So you’re going to be on a journal next year—congratulations!! Being on a law school journal is a great way to hone your research, writing, and editing skills, while having the opportunity to be involved in helping legal scholars—and potentially yourself—get published! That’s right—many journals select student notes that are published along with articles from professional scholars. Here’s a great overview of what a Note is and the four essential elements of a Note.
Why would you want to get published? By contributing to legal scholarship and sharing your voice and perspective in the legal discourse, you help shape the conversation in the legal world and beyond. Plus, it’s just cool to have an article you wrote get published! And it doesn’t hurt to submit your article for publication, so why not submit what you’ve been working so hard on all year?
If you want to get published, here are 6 tips to keep in mind as you start to research and write your Note:
1. Choose a topic you’re genuinely interested in
Since you will be spending a lot of time researching, writing, and thinking about your topic, writing about something you are actually interested in learning about will make the process more enjoyable and your Note more interesting to read. I tried to pick a topic that would be interesting and relevant to the average person as well. Thinking about how your topic is applicable to the real world can also help inform how you frame the issue in your Note. Keeping up to date on the news is a great way to find inspiration for potential ideas. Here are more tidbits on choosing a topic.
2. Choose a good faculty advisor
Choosing an advisor who is invested in your Note can go a long way. I chose my professor based on area of expertise, which can be a good idea because the professor can help you brainstorm ideas and narrow down your topic, which was one of the most challenging steps for me. But you can also work with any professor with whom you may already have a strong working relationship. Regardless of who you choose, it’s important to be proactive in scheduling meetings with your professor and seeking guidance throughout the Note-writing process.
3. Create a schedule for yourself
Schedule writing time into your weekly routine, especially if you write your Note independently and not as part of a class. I didn’t always follow through with my writing schedule, but at least I knew that I would have time blocked out. The benefits of doing a writing seminar is that a class schedule can help you stay on track, and you get class credit. On the other hand, writing independently can give you the flexibility to write on your own timing.
4. It’s okay if the writing process isn’t linear; progress may come in spurts
Writing doesn’t always happen in a straight line where you devote X hours and get Y results, and it may not happen in the timeline you initially intended. I started brainstorming ideas over the summer, thinking I was going to be done with my Note by Christmas. I ended up not finalizing my main argument until winter break and working on it into the spring semester. Doing research on your topic may shift your perspective, or you may realize halfway through that you want to pursue a different approach or argument, and that’s a normal part of the process! It may feel like you’re not getting anywhere after days of research, but then you might have a conceptual breakthrough one day. It’s a good idea to start early, but know that the process may take longer for some than for others, and one isn’t better than the other!
5. Talk about your Note
Discuss your topic with people who are not in the legal field, such as your parents, friends, or professors (as long as they’re willing to listen!). It might stir up ideas and provide clarity on the weaknesses in your arguments, which allows you to address counterarguments and fill in any gaps in your argument, making your Note stronger. Also take advantage of any peers or mentors assigned to you. Talking to my senior editor helped me think through next steps when I ran into brick walls. Ask them to review your drafts—they’ve been in your shoes and are here to help you on your journey! And send drafts to both your law school and non-law friends—if they are confused about something, it is a good indication that you need to explain it more clearly.
6. Be creative and write like yourself
Consider sprucing up your Note with images or graphs as relevant to break up blocks of text. Your Note does not have to be pedantic or sound like what a law professor might write—and it shouldn’t be. Be authentic and write as yourself, and your unique voice will shine through! Here are some other tips and tricks to consider.
Writing a Note is a daunting challenge. If your experience is anything like mine, it will take up a lot of time and energy, and at times be frustrating. However, by going through the process, you have an invaluable opportunity to learn about and dive deeper into a topic that is interesting and relevant to you. Putting in a considerable amount of time and effort to creating something you can primarily call your own work is incredibly rewarding and makes the experience worth it. And if you can get published in the process, that’s icing on the cake!
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