Should I Join a Law Review?

Aaron Perkowitz
Updated February 27, 2024
Edited by
Considering joining a law review? Explore the advantages and obstacles, hear from law review members, and discover strategies to navigate the demands.
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Law reviews, which are student-run journals that publish articles by professors and legal professionals, have a rich history. They date back to the establishment of the first popular law review by Harvard students in 1887.

Over the years, law reviews have offered hands-on experience. In fact, having law review experience can be highly advantageous, as corporations and judges often prioritize applicants who have dedicated hours to legal research and writing.

Key Considerations before Joining a Law Review

People considering law review need to understand their personal interests, perseverance skills, and lifestyle. While many consider law review to be a thankless job, others consider it as a method to potentially propel a career. A student should weigh the benefits and challenges of law review before joining.

The Benefits of Joining a Law Review

  • Demonstration of skills: Graduates who have been part of a law review are often recognized as hardworking and talented writers with a strong understanding of proper citations. They can highlight this experience on their resumes throughout their professional lives.
  • Detailed learnings: Engaging in hours of research on specific law topics allows participants to become well-versed in those subjects. Law students can choose a journal that covers topics aligning with their interests, enabling them to delve deeper into their preferred areas of study.
  • Leadership opportunities: Long-term involvement in a law review can lead to the potential to become an editor. Assuming an editorial role provides people with further opportunities to hone their relevant skills and showcase their promotion on their resumes.
  • Networking: Law review offers like-minded students and legal professionals a platform to connect and socialize. While some law school classes may foster a competitive environment, law review often encourages a more collaborative atmosphere.
  • Stand out on job applications: Despite the challenges discussed below, being part of a law review can be seen as a testament to the intelligence and enthusiasm for the legal industry by prospective employers.

The Challenges of Joining a Law Review

  • Time commitment: Law reviews demand significant time dedication, which can be challenging to balance alongside other rigorous coursework, extracurricular activities, and internships. Students participating in law reviews may need to carefully manage their schedules and make sacrifices to fulfill their commitments.
  • No GPA benefit: Participants in law reviews do not receive any additional benefit in regards to their GPA. In fact, law review attendees may suffer from a decreased GPA due to a decreased amount of time available for studying.
  • Tedious work: Checking citations in law reviews can be tedious and time-consuming. While participants may improve their citation-checking speed, there is a limit to the benefits gained from this aspect of law review.
  • Unpaid labor: Law review students typically do not receive compensation for the hours they dedicate to their work. Paid internships may offer a more financially rewarding alternative for those seeking hands-on learning experiences.
  • Not universally applicable: Not every career path benefits from law review. Prospective law review members need to consider their future plans and ideal employers to consider how beneficial law review can be.

Strategies to Manage the Challenges

Law review members should use time-management strategies to reduce negative impacts. Create daily plans, prioritize tasks, and use time-tracking software to reduce negative impacts and maintain a balanced workload.

What to Expect as a Law Review Member

Students who have decided to join a law review must first overcome a competitive application process. Many institutions require applicants to complete a write-on competition, which consists of tasks ranging from research to editing.

Prospective members are considered holistically, meaning their grades may also be considered.

Successful law review enrollees often first focus on checking citations and ensuring they conform to Bluebook rules. Members that stay for a second year have a wider variety of available tasks including grading write-on competitions, editing, and working with authors.

Personal Experiences from Law Review Members

Joining a law review can be a transformative experience for aspiring legal professionals. Jesse Wang, 2022 JD/MBA graduate of the University of Southern California, shares his experience about his time with USC’s Spotlight Entertainment Law Review.

Jesse is admitted to practice law in both New Jersey and New York and also serves as an admissions counselor at Juris Education.

question-mark-circleHow did your experience on the law review contribute to your development as a legal professional, particularly in honing your research and writing skills?

During my time at USC Gould School of Law, I worked as a staff editor during my 2L year, and then as managing editor during my 3L year of the Spotlight Entertainment Law Review. Throughout my role, I conducted legal research using Lexis[Nexis] and Westlaw to find precedent case law for specific legal issues discussed within the articles I was assigned.

While the type of law that I practice currently as an attorney is different, the skills I gained from Spotlight continue to be relevant, as it is because of that experience that I am now able to quickly parse through large quantities of text, identify holdings, and shepardize* to ensure the cited cases have not been overruled.

*The act of confirming subsequent treatment of a legal decision, to give context on it as a precedent. Based on the use of Shepard’s Citation Service.

question-mark-circleCan you share any specific challenges you faced while participating in the law review and how you overcame them?

Spotlight was different from traditional law review journals because it is published in a magazine format. As managing editor, I worked closely with the editor-in-chief to design the cover and text format, print the journal, and distribute the publication to entertainment law firms throughout Los Angeles.

An added challenge was coordinating the entire publication process during COVID, which made everything virtual. I would say the primary reason I was able to overcome these challenges was by having a strong support system and a great working relationship with the editor-in-chief.

question-mark-circleIn what ways did being a member of the law review enhance your networking opportunities and open doors for future career prospects in the legal field?

Members of the Entertainment Law Review have a unique opportunity to network, because many of the alumni of the journal continue to visit the law school and provide employment opportunities to current journal staff members.

Additionally, as a law magazine with a wide distribution network (small and mid-sized entertainment law firms), members of the journal who end up getting published have their name broadcast to law firms throughout the city, which provides further opportunity to connect with prospective employers for associate level positions post law school.

Making An Informed Decision

Law school attendees should weigh the pros and cons when determining whether to join a law review. It is crucial to consider how law review aligns with future career goals.

Seeking guidance from trusted sources, such as family, friends, and legal professionals, can help individuals make a well-informed choice that best suits their aspirations.

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