Participating on a Law Journal

          Lois Weithorn

          Looking back at my career as a law student, I can affirmatively state that my experience working on the Stanford Law Review was among the most memorable experiences of law school, and of my life. I would articulate some of the key benefits as falling into the following categories:

          (1) Broadening one's "legal" horizons: As a member of a law review board or staff, one reads a lot of scholarship. It is a wonderful way to be exposed to subject matter one might not otherwise encounter in one's studies or career.

          (2) Developing one's writing, editing, and Blue-booking skills:  Whatever career one chooses post-graduation, it is likely that legal writing will be component.  Whether or not one publishes his or her own note, the opportunity to review and edit the work of others helps to hone one's own writing skills.  That said, the opportunity to write and publish a note is an extraordinary one.  For many students, this is the only opportunity they will have to publish their written work.  The benefits of writing and publishing a note are infinite.  Not only does one build skills that will serve him or her for a lifetime, but the satisfaction of having developed and created a piece of original scholarship is substantial.  One also learns how to listen to and integrate constructive criticism about one's writing.  Furthermore, having published a note can only help your career, whatever you choose to do.  Finally, although Blue-booking and other systems of legal citation can be tedious to learn, one needs to learn them, and law journal work burns those details into the neural pathways of your brain.  After your journal work, you will never be able to tolerate a period or space in the wrong place in a citation again!

          (3) Developing one's critical thinking skills: Whereas it may be relatively easy to read a piece of scholarship and decide whether you agree or disagree with the thesis, whether you think it is well-reasoned or poorly-reasoned, or whether you think it is well-written or poorly-written, it is much more challenging to provide to the author the necessary feedback to improve the piece.  The demands of this task force students to develop their reasoning powers in ways not available in most classroom contexts.

          (4) Making decisions that can affect the field of law (as well as the careers of professors):  I know of no other field in which students are put in positions of authority to make decisions regarding what gets published in the most prestigious journals in their field.  In exercising this authority, students on journals have the opportunity to affect scholarly discourse.  They are forced to evaluate the state of a particular area of scholarship, and decide whether a given piece makes a significant contribution beyond what is already published. 

          (5) Stimulating scholarly dialogue:  By developing and sponsoring symposia, law journal staff can bring together scholars and practitioners who may not have had the opportunity to interact previously; or may not have jointly addressed a particular question or topic. Law students can use their creativity and their sense of what issues need scholarly attention to focus experts on particularly subjects.  In doing so, one gets the opportunity to contact and invite these individuals to attend the symposium, and gets to organize and host the event. There are many other advantages I could list, but won't, for lack of time and space.  Come talk to me if you'd like to discuss this further.  Whatever journal you choose, it is likely to be a very rewarding experience.

          Professor Lois A. Weithorn