I don’t think anyone actually enjoys completing their law review admission packet, or “writing onto law review,” as it’s often called. In fact, most people loathe it. The packets are typically handed out right after exams when your brain is so fried all you want is sleep—not another assignment! And, the assignments are usually difficult and require maximum, unwavering attention to detail that is hard to tap into right after finals.
That said, getting onto the Law Review at your school might be one of the most important things you do in your law school career. Will it make every career door swing wide open for you? No. Is it the end of the world if you don’t make it? Of course not (there are other journals, oral argument teams, and extracurriculars). But, membership in this elite and prestigious group can give you a great leg up in the job market. Plus, one thing I love about Law Review is that it’s one of the few things from law school that remains relevant throughout your career—Law Review is for life. You’ll even see seasoned partners at law firms listing Law Review on their bio pages. It can also give you some great common ground with future employers, and something to discuss in job interviews. If you’re on the fence about whether to write the packet you picked up (assuming it’s optional at your school), just go for it! I know you’re exhausted, and you just finished your last exam, but it’s worth it. It’s not an opportunity you want to miss.
So, how do you write onto Law Review anyway? Well, every school has a different process, but there are several key points to keep in mind. As someone who has graded countless law review admission packets, formulated and graded bluebooking exercises, and edited thousands and thousands of legal citations, here is what I think you should know:
Attention to detail cannot be over-emphasized
You are being hand-picked based, in part, on how well you can edit minutiae. The editors grading your admission packet will check your work—every single ellipsis, every em dash, every introductory signal (if you don’t know what these things are yet, look them up now). Don’t even think about putting anything in quotes unless you have triple checked it against the original source. They will check both the content and formatting of your quotes. If you think no one can tell whether a comma or even a period is italicized, think again. They can tell from a mile away. Your writing will literally and figuratively be under a magnifying glass. When editing admission packets, and especially journal entries for publication, I always zoomed in 200%. You should do the same thing. Don’t let anything slip through!
Will you understand the reason behind every instruction you’re given? Maybe not. Do you still need to follow them to a T? Absolutely. Your write-on packet is actually great practice for the bar exam where adherence to instructions is crucial. If that’s not incentive enough, keep in mind that a lot of schools won’t even read or consider packets that are sent in .docx rather than .doc formats. That’s right, if you miss something (even something you think is really small), your packet may go straight to the circular file. Don’t take any chances. Do exactly what they tell you to do.
Tab your Bluebook
You have a limited time before you need to turn in your application, so efficiency is key. The more you can do to get familiar with your legal citation manual before the clock starts running on your admission packet, the better. Same thing goes for the time you spend flipping pages—cut this down as much as you can. Tabbing your bluebook is a great way to do this. If your school allows it, you might even want to consider getting an online Bluebook subscription. There’s a handy search bar that can make your life a lot easier—but the content is exactly the same as the hardcopy book, so you won’t be missing anything if you decide to go with your trusty paper version. In any case, you will probably be tested on at least a few obscure sources you’ve never seen before (they do this on purpose to see how you react), so just make sure you know where to find your rules and abbreviation tables.
Check your citations, and then check them again
Clearly the content of your substantive arguments is key. However, the accuracy of your citations is also of paramount importance. Think of it this way, when you are a new member of the Law Review, a big part of your responsibility will probably be to check other people’s citations. I know, it sounds like so much fun, right? You will likely have an editor overseeing your work, but being fantastic at citations in your own right is a great way to stand out and set yourself apart from other incoming applicants. Plus, if you continue to shine in your hard work and attention to detail, you might just land yourself an editor or board position later, which can also look great on your resume.
Learn from those who have gone before you
If you’re unsure about what to do to write onto Law Review at your school, talk to upperclassmen who have gone through the same process. You can also check out the internet for some great tips, like the ones here.
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[…] Read the instructions for your write-on! Unless told otherwise, use only the sources and materials your journals have instructed you to use. […]