lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Law Review Write On

Having just finished the law review write-on process I thought I would share some reactions to the experience before my memory has a chance to suppress it to salvage what’s left of my psyche.

To briefly summarize – “Ouch, that hurt.” Really, academic research against the clock is not a pleasant experience. As an evening student, I had some extra obligations to juggle as well. We take classes during the summer so for the first four hours of the competition I was taking a Property final. Then, our second summer class started during the second week of the competition. I also work full-time during the week and ended up taking about six days off at various intervals to work on the paper. That being said, it wasn’t unmanageable, but required some foresight, planning and discipline.

Have a Plan

The Plan – Our write on process was over an 18 day period, so I divided it up into three equal sections to (1) research, (2) write and (3) cite. This meant I wanted to have a basic outline of what I wanted to say and the law I would rely on by Day 6, a fairly complete rough draft by day 12, then bluebook the hell out of it over the last six days.

Don’t Be Too Sad When You Plan Flies Out the Window

Oh the best laid plans… The research never quite ended, but then it never does for me. I was still finding cases for the veins of argument I was opening up on Day 16, but my core argument and research was done by Day 8. Likewise, my rough draft didn’t really find its final form until about Day 15 or 16. Still, having those firm dates let me know when I was getting off track and when to start the next phase even if I didn’t feel completely done with the previous one.

Citation, Citation, Citation…

This paper finally broke me of my (very bad) habit of making unattributed statements in my rough draft on the assumption that I would go back later to add the cites. The assumptions underlying this bad habit are (a) it will take too long and I just want to get the ideas out on paper and (b) it will be easy to remember what I was thinking about citing here later. Both of the assumptions are wrong for reasons most people, like me, have to figure out the hard way. Your memory is not your friend.

For example, you may be writing something like “The dissent in Case X criticized the majority for assuming Y.” Citing that seemingly simple statement may be deceptively difficult. The dissent may not have criticized that exact assumption or it may have criticized that assumption in such oblique terms that . It may surface more than once at different points in the opinion. As you read your perception of it may grow in importance so that you give it more credence than it really deserved. You have no idea how sneak Supreme Court opinions can be until you try to pin them down on something they’re not interested in being pinned down on. Very very sneaky.

Commit early, commit totally or not at all

If you’re masochistic enough to voluntarily write a completely optional 30-page casenote, might I suggest that you write the best damn casenote your humanly capable of? It is possible that you’re one of these law school savants who are seemingly genetically disposed to be good at law school and that you can pound out your casenote two days before the due date on a borrowed laptop while still passed out from last night’s orgy. I’d like to point out that if you are such a savant you would have already graded on to law review.

A lot of people waited a week or even longer to decide to do the write on. More power to them. I don’t actually count my chances as any better than theirs. Law school savants, do exist after all, but it’s hard enough without handicapping yourself. Regardless of whether or not this paper gets me on to law review, I derive more satisfaction out of having written the best damn casenote I was capable of. There’s nothing I can do about going to school with some really smart people, but there’s no reason to sell oneself short. You just don’t have another opportunity to do it, so why not give it your best shot?

Student Law Review Articles With Legs

It’s easy for law students to think of the articles they write for law review as necessary evils, grown-up book reports that demonstrate their research and writing ability to potential employers and justify the prestige-grab of law review. Eugene Volokh, whose excellent Legal Academic Writing will show up on any recommended reading list, is tracking down students whose student writing not only burnished the resume but has had an impact on legal thought as evidenced in citations in other academic work and the opinions of actual cases.

Volokh Conspiracy: Interview with Victor Cosentino, Author of a Very Successful Student Note

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