Wednesday, March 12, 2008

5 dirty little secrets

As today is the annual Law Review banquet to celebrate its achievements, I thought it would be appropriate to present its downsides as well (and for there to be something else to talk about at the banquet other than hearing Volokh make grand pronouncements of law).

1. There are many unhappy Law Review members.
The following is a line from an internal memo from the Chief Comments Editor (the person in charge of the writeon) to the rest of the board as to what to say to 1Ls at recruitment events: "But please, if you are in the middle of a cite-checking assignment, remember that Law Review was probably helpful when you were interviewing for jobs." (I'll get to the fallacy of her jobs argument later.) Why did she need to write this to supposedly happy Law Review members? Because more than a handful of its members dislike being on Law Review. Why? Because citechecking sucks. The motivated staff members just recently got promoted to substantive editorial positions. What did the unmotivated and unhappy members get? Managing editor by default. So, they're making unhappy members supervise citechecking, the very activity that made them uphappy in the first place? Great logic.

2. Grades are more important than Law Review.
There are three groups of people who I believe have a legitimate need to be on Law Review: (1) aspiring law professors, (2) aspiring federal appellate clerks, and (3) prestige-conscious masochists. For the rest of you, good grades and not being socially awkward will trump Law Review membership each and every time. Ask any upperclassman with a Biglaw job, and I guarantee that they will corroborate 100% what I just said. Which is why last year, a student who was offered a gradeon spot actually turned it down, an incident that Law Review doesn't publicize for obvious reasons. Having talked to him, I know that he ultimately figured that his grades would land him a job with any firm he wanted come OCIP, without the annoyance of having to be a citecheck slave. Which brings me to...

3. There are Law Review members still without jobs.
What Law Review wants you to believe is: Biglaw ↔Law Review membership. For those of you who just had a dreaded flashback to the LSAT--I'm saying that Law Review wants you to believe that you can get Biglaw if and only if you're on Law Review. What they don't want you to know are the bare numbers. Nor do they want you to know that there are some low GPA and/or socially awkward Law Review members still without jobs. Nor that there were Law Review members who went into fall OCIP shooting for "LA Big 3" but wound up settling for less than they were hoping for.

4. Law review membership doesn't stop people from transferring.
One of my friends last year wrote onto Law Review. He also wound up with pretty good grades 1L year. One would think that Law Review membership is so valuable that members would hold onto the credential for dear life (this is the rationale behind UCLA four years ago instituting the limited gradeon --to hold on to its "stars"). He was accepted as a transfer to Stanford Law and happily gave up his spot on Law Review to go to Stanford. What does it tell you about the value of Law Review membership when other newly-minted members of Law Review applied to transfer last summer as well? Or that the only other UCLA student Stanford accepted as a transfer did not even attempt to writeon?

5. Law Reviews matter less than they used to.
I will admit that Law Review mattered before computers were invented because Law Review articles concentrated information for a judge to cite in his opinion without having to reinvent the wheel. That's why Law Reviews are ranked by the number of times they are cited. But since the advent on the Internet (invented by Al Gore, as we all know), Law Reviews are becoming less and less relevant, leading to less and less cites by judges who can get their research elsewhere. One reason for the Law Review demise is the proliferation of search engines and blogs. Pre-internet, writing, researching, citing, editing, and publication of a Law Review piece took over a year. Now, technology allows professors to disseminate their thoughts instantaneously by clicking "submit," without the annoyance of law student editors dictating their vision of the law to tenured professors--an average one knows infinitely more than even the smartest 3L editor. Likewise, search engines like Google can bring judges a legal answer much faster than a tedious JLR search on westlaw.

And just for kicks, here's another one--
6. This blog is read by many on Law Review.
One of the great things about being technologically sophisticated is that I get to play big brother via my blog and I get to see who my visitors are. And a lot of my visitors are Law Review members themselves. Law Review dislikes me, yet seem to be strangely attracted to this online abode that spews, in their opinion, nothing but absolute falsehoods.

If this whetted your appetite, stayed tuned for something even juicier on Friday, where I will expose the "diversity essay."


Blogger nicolle said...

i always love reading your posts about law review. we don't do our write-on until after finals...but when it comes closer, i really need to point any 1Ls who ask me about it to your blog.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Butterflyfish said...

When you go to a lower tier school, the rules are a bit different.

Love your posts anyway.

9:34 AM  
Blogger The Fox said...

I actually intend these LR posts to apply only to my school, and I'm timing these posts now because of our spring break writeon starting next week. Any claims I make I guarantee to apply only to my school.

How applicable it is to other schools--both those higher and lower ranked than mine--I'm not sure.

12:20 PM  
Blogger pennypincher said...

Having graduated from law school in 2006, I would like to put in my two cents about LR. I was one person short of the cut-off. . . so you guessed it, I spent my entire spring break attempting to write on to LR. The end result, not making it on and thanking the LORD above for it everyday afterwards. Without being on LR I was able to make extremely great grades in law school, land a clerkship in my state's Supreme Court and am currently interviewing in those BIGFIRMS. And no thanks to LR. Being a 1L you are made to believe that LR will get you where you need to go in your legal career - far from it. I definitely would not waste another spring break attempting to write on. All that being said, I understand how hard it would be to avoid the temptation of writing on. Just try to make the right decision for you!

8:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I agree with most of your comments, but disagree with the argument that Law Reviews are less relevant than they used to be. Sure, professors can disseminate their thoughts on the internet, in blogs, etc., however school rankings and a professor's reputation are built on articles published... in law reviews... not on their blogs. (in all of the cases I've read in school, including recent cases, I've never seen a blog cited)

The NYT article was interesting, and, since the article quotes judges themselves, it is hard to argue with. However, the search engines the article says judges use instead of looking at law reviews are Lexis and Westlaw. When you search Lexis and Westlaw you are basically searching either cases or law reviews (maybe a treatise or two).

Interesting aside: Law Review citation rate for blogs has been increasing annually since 2004 as blots "are being assimilated into the larger universe of legal writing and becoming part of the web of [legal] citations. Not sure this means that law reviews are less relevant than they used to be though.(

8:44 PM  

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