Writing onto a journal: You should do it.  All other things equal, it will may help you land a job

The Good

·         It’s something to put on your resume

o   Even if you write the dumbest article ever and your article never gets published and you have a 2.0 GPA, you can still become some sort of editor after having 1 year of journal experience (articles editor, lead articles editor, research editor, executive editor, etc.)

·         You may get a comment published which

o   Is something else to put on your resume

·         It can help get your foot in the door at a big law firm

·         It provides useful skills if you want to clerk for a judge

·         It provides useful skills if you want to become a law professor

·         It will help you develop Blue Book skills

The Bad

·         It’s a lot of work for not much in return

·         Practitioner Blue Book skills differ significantly from law journal Blue Book skills

o   As a practicing attorney you will:

§  rarely, if ever, cite to a law review article

§  frequently cite to a relatively small number of cases, for which you already have citations prepared (e.g. you will work in one practice area of a firm and always cite the same case for jurisdiction, another case for motion to dismiss, summary judgment, etc.)

§  have a paralegal perform cite

§  have westlaw/nexis/BNA provide your citation

§  incorrectly cite a case and…nobody cares (the court, supervising partner, judge’s clerk)

·         It’s a lot of work honing skills you won’t ever use as an attorney

o   98% of USD students don’t obtain federal clerkships (http://www.sandiego.edu/law/careers/students/employment_data/2011_employment_data.php)

o   99% of USD students don’t become tenure track faculty at law schools

·         Membership on a journal has steadily declined in prestige as more schools add more journals

o   At many top 50-ish schools (UCLA, GW, BU, etc.) there are so many journals that any law student can participate on a journal if they so desire.  Consequently, employers have gotten used to seeing a journal on a resume

·         Membership on law review or another journal may give you a false sense of positivity about your job opportunities

o   Law journals announce membership in the summer between your 1L and 2L year and this means that you can write “Law Review” or “Law Journal” on your resume for OCI.

o   Many students finish the 1L year with a GPA between 3.0 and 3.6 (top 50% to 80%)

o   If a firm posts that it wants top 5% or top 10%, law review will not rehabilitate your top 20% to get you in the door at a firm looking for a top 10% student

Things to note about the law journal write on competition:

·         2L and 3L students (e.g. your peers) prepare and write the write-on question, research materials, and the blue book exam, these students:

o   Have no prior experience writing fact patterns or exams

o   Only receive 3 credits during the entire year for working on the journal and preparing the above-materials

o   Have to prepare the fact pattern and case law while taking other law school classes and attempting to get good grades, interview for jobs, etc.

·         2L and 3L students (e.g. your peers) grade your write-on response, these students:

o   Have no prior experience grading or editing legal memoranda

o   Have to slog through a dozen or more responses in a short time

§  Some graders work at law firms over the summer, other graders take summer school, so it's not like the graders have ample time to sit down and thoroughly read each response.  Oftentimes graders will try to grade a few papers each night after work or summer classes

o   Aren’t subject to any form of quality control (e.g. responses aren’t standardized, graders don’t sit in a room and grade the same essay until each of the graders agree on what score each essay should receive)

o   In all likelihood, grade distribution probably isn’t normalized among graders

o   Grading varies widely.  Some graders get hung up on grammar, other graders tend to focus more on the analysis, it’s quite inconsistent and your graded article isn’t returned.

·         General tips

o   Don’t blow off the blue book portion.  It typically comprises about 20% of the possible points available.  Also, your Blue Book grade isn’t nearly as subjective as your written answer. 

o    Put in the work to do a good job.  Read the question, read the materials, and then write a rough draft of your answer to the question.  If you can revise your draft 2-3 times prior to turning in a final copy, you will have given yourself a great opportunity to get on a journal.

If you don’t make it on a law journal, don’t worry about it.  Putting together a comment requires quite a bit of work, and most students would agree that writing a comment takes more time than the number of pass/no-pass units you receive (3).  As a member of a law journal, you must also cite check articles that other professors and students have submitted to the journal you’re on.  Cite checking a law review article that another professor has submitted takes quite a bit of time.  An editor will give you a block of 20 or 40 citations and it’s your job to look up every citation and verify its accuracy, format, etc.  Your requirement to cite-check adds further time to the minimal number of pass/no-pass units you receive for your work on journal.  You should also note that law reviews and other journals fall into the same law school prestige-o-meter as law school rankings.  At USD, this means the articles you’re given to cite check will primarily consist of articles written by professors nobody has heard of, and the articles may or may not get published in a journal that less than 100 people will read.

Additionally, writing a law review or law journal comment satisfies your writing requirement, however comments usually require far more work than taking a paper class, and writing a comment only gives you a few units of pass/no-pass credit.  It’s much better to take a paper class, pocket 3 units of B+ or A-, and fulfill your writing requirement with far less work than submitting a comment.  Papers written in paper classes fulfill your writing requirement the same way a comment fulfills your writing requirement, and papers written for paper classes don’t require nearly as much research, citation, etc. When you write a comment for a law journal, you need to have a professor sponsor your research topic, and the professor will have to sign off on your comment, stating that it fulfils the schools writing requirement.  Needless to say, most professors will have you perform multiple re-writes, include many citations, carefully scrutinize and analyze your writing, etc.  If you can enroll in a paper class, especially a paper class taught by an adjunct or practitioner (a lawyer who is not a tenured faculty member), you can pound out a 20 page paper with far less work and get a good grade.  Don't worry too much about grades in paper classes.  Most paper classes have curves set to 3.4.