Your time in law school is valuable. So choosing to join a law journal is not a decision to be taken lightly. All of your law-related extracurricular activities should help lead you to the legal career you want, and a law journal is no different.
To help you decide whether to join a law journal, let’s take a look at some factors. Exactly what is a law journal? What are the pros and cons of joining? What types of law journal topics are there, and what is the process of “writing onto a journal”?
Table of Contents
- What is a Law Journal?
- Pros and Cons of Joining a Law Journals
- Law Journal Topics
- How to Write on to a Law Journal
- Law Journal Not for You?
What Is a Law Journal?
A law journal is a publication of scholarly articles on the legal system that is typically student run. Legal scholars and professors write most of the articles for law journals, but some journals do publish “notes” or “comments” by students.
There are hundreds of law journals published every year, and there are many organizations that rank them. If you’re trying to decide which journal at your law school you’d like to apply to, you can review these rankings.
However, I’d recommend basing your choice on your interest area. While ranking is important, you’re going to be spending hours and hours reviewing this area of law. That’s going to be a lot easier—and more enjoyable—if you are interested in the topic.
If you have a chance to write a note, jump at it! Writing a note is a great opportunity to practice your research and writing skills and develop a writing sample for all of your future job applications—and one that will stand out above the rest!
Next, let’s examine the benefits and drawbacks of joining a journal.
Pros and Cons of Joining a Law Journal
Pros of Joining a Law Journal
By far the greatest benefit of joining a law journal is the respect it will garner from prospective employers. Whether you plan to work for a firm, nonprofit, or government agency, listing a journal on your resume will impress hiring committees.
Why will future employers be impressed? Being on a law journal requires hours of hard work and strong research and writing skills. You’ll spend hours and hours (and hours) reviewing citations. While this may be painful at the time, this diligent review is crucial to strong legal writing and research.
Another pro is learning about a particular area of law that interests you. We’ll look at all the different types of law journals later on, but it’s worth noting that there are a wide variety of legal areas. So, if you want to know more about Labor Law or Maritime Law, there’s probably a journal on that very topic!
Additionally, there are leadership opportunities when working on a journal. You can work your way up, depending on the journal (some base qualifications solely on grades), to editor or other positions on the editorial board.
Cons of Joining a Law Journal
Now for the cons…The only real downside of being on a law journal is the time commitment. Most journals require at least 15 or 20 hours of work from you each week. This is time that could be spent studying, volunteering, or participating in other law school activities (like moot court). You should only join a law journal if you are truly committed and if you are sure that’s how you want to spend your free time in law school.
Next, let’s review the different types of law journals to see which ones peak your interest.
Law Journal Topics
First, let’s talk about Law Review. If you don’t know already, Law Review is a big deal. This is especially true if you’re editor of the Law Review—just look at Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to see how that can work in your favor. Law Review is a different beast than other law journals. Being on Law Review typically requires being in the top of your class. Luckily for everyone else, there are other law journals with less competitive criteria for joining on a variety of legal topics.
So, what exactly are all these journals about? They range from Criminal Law to International Law to Communications Law, Media, and Journalism. If you’re hoping to focus your practice on a particular area of law, check to see if your law school, or the law schools you’re applying to, have a journal on that topic.
Now that you’re no doubt interested in being a part of a law journal, let’s review the write on process.
How to Write On to a Law Journal
At the end of your first year of law school, you’ll be exhausted and ready to lay on the beach and think about nothing for a while before jumping into your first legal job as a law clerk. But wait. One thing stands between you and the beach—the daunting write on process.
To join a law journal, you’ll need to complete a fairly grueling exercise called “the write on” process. In general, this process requires that you either write a sample article based on resources that you are given or editing a sample article for correct citations.
Additionally, you’ll be asked to submit your 1L grades. Depending on the law journal, the grade requirements may be very competitive. If you can, ask around to see if your grades are in range for a particular journal.
The write on process is quite difficult and time consuming, but it’s worth it. Like all things in law school, it’s helpful to remember your end goal and that others have survived the process before you. You can do it!
What if a Law Journal Is Not for You?
That’s okay too! Spending long hours reviewing legal citations in addition to all of your class work is not for everyone. What’s most important is that you find extracurricular activities that fit your personality, interests, and goals.
For example, if your dream is to be a litigator, then moot court is probably a better match for you. In moot court, you’ll have the opportunity to strengthen your oral arguments and get comfortable presenting in front of an audience. You just won’t get that same experience holed up in the journal office reviewing citations.
Joining a law journal is a great way to strengthen your legal research and writing skills and to bolster your resume. In addition to learning new skills and delving into a specific area of law, you’ll have the chance to network with fellow students and develop leadership skills. Given the large time commitment, however, it’s important to consider whether there are other law school activities that might help you better achieve your future career goals. Remember, everyone’s path is different—even in law school—so be sure to choose what’s right for you!