Law Reviews and Student Scholarship—Demystified

February 15, 2011 - 12 AM

H. J. X., 3L

One of the main extracurricular activities of a law student is being an editor on a law review. You’ll soon learn this once you step inside the law school, because as a visitor you cannot enter the law review offices that occupy various corners of the law building. Peering through their front doors, you wonder: what happens inside and what does it take to gain access?

In most other law schools, law review is called “law review.” For example, the publishers of the infamous Bluebook of legal citations are The Columbia Law Review, The Harvard Law Review, The University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and...The Yale Law Journal. Only at Yale are most of the law reviews called “journals.” We’re just different like that. Whatever the label, law review is a journal published by each school containing recent scholarship by professors, students, practitioners, and judges. What is unique about these publications as opposed to scholarship in other academic fields is that the entire operation is student-run, from selecting submissions to editing to publishing to distributing. Because this process is so comprehensive and labor- and time-intensive, most law reviews have their own offices where editors work and hold meetings.

In each school there is a flagship journal that does not specialize in a specific subject matter. Yale’s flagship law review is The Yale Law Journal, one of the oldest and most-cited law reviews in the nation. Yale’s other law reviews, termed “secondary journals,” do focus on a specific legal field. Secondary journals at Yale include: Yale Law & Policy Review, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Yale Journal of International Law, Yale Journal on Regulation, Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal, Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, and Yale Journal of Law and Technology. Students at Yale Law School have an array of stellar journals to join based on their interests and time commitments. Joining is also easy--outside of The Yale Law Journal, the secondary journals do not have an admissions process. Students can just show up to a meeting and become an editor.

One of the main purposes of law reviews is to promote student scholarship. Each Yale journal allocates space for student pieces, called Comments and Notes. During the year, each journal has numerous “drop dates” for student submissions, and editors on the journal work directly with the student authors through the editing process. Although students school-wide are encouraged to submit pieces, many journals, including The Yale Law Journal, allots space specifically for writing by its own editors.

I have been an editor on two Yale law reviews, and these editor positions have been some of the best experiences I’ve had in law school. Being a part of a journal has allowed me to explore areas of law that I didn’t get a chance to study. I’ve also realized how transferable the skills I learned from journal are to law firm life, especially attention to detail. Working on an important contract or agreement takes a scrutinizing eye, which I’ve honed as an editor of The Yale Law Journal. But one of the most rewarding aspects of law review is working with the great group of student editors. We meet in committees to talk about the submitted pieces. We hold happy hours, banquets, birthday parties, and breakfasts. We chat in the Journal lounge over cups of coffee. So despite the long hours at times, gaining access is worth it in the end.