Law School Lingo: What is Law Review?

Now that you’ve gotten into law school, it’s time to start learning the lingo. You may have seen the terms “Law Review” and “Law Journal” peppered throughout your research as you’ve been navigating the path to 1L. Here, we’re going to explain what Law Review is, and why it’s so important.

What is Law Review?

Law Review is a student-run journal that publishes articles written by law professors, judges, and other legal professionals. They may also publish shorter pieces written by students, called “notes” or “comments.”

All journals are not created equal.  Most schools have one journal, the Law Review, which is the most prestigious and covers almost any cutting-edge legal topic; other, “secondary” journals are content-specific (e.g., Journal of Technology and Law) and only publish works that are more specific in nature. The only known caveat to this naming convention comes from the fancy-pants at Yale Law School; there, the most prestigious journal is called the Yale Law Journal (go figure!).

Should I Join Law Review?

First off, you can’t just “join” Law Review. Like any elite club, you need to be invited. Being a member of Law Review is seen as a high honor for law students, and a coveted credential that is looked for by future employers. Private and public interest law firms often expect to see journal membership on your resumé, and judicial clerkships practically require it.

Historically, only those students at the very top of their 1L classes were invited to join the Law Review; thus, being a member is synonymous with achieving academic excellence and telegraphs your intelligence, perseverance and keen legal abilities. Depending on where you go to school, it may be the one thing that helps you stand out from your peers.

As a member of Law Review, you’ll spend hours doing legal research, writing, and editing. The skills you learn as a Law Review member will not only make you more competent than other young attorneys, it’ll make you a much more an attractive candidate for legal job opportunities.

Appealing to Selective Legal Employers

For the most selective legal employers, Law Review or journal participation signals that, if hired, you’ll be arriving for work on Day One with a skill set that sets you apart from others who lack similar experience.

Plus, let’s be honest, Law Review membership is a major boost to your academic pedigree — a credential that future employers will certainly use when convincing new clients to trust them with important legal matters.

Another perk of joining Law Review is the chance to work with other students in a team setting. Law school can easily suck the fun out of making friends when you’re competing against them in the race to the top of the class. These students can serve as a great support system as you make your way through your 2L and 3L year.

Attending a Non-Law Review Journal

The toughest question to answer is whether attending a non-Law Review journal is a better fit for your future. Secondary journals are typically less prestigious than Law Review. However, if you’re passionate about a specific area of interest, passing up Law Review to join a secondary journal — though unconventional— may be the right move for you.

How Do I Get Invited To Join Law Review?

Students are typically invited to join Law Review following their 1L year. Although the application process may differ from school to school, the general process of qualifying involves taking part in the journal’s write-on competition and a review of your first-year grades.

What Is the Write-On Competition?

The write-on competition usually takes place at the end of your 1L year, after spring semester final exams have ended. During the write-on competition, rising 2Ls receive a packet of material that includes all the information needed to complete the submission.

Students may be prompted to, perhaps, compose an article that analyzes a discrete legal topic, edit a poorly-written article, or “Bluebook” a seemingly never-ending list of incorrect legal citations (fun!).

Submissions will then be graded blindly by rising 3Ls who have been elected as members of the Law Review Executive Board.

Here are some ways to maximize your write-on performance: 

  • Read previous submissions before you get started
  • Talk to prior (or existing) Law Review members to know what they expect
  • Follow the instructions exactly
  • Cite your sources correctly
  • Reread and proof your work multiple times

Do All Schools Have a Write-On Competition?

No, not all schools have a write-on competition. Some schools only accept Law Review members based on their first-year grades and class rank (or a combination of 1L class rank and writing competition submissions).

In either case, whether you receive an invitation to join will depend on your 1L academic performance.

A Day In The Life of a Law Review Member

Law Review members serve as editors — and depending on the time of year, it’s not an easy job.

Because Law Reviews are printed publications, you can imagine, there’ll be times during the semester when the workload is light; however, as you move towards the publication deadline, tasks become more demanding, thereby making the lives of editors a bit more hectic.

On average, you can expect to spend 10 hours per week completing Law Review assignments, which may not sound like a lot, but when you’re balancing travel to job interviews, law school assignments, moot court, clinics and (God forbid!) a personal life, adding 10 hours to your week can seem impossible – but, for all the professional reasons listed above, it’s time well spent.

As a 2L member, most of your time on Law Review will be spent digging through court opinions to ensure that all citations and sources mentioned in the article are correct and still good law. You serve as the designated fact-checker for the journal. In this role, you’ll learn essential legal research and writing skills that will come in handy as an early-stage attorney.

The more ambitious 3Ls will become members of the Executive Board – deciding which articles merit publication, managing associate editors, assigning tasks and, of course, inviting the next year’s crop of rising 2Ls to continue the Law Review tradition.

Learn The Skills You Need to Get On Law Review

Becoming a Law Review member is one of the best ways to ensure that you have your choice of dream jobs – 2L Summer Associate positions or judicial clerkships. Before you start thinking about the write-on competition, however, you really need to focus on your 1L grades.

How you do in your 1L year has a huge impact on where you end up after law school. Including your ability to qualify for Law Review and other academic honors, plus your 2L job opportunities and beyond.

Yeah, 1L grades are a big deal. So, how do you ensure that you’re ready for the race to the top of the class? Take Law Preview this summer.

Here’s what you’ll learn in only six days: 

  • Legal writing and research skills
  • Proven exam taking strategies
  • Core 1L material from top professors
  • Academic success skills
  • Note-taking and outlining 101, and more

Don’t risk falling behind in the most crucial year of law school. Sign up for a Law Preview 1L summer prep course today.

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