the admission letters to arrive. But law schools are not a single entity politely lined up in a continuum where once the proper cut-off is determined you are then properly admitted to every school above/below/next-to/adjacent/within the 8th dimension of...that spot.

This raises my second and more important point which I'd like to properly call "bit o' inconsistency." Admission rates, as Leiter points out, are 2.5% of the entire score of the US News rankings. Now pay attention here, THE STUDENT BASES HIS/HER SUSPICIONS ENTIRELY ON THE POSITION OF VARIOUS SCHOOLS ON THE US NEWS RANKINGS. If YOU don't want schools to decide YOUR application with the rankings in mind then YOU shouldn't decide on which schools to apply to with the SAME rankings in mind.

Of course there are countless explanations for why schools would do this. One dean of admissions read your personal statement; another didn't. One school LOVES the East Coast; another doesn't. One school is looking for ringers for its IM softball team; another isn't. And the most novel one, admitting a student that is not likely to attend the school is taking precious space from another who will. What? OUTRAGEOUS!!!! They should be tried for treason. Numbers don't lie...and that's all we should look at. Who is to say where the person will go or will not go? The choice is his and his alone.

I can only roll my eyes when I hear those types of arguments. No, the choice is not his and his alone. I really wonder if any of those who so righteously object to the practice of not admitting someone with numbers far above a school's average think about the potential impact of this, i.e. schools not too close to the feeding trough must admit more and more students the farther away they go from said trough. You know, if you're a Tier 2 school, then you MUST admit every student qualified to go to a T1 school and then those who actually will come to your school.

Now the problem is that there are plenty of students who don't even think about rankings or their scores but simply decide on a school because of geographic, familial, financial, or other constraints. These students should be free to apply to any school and not fear getting waitlisted because they are over qualified. And I think that's where the personal statement comes in. Unlike the student who e-mailed Leiter initially, I don't think these individuals apply to the top 20 schools just to see where they land.

Long digression, but going back to inconsistency... wouldn't admitting students who will not go to your school but have far superior numbers go further in increasing the US News composite score by raising GPA and average LSAT? Whatever, gimme gimme gimme.

Posted by Armen at 03:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Today / 04.08.05

Today in History (1913) - The Seventeenth Amendment, requiring direct election of Senators, is ratified. Thirty nine years later, President Harry S. Truman calls in a radio address for the seizure of all steel mills in the United States in order to prevent a nationwide strike.

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April 07, 2005

What if things go orally wrong?

Tomorrow I have practice oral arguments for my Written and Oral Arguments class. Practice is used very loosely to mean that instead of arguing against your assigned opponent you argue against someone voluntarily, and instead of a practitioner and a TA evaluating you, it's two TAs instead. Oh and your pass/no pass grade is not determined based on this. Beyond that, it's for real.

This raises the questions (for me at least), why the hell didn't I do debates while in college? Have I missed something as important as learning a language at a young age, where now I am beyond hope? Can oral arguments really change all the much from an already (imho) kickass brief? Why do I write blog entries whenever nervous?

Posted by Armen at 11:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 06, 2005

Exploding Offers

A. Rickey moves from a Conglomerate discussion of expedited review of journal submissions to a promotion of software. I've dealt with some expedited reviews; they mean that instead of the usual week or more allotted to read and comment on an article, we need to vote on it within 24-48 hours, which can be annoying, particularly on weekends. We're fairly responsible about trying to give the same level of consideration to expedites that we would if they had come through the regular process. Still, with all discussion occurring over e-mail, I suspect that fans of a particular article have more trouble convincing those inclined to reject it -- and it only takes a couple reject votes even in the regular process for an article to be refused -- that they should reconsider its merits.

However, there's got to be a certain amount of fun in this when the submission comes from a judge, because then people who wish to clerk can wreak a little vengeance. From what I understand, one of the stressors of the judicial clerkship process is that offers expire quite quickly. One might apply to both appellate and district-level federal judges, to judges in desirable and not-so-desirable locations, and have the latter categories make "exploding offers" before the former. This puts applicants in the same position as authors of law review articles: should I go with this less-prestigious acceptance, or refuse and hold out for something better -- with the drawback that one may end up with no clerkship/ publication at all?

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April 05, 2005

Brahimi's Lullaby

[NOTE: Cross-posted at Nuts and Boalts]

Liveblogging a talk by Lakhdar Brahimi, sponsored by the Berkeley J. Int'l L.

12:37 -- Homeless guy referred to earlier is present. But there is no food served, heh.

12:38 -- Introduction by BJIL co-editor-in-chief Will Trachman

- Turn off cell phones, morons

12:39 -- Intro by Dean Edley (I guess he does exist in person)

- LB an accomplished and effective statesman who will now work in Sudan.

- Prof. Buxbaum very accomplished also

12:43 Ė Prof. Buxbaum

- LB was envoy to Afghanistan for three years.

- In 2000 he issued a report guiding UN operation in war-time situations

- Brokered the end of Lebanese Civil War

- Indulging people of his generation to talk about LBís beginnings in the anti-colonial movements of 50 years ago. LB grew up in Algerian anti-colonial movement. Under 30, he was representative to Arab league and then Amb. to Egypt. He became foreign minister of his own country before moving to the UN.

12:49 Ė Lakhdar Brahimi

- First off will not be talking about Iraq as much. ďIt is a bit dangerous to talk about Iraq these days.Ē He will talk enough about Afghanistan. Thanks the Boalt faculty and students because it is the fashion to bash the UN justifiably or unjustifiably. LB also wants to recognize colleagues whoíve helped him.

- Fall of Berlin Wall or 9/11 common ways of starting talk about international affairs, but he will resist the temptation. Just recently Kofi Annan released a report on the protection of freedom almost 2 years to the day from the fall of Baghdad. There are some 40 countries that are experiencing or have experienced conflict in the last 15 years. The sensible thing for LB to do would be to share a few thoughts and a few impressions that have stayed with him over the years. ďRather than attempt to rise to the high academic levels these walls are accustomed to, which I humbly confess are not within my reachĒ I shall remain within the role of the practitioner with my accent which Arabs find too French and the French find too Arabic. His talk will revolve around elections and dictatorships.


- Referred to as the exit strategy par excellence. In 90s it was questioned whether elections could stand alone as a process without other factors that go into stability. In Haiti elections failed to bring stability that Hatians were credited with. US and Europe spent millions on elections and today Aristide is again a refugee and there is yet again a peacekeeping mission in the country and a new election scheduled. In Angola in 92 the election was declared free and fair by US, EU, and Pan-African Union, but the country quickly plunged into a civil war for 10 years.

- Cost of elections. Every vote will cost a min $7, but up to $10. This does not include expenses on security (e.g. Iraq). In Afgh. security costs were nearly $100 mil. For the parliamentary elections donors are expected to contribute $148 mil for voting. This does not match US standards where a sen spends $70 mil on a campaign. But Afgh. does not have the resources to spend $250 mil every four years on elections. A credible, viable solution is necessary to ensure future elections. Such a solution exists but it is found in India and Malaysia. 8 million people voted in Afgh. but 600 million people voted in India. The UN is at long last looking to India about running massive elections in hostile and often contentious environments.

- In his discussion of elections, we might detect an obsession with his life-long plank against foreign rule. For this he does not apologize. If we are willing to look, it is not hard to find locals ready to take on the role of governing, the role that foreign powers often do not want to give up.


- It is hard to distinguish between wrongdoers and good-doers. In Afgh. he did not use the word warlord, but instead used ďfaction leaders.Ē He does not mean there were no warlords. There are too many of them. He is also not arguing for blanket immunity for these warlords. Dostum first fought as a Soviet mercenary. He then switched sides so many times that he probably does not remember when he fought, with whom, and against what enemy. He got 1 million votes. He probably got votes from most Uzbeks, but there were financial and fear factors. Another warlord is Ismael Khan. He ran Herat as if he owned the place. He collected all customs duties. He is profoundly conservative. He did not tolerate dissent or women in NGOs or in the UN. But there is more to the man. He was a patriarch and a hero of the resistance to the USSR occupation. This was the only city that the Soviets had to leave. He is to this day a doer rather than a talker. He spent a great deal of money to make the city the best run and the most beautiful. He is deeply religious and people are not wrong to compare him to Taliban. But he is committed to the education to women. Some wanted him to be removed from the city early but it was not possible. In 2004 he was finally given a ministerial position in Kabul. UN positions were attacked in the city when he was ordered removed because his loyalists believed the UN responsible for his removal. In his case national reconciliation are better than retribution. Today Karzai is calling for efforts to break the rule of warlord while at the same time calling for national reconciliation. Afgh. needs to strike a balance between forgiveness/reconciliation on one hand and justice and retribution on the other hand. S. Africa came close to finding that balance under Mandela and DeKlerk. Peace in Afgh. will not be complete without the full participation of former Taliban who are ready to participate peacefully in the rebuilding of Afgh. Exclusion of Taliban from Bonn Conference in Nov/Dec. 2001 was the original sin as per LB. It would not have been possible to bring Mullah Omar to Bonn, but it was not fair or wise to demonize Taliban so early. LB met MO. MO soft-spoken and poorly educated. No administrative background. Though MO and Taliban were aided by Pak. and S. Ara. they would not have gotten 90% support in Afgh. if there was wide-spread hostility to them among the masses. The big mistake of the Taliban was the hospitality they gave to foreigners like Osama. These influenced their actions such as the destruction of the Buddhist statues. The overwhelming majority of former Taliban would be willing to go home if they are given the respect and recognition of their families. It is important that when we go into a country raging with conflict that we listen to the people and not let our own biases cloud our judgment and agenda. We must not forget that in the real world, esp. in messy post-conflict situations we must make decisions about peace that might work in the short term but not in the long.


- Why were Taliban welcomed? Welcomed because the rule following the Soviets was not pleasant to anyone. Intíl presence now has moderated power of warlords, a function the Taliban performed. Omar, et al are calling for the overthrow of America because they are occupying, but people are not listening because they donít consider US an occupying force. In Iraq people are listening to such calls.

- Question inaudibleÖTAL (transitional admin law) organized to assure Kurds they will have autonomy. Also problem of organizing election too soon, which led to hastily formed groups rather than political parties, except for the Kurds. LB partly responsible for the unrepresentative government under Allawi.

- Thinking about creating commissions or amnesty programs in countries? Truth commission in S. Afr took 5 years to form. DeKlerk stated that he could have challenged the election in 100 different constituencies. But what for? The whole purpose was to end apartheid. The election was almost a formality. Elections have to come at the right time in an integrated political process. If they come too early they may not succeed. So the question of tribunals is who will organize them? Who will be taken to court? Also we often claim to know the will of the people but which people? He refers to these as the 50 people who speak English. They know the vocabulary we love to hear here in the US.

- Fear of Taliban coming back? And why praise Khan? Doesn't think that T will come back but Afgh will remain a conservative country for a while. Democracy not a word he uses very often because he thinks it is a process that takes a long time to take hold. Khan has done many wrongs but he has not been guilty of mass killings but he is a ruthless dictator. He is a trained military officer. He has proved in Hirat that he is a builder. He can be a very good minister, but the problem is that he wants to be the interior minister.

- How can we defend the UN and acknowledge the complexity of IR while presenting it to people in a simple way? Sweeping changes and quick fixes do not work. You are working with real men and women, people who have fought for their country or killed in their country. You have to understand that it is not simple and that you do not have a solution--they have the solution. It is a very arrogant project because you think you can make people understand what they want much better than they do. At the same time it is humble and modest and careful.

About the UN, relevant or irrelevant: look, the US government said the UN is irrelevant because the UNSC refused to support the invasion of Iraq. Three months later the US was back at the UN asking for support. A year later the US was back at the UN saying we cannot form a government without you. It is this image of the UN that you can use to support the org.

At the same time we are human and make mistakes. E.g. in the oil for food program he is certain some have done wrong. But he hopes we can look at oil for food and ask why we had it in the first place. We had it because there were sanctions. What was the effect of the sanctions? Was it true that 500,000 children died because of the sanctions? Why did we not know that Saddam was making money off the sanctions? Where were the press at that time when Saddam was making money? Why did people not listen to the UN when it said the sanctions were not working but were hurting the people instead? Where were all these people who are now shedding tears for Iraq? Of course if you look at Fox News you can see they know what facts are and how bad Kofi Annan is.

1:45 END

Post Script

I will edit the mistakes (which I'm sure are many in number) later. Boothe was nearly full, so attendance was not at all a problem, despite the lack of food.

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April 04, 2005

Today/ 04.05.05

Today in Protest History: Mohandas Gandhi breaks British law after marching to the sea and making salt (1930); millions of Chinese gathered around Tiananmen Square to protest government policies (1976); hundreds of thousands of abortion rights demonstrators march in Washington, D.C. (1992). Happy 68th birthday and International Pajama Day to Colin Powell.

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Today in Schadenfreude

Doubtlessly it's been up for a while, but the Enron quiz -- "Are you an Enron junkie or merely well-informed?" -- entered my consciousness only recently. It's a delightful collection of How the Mighty Have Fallen trivia, with questions like

Rick Causey, formerly chief accounting officer for Enron, asked the judge overseeing his criminal trial to unfreeze some of his funds to pay for:
A. cosmetic surgery
B. a country club membership
C. donations to Bush campaign
During ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling's infamous incident in New York City while awaiting trial, he was accused of getting drunk, denouncing fellow bar patrons as FBI agents in disguise and what else?
A. Pulling up a woman's shirt to search for a wiretap
B. Ripping off his own shirt and pounding on his chest like Tarzan
C. Refusing to pay for a Statue of Liberty hat, railing, "They've left me with nothing!"
If that's not enough, check the "Prosecution Scorecard" to see who's pled guilty, who was convicted and who's fighting extradition.

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Holy Moly Batman

That was fast. With admit day coming and going this past Friday, it has now officially been a year since I first set foot on this campus. At the time it was a wirelessless and electricityless concrete block. Now it's a concrete block that allows blogging about the year that was while sitting in Int'l Trade.

Time goes by so fast when you have the internet. (Insert some rubbish about reminiscing about the first year of law school coming to an end and the sadness/happiness that goes with that momentous, yet really insignificant occasion).

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Last week from classmates and Begging to Differ, I heard about the "Minuteman Project," what appears to be a more concerted effort at the kind of vigilante border control on which I posted almost a year ago. Some fellow students were discussing whether to volunteer as legal observers through the ACLU, to ensure that the Minutemen did not overreach their alleged mission to enforce immigration law, but worried that the armed Minutemen might react poorly to their presence.

The Associated Press, at least in the Houston Chronicle's version of AP reports, sounds slightly sympathetic to the Minuteman Project. This article on the creative tactics used by wannabe illegal immigrants says, "The flood of illegal immigrants has prompted the creation of the Minuteman Project, in which volunteers fan out across 23 miles of the San Pedro Valley to watch the border and report any illegal activity to federal agents." A piece devoted entirely to the Minutemen gives only a few sentences to the potential downside of the Project: "It's an exercise some law enforcement authorities and others fear could lead to vigilante violence [...] Many of the volunteers were recruited over the Internet, and some plan to be armed."

Probably the most space given to the Minutemen's critics was in the caption of a Reuters photo:

Calling herself a "legal observer," Kristen Dillon monitors the activity of Minuteman Project volunteers near Douglas, Ariz., on Sunday. The "legal observers," who are affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union, are concerned that illegal immigrants may be harmed.
I am not quite sure why legal observer was put in quotation marks, unless there is an accepted meaning for the phrase that makes it inapplicable to people like Ms. Dillon and thus probably myself as well.

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