Most law students are familiar with the term “law review” or “law journal.” For those who are new to law school, law review is a scholarly journal that is run by students at a law school. It publishes articles that are written by law professors, judges, lawyers and other legal professionals. Law students may also have the chance to participate in writing for law review as well. They often comment on current cases, make notes on changes that are taking place in case law or in the legal profession, and write law book reviews.
A law review is equivalent to a scholarly journal such as a medical journal for doctors or psychological journal for psychologists. As of 2017, there were 1529 law reviews in publication in the United States. Law students are encouraged to participate in law review once they have completed their first year of law school. The application process is different depending upon the law review you wish to “get on.” It typically involves the following steps:
- Writing a memorandum of law, analyzing a set of facts using a packet of law you are provided.
- A Bluebook exercise, a tedious process in which you must correct legal citations.
- Writing a personal statement.
- Having good grades in the first year of law school.
For those students who make it onto law review, they will begin as a Staff Writer, writing case comments, notes, and source collections. By the third year of law school, a student may become an editor of law review. Examples of editorial positions include Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, Articles Editor, and Senior Editor. (An interesting side note: President Barack Obama was Editor in Chief of the Harvard Law Review when he was a law student there).
Law reviews are categorized into subjects that may focus on different topics. There are many law school rankings that will help you to understand which law reviews are considered to be “the best.” This article by the University of Michigan Law Library explains how journal rankings in law review are tabulated in various ways. Some of the law reviews that have consistently been ranked highest include the Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Columbia Law Review, and University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The Law Review Commons also allows you to browse open access law reviews and journals publishing online. Many of these journals focus on various areas of law, such as administrative law, agricultural law, and intellectual property law.
Students will often refer to law journals when conducting their own research as current or historical authoritative sources. Even though the backbone of our legal system is the U.S. Constitution, the law is never stagnant—it is always changing and being redefined. One of the ways that this takes place is through scholarly review and research on particular issues. It is through publications in law journals and reviews that legal issues are discussed further. What may have once been a legal benchmark from the foundation of our country might change due to new evidence, public opinion, or new precedents brought to light through careful examination and reporting.
Law students are encouraged to join law review for many reasons. Having law review experience will look good on a resume, and shows judges that you are committed to improving your writing and citation skills. Writing for law review demonstrates that you have honed your critical thinking, logic and verbal skills. It also shows future employers that you are willing to take the time to do extra work and won’t shy away from handling extra tasks as needed. Some legal employers will hire law school graduates who have law review experience over those who don’t.