Once again, I am digging up the age-old question of whether you should consider law review membership. There is no hiding the fact that law review is an enormous time and energy commitment. But I gained so much. both personally and professionally, from being a law review editor-in-chief, so I am going to emphasize the benefits of membership in the hopes that you’ll be able to weigh the benefits and burdens. All in all, you’ll have to make the best decision for you.
What is Law Review?
Let’s start with what law review even is. Most law reviews are student-run journals that publish the leading legal scholars discussing a wide range of subjects. Typically, law reviews are staffed by an editorial board and associate or junior editors. Law reviews publish anywhere from two issues up to eight issues per year. The more issues your law review publishes, the more work you’ll do—so that is worth considering when making your decision.
Many schools also have specialty journals that publish specific types of articles. So, if you have a very particular interest and career path, and your school has an aligning specialty journal, you could consider membership on that journal.
That being said, some subjects—such as race and the law—are often relegated to specialty journals and are considered secondary subjects, despite the grave importance of such subjects. This means that it is important for law reviews to be staffed by students who are going to push for articles that advance equity and justice to be published in mainstream, flagship journals. That was one of the most important benefits of law review for me—I got to determine what conversations were being started and advanced among legal scholarship, and by who. Minority students on law review can work to ensure the voices of their community are being heard.
The very next question about law review is usually what students get for being an editor. It is actually shocking how drastically this answer varies. Some schools award one single credit after four long semesters on law review. Some schools award one credit per semester. On the other end of the spectrum, although it’s rare, some schools pay the law review leadership. After learning about what students do as members of law review, if you attend a school that goes light on the compensation, I’m sure you’re thinking: “why would anyone do law review?”
The most common answer to this question is that law review can increase your job prospects. Although the tides may be changing as the profession opens to accepting more diverse professional experience, many employers still look for law review on an applicant’s resume. Now, this isn’t true for all sectors, so this consideration may weigh differently for some people. But not only can law review increase your job prospects, it can widen your professional network, connecting you to judges, scholars, and practitioners that are either alum of your journal or are looking to publish in your journal.
Additionally, being a leader on a law review editorial board has the potential to overcome an average academic record. Because of the time commitment, law review’s impact on your grades is often weighed as a burden of journal membership. But that is not always the case! Sure your classmate got all A’s, but maybe the firm you just applied to wants to hear about your time as editor-in-chief of the law review, and you’ll get that interview instead. So don’t count yourself out just yet because you didn’t do as well as you hoped during your first year.
There are also social and emotional benefits to being on law review. Just like any other student organization, the law review can feel like a family. Nothing builds a bond like being in the trenches cite-checking together. I looked for my people on campus in a number of different student organizations and did not find my life-long friends until I made law review. We spent endless nights in the law review office trying to edit complicated international citations and perfecting our Student Notes, which we wrote on subjects that mattered deeply to us.
Another potential social benefit is the barriers you may be breaking as a member of your journal. There have been approximately 65 Black law review editors-in-chief in United States history—and it’s likely that number is similarly low for other minority groups. If your school has never had a Black editor-in-chief, a non-binary editor-in-chief, a non citizen editor-in-chief, a disabled editor-in-chief—why not you? You will have the power to call the shots and control the conversation with the most prestigious organization on most campuses, and that impact will not be soon forgotten.
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