Many students hope to get on Law Review for multiple reasons: to develop valuable legal skills, learn about legal academia and interesting debates, to help promote certain authors and scholarship, and much more.
However, few people outside of the organization have a deeper understanding of the different roles and duties on Law Review beyond its general mission of publishing articles. Putting out thoughtful and substantiated pieces of scholarship is a huge endeavor, so it is no surprise that students on Law Review take up specific roles and delegate (or are delegated) different tasks. Thus, there is no uniform experience for each journal member. You can pick your own adventure! Of course, each journal is organized differently, not to mention changes from year to year based on lessons learned and the leadership’s goals.
My objective here is to provide more transparency into the work and opportunities once you become a member of Law Review, especially for students who do not have lawyers in their family or have little understanding of how journals work. Law Review is a substantial undertaking, and it is important to know what the commitment will entail.
Based on my experience, here is an overview of opportunities on Law Review, or a comparable journal.
First year on law review
As a first-year member during your 2L year, you serve as a member editor or staff editor. Your job is typically well-defined – checking citations and text of forthcoming legal scholarship. You work on a team with multiple other 2Ls, led by a Senior Editor, a 3L, who works closely with the author(s) of the piece.
For each article or student note, you are assigned a section of the draft. Your tasks are to check the citations for substantive accuracy to ensure that each proposition is supported by the source cited; make sure the citations comply with Bluebook rules and other internal guides; and review the text for clarity, grammar, and structure. There may be multiple rounds where you work on a different section or focus on specific tasks each time.
Given that you are the least experienced member in the hierarchy, most of your work will be prescribed. But there is room for flexibility in terms of which piece to edit. Leadership sends out a survey for first-year members to rank their preferred articles, or you can (and should!) ask to work on an article that comments on a subject matter or topic that is interesting to you. This can make a huge difference, as you then get the chance to learn about existing scholarship and gaps in the debate, and help strengthen the authors’ efforts to enrich the discourse.
Second year on law review
In your second year on Law Review, there are a plethora of roles to choose from and make an impact in. As I discussed earlier, every journal is different and evolves based on the students leading it. So instead of laying out specific roles, I think it would be more helpful to discuss the types of work you can do. Be sure to ask about how your school’s Law Review is structured. For example, if you are particularly interested in working with law students to publish their notes, ask questions to understand which roles would allow you to do that, and how competitive they might be.
6 categories of work:
1. Serving on the board and leading the organization
The board is the Law Review’s primary policymaking body: it sets member criteria and expectations, assigns members to committees and appointed positions, communicates with editors and authors, and makes day-to-day decisions. In all, board members make sure the journal is running smoothly and efficiently. The board generally consists of the President or Editor-In-Chief, Executive Editors, Managing Editors, Senior Articles Editor, Senior Notes Editor, and Diversity/Member/Development Editor, each with individual responsibilities such as leading a committee or managing external relationships.
2. Grading the write-on competition
Grading the write-on is an integral part of reviewing candidates for admission to Law Review. While this is not particularly exciting work (you use the criteria set forth by the board to assess the candidate’s attention to detail, reasoning skills, and other attributes), it is very important, not only to select competent individuals who can contribute to the journal, but also promote diversity of thought, perspective, and identities in the law.
3. Selecting scholarship
Certain roles allow journal member to review authors’ submissions, discuss the scholarship (its content, reasoning, and value), and decide whether to offer publication. This job holds a lot of power, as publication in a Law Review can elevate voices of up-and-coming legal academics and introduce new perspectives to the legal world.
4. Working closely with authors
Once a piece is selected, it must be revised, edited, re-edited, and proofread to perfection. With the help of the member editors, you will liaise with authors to strengthen their article or note.
5. Working on online publication
More and more law reviews are publishing scholarship online these days, offering aspiring academics and seasoned scholars alike a platform to quickly publish their thoughts in recent and ongoing debates. Online pieces are shorter than normal print pieces, and there is flexibility to publish work by legal practitioners and response pieces to articles, books, or litigation. This is an ideal role for someone who enjoys exploring a new medium to facilitate access to legal scholarship.
6. Fostering community
Law Review comprises of a large group of interesting and bright people, with different backgrounds and interests. By organizing community dinners and social events, members can take a break from their journal duties and get to know each other. If you are interested, look for a role in which you can help welcome new members, facilitate connections and lifelong friendships, and promote a culture of kindness and collaboration.
I hope that my insights will help you make an informed choice about joining Law Review and make the most of the experience as a journal member. Law review is not for everyone, but for the right person, it can be incredibly stimulating and exciting.
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