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
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, 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. 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?
I’ll add just one plug and one piece of
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
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.
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).
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).
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