Law Journals 101

People often ask me what’s different about 2L year compared to 1L year. Among other things, like more challenging classes and having a better handle on the way law school works, there’s one thing in particular that has made my 2L experience a whole lot different from my 1L year: being on a journal.

What’s a journal? At the end of their 1L year, BC Law students have the opportunity to participate in a writing competition in order to be on the staff of one of BC Law’s nationally-recognized law journals. Currently, there are five journals at BC Law: the Boston College Law Review (BCLR), the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, the Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, the Boston College Journal of Law and Social Justice, and the U.C.C. Reporter-Digest (note: with the exception of the U.C.C. Reporter-Digest, at the end of this academic year all the journals will be consolidated into the Boston College Law Review, and each subject area will be given appropriate space for articles within BCLR). All 2Ls hold staff writer positions in the journal to which they belong, while the 3Ls hold different editorial positions.

As a staff writer on the Journal of Law and Social Justice (JLSJ), my first assignment this year was a case comment – a piece of writing that summarizes a recent case and analyzes its impact (for JLSJ, we specifically discuss the impact from a social justice angle). I wrote about a case from the Arizona Supreme Court, State v. Gray, which was about Arizona’s police entrapment statute and its negative effect on minority groups. Writing the case comment was a great way to get accustomed to how journal writing works, without having to write too long of a piece or do too much research beyond the case itself.

After writing multiple drafts and going over a bunch of edits from 3L editors, my case comment was finished, and almost immediately afterwards, the other 2L staff writers and I had to begin the note writing process. The note is the second piece of writing that a JLSJ staff writer produces, and is much more labor-intensive than the case comment. The note is essentially a piece focusing on a topic of the writer’s choice and includes a legal solution to the issue presented.

We began brainstorming note topics in the beginning of October, and initially, I thought I was never going to find anything to write about. I’m really interested in prison issues, so I knew I wanted to write about something in that subject area. However, I had a hard time narrowing the topic to something specific and current. I hit the jackpot after talking to librarian Susan Vaughn, who pointed me to a few websites that reported on current issues in the law. My breakthrough came when I was browsing one of the sites she suggested, the National Conference of State Legislatures website (www.ncsl.org). I searched “prison” in the NCSL blog, and came across an article about inmate suicide. After looking more into inmate suicide, I discovered that it was the perfect topic – not only was it within my area of interest, but inmate suicide is currently an issue of serious nationwide concern (suicides are currently the leading cause of death in jails!).

I’ve just submitted the second draft of my note, and there are many more drafts to go; the whole process won’t be over until the end of April. However, the amount of research, writing, editing, and footnoting I’ve done thus far feels worthwhile, having found an issue that I feel passionate about and want to share with others. While the process of applying to be on a journal and then writing for the journal is challenging and time consuming, I highly encourage all 1Ls who enjoy writing and researching, and want to improve those skills, to give it a shot. Until then, talk to 2Ls and 3Ls about their experiences, and be sure to attend the journal information session later on this semester.

Venus Chui is a 2L at BC Law, co-president of the Christian Legal Society, and a staff writer for the BC Journal of Law and Social Justice. Feel free to contact her with questions about her experience on the JLSJ or at BC Law in general. Comment here or send her an e-mail at venus.chui@bc.edu.

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