Friday, February 19, 2010

Law review terrifies, tantalizes

Law school is amazing in so many ways, but perhaps the most amazing thing about the 1L experience has been the way it swings my emotions. Like my 4-year-old son just before bedtime, I can go from unbridled happiness and confidence to the depths of despair and stress, all in the space of a few minutes. The minister at my church, who has a law degree himself, told me last year that law school is like a one-way ratchet. Just when you felt you had everything under control, your reading finished for all six classes, your appellate brief firmly underway, your summer job interviews in the bag, there's some fresh hell to figure out.
In this case, it's law review. A bunch of us 1Ls attended an information session this week to learn more about U of L's three scholarly journals, which will review applications this spring. The main journal will take perhaps two dozen of us, and the work will begin almost immediately (translation: over summer break). Each student will have at least half a dozen "assignments" during the course of the next school year, requiring an estimated six to eight hours of work apiece. Then there's an additional 25-page assignment, which satisfies the law school's writing requirement and could end up being published.
I am told that making law review is one of the biggest career boosters for a law student. It stays on your resume for decades, opens doors with big firms, and without it a federal clerkship is all but impossible. Even after being elected president, Barack Obama (above right) is still frequently described as the former chief of the Harvard Law Review. I was heartened to learn that the application process at U of L, at least this year, gives roughly equal weight to grade point average and writing ability. Resumes also are taken into account. The competition is fierce. You can even buy books that purport to help you get accepted. I suspect that I will make a try for it, but not without some misgivings. I already worry, for example, that law school takes too much time away from my kids and family. And while there are practical applications to editing law review articles and writing notes, critics say the process is drudgery and the end result is obscure. In a way, however, this tension epitomizes the things that are good and bad about law school. The opportunities for success and achievement are seemingly limitless. Same goes for the stress and the work load. The freedom we each have to choose our own path is so expansive it's frightening. But I guess that's why I'm here in the first place. Good luck to everyone who plans to apply this spring.


  1. I'm looking at going to law school in a couple of years and your blog is awesome. I truly enjoy your writing and I fel like I'm learning what to expect. Keep it up.

  2. Thank you for the feedback. Now if we can just figure out how to block the Japanese spammers...