Why journal? Write about international law, practice professionalism

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        Wrapping up my two-year stint with ILJ seems a good occasion to reflect on my experience. It’s also as good a time as any to consider the value of joining any law journal, particularly since UNC 1Ls are attending journal-related information sessions this week and next week.

        It’s been a good experience for me, and I’d advise every 1L to think about joining. Plenty of ink has been spilled discussing student-run law journals’ merits and shortcomings,[1] so I won’t rehash them at length. In short, law journals are an opportunity to improve legal research, writing, and citation skills, all of which makes journal experience a key resume item for many employers, particularly judges and elite law firms.[2] On the downside, they can seem to entail disproportionate time tracking down authors’ sources and putting citations into Bluebook format … and are editors with two-plus years of legal education really qualified to choose the scholarship that can shape the profession?[3]

        I’ll add just one plug and one piece of advice.

        The plug, strangely absent from the other homilies to law journals' value, is that a journal is a terrific setting to begin building a reputation for professionalism, reliability, and thoughtfulness. In a sense, my fellow-editors have been my first set of colleagues in the legal profession, and also my first set of clients. Each of us on the executive board is the only one in his or her position, so the others rely on him or her as the expert, the one with the unique responsibility. None of us could have done our own jobs nearly as well if we hadn’t been able to rely on the others to be highly competent and responsive. I’ve come to see this as a sort of early training in good client service: For each of us, the other six are clients just like our readers are clients, and in a more immediately palpable way.

        A similar dynamic was at play last year in our articles groups, where we checked the citations in each submitted article in groups of five 2Ls. Each section of the article went through two rounds of checks. The “secondary” checker always knew who had done the primary check, so it was pretty easy to form an opinion about his or her attention to detail.

        Other student organizations offer comparable opportunities to develop professionalism in a team setting, of course. But I suspect the dynamic is more pronounced in the journal context because it’s a continuous year-round cycle. Action (or inaction) in September still pays dividends (or has other consequences) in March. And what I'm doing this month will facilitate (or hamper, God forbid) what Adam Sorenson, my successor as online editor, does in September. I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes the journal’s online initiatives, such as the longer-form, more analytically rigorous blog posts that we call “Reports”.

        My humble advice for 1Ls, related to the above plug, is that they should be prepared to give 100% to the journal for one or more multiple-hour blocks almost every week. Like so much else in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it, and that maxim counts double when multiple people are scrutinizing your work.

[1] See, e.g., Richard A. Wise et al, Do Law Reviews Need Reform? A Survey of Law Professors, Student Editors, Attorneys, & Judges, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 1 (2013) (assessing the profession’s attitudes toward law journals).

[2] See generally, e.g., Cameron Stracher, Reading, Writing, & Citing: In Praise of Law Reviews, 52 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev., 349, 350 (2008); Natalie C. Cotton, The Competence of Students As Editors of Law Reviews: A Response to Judge Posner, 154 U. Pa. L. Rev. 951 (2006); James W. Harper, Why Student-Run Law Reviews?, 82 Minn. L. Rev. 1261 (1998).

[3] See generally, e.g., Dave Hoffman, Three Ideas to Improve Law Reviews (as Institutions); Concurring Opinions (Sept. 2, 2014), http://concurringopinions.com/archives/2014/09/three-ideas-to-improve-law-reviews-as-institutions.html [https://perma.cc/85UR-JGD5]; Adam Liptak, The Lackluster Reviews that Lawyers Love to Hate, N.Y. Times, Oct. 21, 2013, at A15, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/law-scholarships-lackluster-reviews.html [https://perma.cc/687M-EP8N]; Richard A. Posner, Against the Law Reviews, L. Affairs, Nov.-Dec. 2004, http://www.legalaffairs.org/issues/November-December-2004/review_posner_novdec04.msp [https://perma.cc/9QDT-79DE].

Posted by Christopher R. Bagley (Chris) on Mon. March 28, 2016 7:34 PM
Categories: International Law

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