After my last final of 1L year, I basically wanted to nap for a month until my internship started in June. However, that isn’t an option if you’re going to apply for Law Review.
Law Review is a scholarly journal, and a majority of law schools have their own versions of this journal that publish research drafted by students and professionals. To become a Staff Writer on the Boston College Law Review, there’s an extensive application process that begins right at the start of the summer. This means, if you aren’t sure whether you want to apply this year, you’ll have to decide in only a few short weeks.
As a 2L who’s nearly done with her first year on Law Review and who lived to tell the tale, I can say with confidence that I’m glad I applied and had this experience. However, there were definitely some things I wish I knew beforehand that could’ve helped me make an even more informed choice when deciding to apply. To ensure you make the right decision in May, weigh the following pros and cons.
Law Review Can Make a Difference in Your Career
As more and more firms and other employers in the legal field attempt to diversify their workforces, some factors traditionally seen as markers of success, including GPAs and class rankings, are being given less weight in the job application process than in decades past. Journal membership — one of those traditional markers of success — is no different.
However, while the legal field has made progress in this regard in recent years, the field as a whole still cares about “prestige.” Therefore, while I don’t think journal membership would ever single handedly secure you a job, it could still be a differentiating factor that helps you stand out from the crowd. This is particularly true if you want to clerk after law school or eventually transition into academia.
You Will Learn a Ton
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Law Review is actually a great learning experience! Although you do have guidance from a team of 3L editors as you draft your comment and note as a Staff Writer, the drafting process itself is a mostly solo endeavor. This means you can create something that is truly your own.
When doing so, you’re bound to learn more about legal writing, research, and citation than you ever would otherwise. Additionally, you get to learn a lot about a specific area of the law, which you choose when selecting your note topic. If you have a particular legal question you’d like to answer, or a particular field you want to go into after law school, this is an awesome opportunity to become an expert in that area during your Law Review experience.
It Is a Lot of Work
I knew going into it that Law Review would be a lot of work, but it really is a lot of work. You’ll start writing before classes begin in both the fall and spring semesters, which allows you to finish before the end of each semester, but also shortens your breaks considerably. You should also be mindful of the time you’ll need to spend on Law Review during the semesters when picking classes. I chose to take five classes last fall, which turned out to be a really heavy burden for me with Law Review added on top.
That being said, the amount of work is doable if you manage your time well and don’t overdo it. I signed up for a clinic this semester, and I have been able to balance that major time commitment with Law Review with relative ease. Don’t be afraid to take a class pass/fail or drop a class if you need more time to focus on Law Review. If you’re mindful of this, you should be able to juggle everything.
There Are Other Options
If you want to become a better writer but don’t think Law Review is the right fit for you, there are many other ways to hone your skills. The first is the Uniform Commercial Code Reporter-Digest, which is a Boston College institution that helps attorneys find case law on various commercial law topics. Second-year students on Digest annotate one significant commercial law case each week, giving them a ton of practical writing experience.
If you want to work on one project long-term, more like how Law Review is structured, you can also become a research assistant for a professor. Finally, there’s no better way to learn about legal research and writing than by doing it professionally, so consider applying for a clinic or externship that will have a big writing component.
Don’t Be a Raccoon
If you’re in Professor Farbman’s Constitutional Law class this semester, you’ll likely hear this piece of advice on your last day of class. But, in case you aren’t, I’ll share it now.
Last year, before sending me and my section-mates off to finals and the Law Review application season that would follow, Farbman told us that many law students are like raccoons. Raccoons like shiny things, and they’ll collect shiny things that they find. However, raccoons can’t go into stores or buy anything, so their shiny things are useless.
Many law students are also keen collectors, though their “shiny things” are academic accolades. However, not every student actually needs all of those accolades they collect. If you want to clerk or enter academia, the accolade of a Law Review experience will almost certainly serve you well, but if you have other aspirations, you may not need that particular shiny thing.
What I took from this metaphor was, don’t apply for Law Review if you’re only interested in it for the prestige. There are many other shiny things to collect in law school, and you may not be able to collect all of the others if you’re on Law Review. However, if you’re interested in Law Review to become a better writer and researcher, or to give yourself the opportunity to study a niche interest that you may not be able to otherwise, then don’t count yourself out. The only way you definitely won’t get on Law Review is if you don’t apply.
Tess Halpern is a second-year student and vice-president of the Impact blog. Contact her at email@example.com.