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Is Law Review for You?

published July 16, 2013

( 25 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
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Having read about law review and other journals, it will be up to the potential participant to gather more information and to make his or her own decision about whether to participate. If approached with the right attitude, law review can be a positive and enlightening experience not only in the areas of substantive law, but also in the sense of working with others toward a worthy goal. Good law review articles are often cited as persuasive by courts and may actually help shape the course of the law.

Although time consuming, law review is also rewarding. It is not a coincidence that many of those devoting much time to law review are simultaneously achieving the highest grades in their classes. The writing skills gained in editing your own work (and the work of law professors, if you become an editor) will aid you in countless ways throughout your legal career. Furthermore, having an article published and distributed throughout law schools nationwide produces a justifiable sense of accomplishment. For goal-oriented people who can see the light at the end of a long tunnel of hard work, law review can be a rewarding and invigorating challenge augmenting that posed by the law school curriculum.

However, it must be emphasized that law review is not for everyone. Many are simply not interested, dislike the regimentation and menial cite-checking aspects, and feel that their time would be better spent devoted to their other legal or personal interests. There is nothing wrong with the decision not to participate in law review and there are plenty of outstanding practitioners who never did. If law review is not for you, do not feel compelled to participate just because someone expects it of you, you feel you must, or because your father, mother, or great uncle did. It is an individual decision and only those who make it according to their own wishes will be able to derive from the law review experience all that it has to offer.

The quality of a school's law review reflects upon and affects the legal community's perception of the affiliated law school. If a law school's law review is a professional-quality publication presenting educational and interesting articles by eminent legal authorities, it reflects well on the law school itself and tends to improve the law school's reputation. Conversely, if a law review publishes thin, typo-laden, and sparsely footnoted texts comprised of work by inferior authors from little-known schools, the affiliated law school's reputation will suffer accordingly. If the members of law review, supposedly the cream of the student crop, cannot produce a good periodical, how good can the rest of the students and the faculty teaching them be? While this may be an oversimplification of the way in which a law school's law review affects its overall prestige, the axiom largely holds true.

In short, the quality of a school's law review and the perceived quality of the law school as a whole are interrelated. Authors mail manuscripts to many law reviews and, if multiple offers are received, they generally choose to publish in the law review from the most prestigious law school. Also, publishing an influential law review article that is cited by courts and legal commentators enhances the law review's reputation. A good law review benefits all students, and a bad law review (or no law review at all) works to their detriment.

There are pros and cons to law review participation. On the upside, law review participants hone their legal citation and research skills and often acquire immensely helpful writing and editing skills. They gain exposure to areas of law not taught in the law school curriculum and attain the prestige and distinction of being part of what most people consider to be their school's best legal journal.

On the downside, the law review participant must endure seemingly endless hours of burdensome cite-checking and rewriting article drafts, the loss of study time that could otherwise be used to improve the student's grade point average, and the loss of free time. Additionally, the participant may experience feelings of exhaustion, overwork, frustration, and even anger at law student superiors who, with complete license, ridicule, rewrite, and critique the participants treasured work product. Further, only a very few law students-or, for that matter, law review participants-ever make it to the coveted status of editor, that jewel that lights up a law student's resume like a Christmas tree ornament.

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