To Write or Not

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

               Law Review aside, the majority of American Law Schools host a variety of other journals, each beneficial for students in their own unique way.

Law Review, at every institution, is the most prestigious journal.

The name alone signals to employers that you have solid credentials, and in some cases, it can make the difference between getting that position at Skadden or waiting by a phone that will never ring. However, if you don’t make it onto Law Review, or if you simply decide Law Review isn’t for you, then rest assured, there are other ways to signal to employers that you are equally as qualified for a position. However, when deciding to try for Law Review consider your situation: are you at a top 10 Law School – if yes then Law Review likely is not essential; does your school rank onto Law Review, or is everything done by writing competition – if ranking is the system then saying yes may be the smart decision as employers are aware of the grading scheme; finally, what are your reasons for not wanting Law Review – if you’ve visited the office, met with the current people, and weighed the time commitment and come to the conclusion that you won’t be happy there or that it will conflict with your academic pursuits then have faith in your decision, however, if you simply don’t want to sit for the writing competition because it’s hard, or you don’t think you have a chance then maybe re-think your reasoning.

Law Review aside, the majority of American Law Schools host a variety of other journals, each beneficial for students in their own unique way. When deciding what journal, you want to be a part of you should of course visit the offices and meet with the current staff, however you also want to consider your future employers and career goals. If you majored in humanities during undergrad but want to be in house counsel at a corporation then consider joining the business journal, as it may signal to your employers that your interest in business is sincere. Also consider the ranking of the individual journals – a quick google search will reveal not only the ranking within your institution, but also the world ranking. Finally, consider the time commitment and credit offerings of each journal and whether you’ll be able to satisfy your upper level writing requirement, or publishing requirement, as each journal differs in this regard.

Now, what if after attending the journal open houses, and weighing the options between journals you’ve come to the conclusion that you just don’t want to be on a journal? It certainly is not common for students to not be on a journal at all, and it can be a risky choice as employers like to see that you’re on a journal since it indicates that you have (or will) master the writing and editing skills essential for many legal careers. However, if you plan to pursue a dual degree, or want to focus more on taking multiple clinics then editing papers for a journal, go for it! Just make sure you craft a succinct explanation for why you’ve decided to opt out of the journal trend, and how you are gaining those valuable skills elsewhere.

Ultimately,  the choice between journals, or no journal, should rest on three things 1) the benefit to your career goals, 2) your academic pursuits and success, and 3) your mental health and personal happiness.