April 20, 2005

Wolfson: Second Chance

by Guest Contributor

(Michigan Law student Adam Wolfson blogs at Don't Know It from Adam.)

In all of these articles about the utility and process of getting on Law Review, the perspective has rightfully been from the position of those who were successful in their respective LR application procedures. For those out there who have yet to participate in such a competition, it may seem that this is the perspective of the lucky few. In part, that probably skews the perspectives a bit, but I also don't think it's entirely luck that gets you on to Law Review. The write-on process usually rewards those who really put in the effort to both write a coherent piece and citecheck it to death. Same goes for editing exercises and grading on.

But what about those who don't make in onto the Review in such a way? Is there possibility for Law Review life after rejection?

At some schools, the answer is yes. And, here at Michigan, that is definitely the
case with me.

When I first found out that Law Review had given out its acceptances this past
summer, I was understandably frustrated because I didn't get the call. I wrote my application like everyone else and felt it was pretty good, but I still didn't get the good word from those LR Editors. A few days later, in a conversation with a friend who was on Ed Board, I was informed that there was still a way to apply. If I could complete a publishable-quality Note by the end of the year, then the MLR would accept me as an Associate Editor for the next Volume. After thinking it over for a day, I decided I would like to attempt this "second chance" write-on, and I got underway almost immediately.

I think the question for people who are put in my position is whether it is even worth it to attempt this write-on. After all, if you look at the rest of the articles in this Symposium, there are marked advantages and disadvantages to being on Law Review. Whereas the LR definitely helps in clerkships applications and the possibility of future academic employment, if you have no interest in such things, don't want to publish, and/or already found a job through on campus interviews or your own efforts, then writing on may just be an exercise in masochistic punishment.

For me, it was all about the clerkship. It was worth it to me to undertake the Note-writing process because I knew having Law Review on my resume would be an aid when current clerks were sifting through applications come September. Now that I've made it, I'm also excited to be involved in the publishing process, but I'd be lying if I cited any other motivation for the past 8 months of writes and rewrites. Who knows what motivates others, but I'd be willing to bet that over 90% of second chance writers have a similar goal in mind.

So, how does one go about writing on? First, I think it's all about staying on track and having the right attitude. You've got to remember that the Ed Board intentionally makes writing on a difficult process. If it was easy, everyone would avoid the competition at the end 1L year and just write a Note during their second year. Knowing this, you should act accordingly. Pay attention to deadlines and really make the effort to get more than the minimum done by every due date. If they want a list of research by October 1st, get them a list of research and your outline. If they want the first third of the piece done by February 1st, have a rough draft of the entire Note finished by then.

The beauty of the write-on process is that it goes on for so long. Writing a 30-45
page, double-spaced Note (with copious footnotes filling up many of those pages) should be a tough but manageable task for any law student who has the drive to finish it. Putting in the extra work early to get ahead of the game pays dividends in the end.

The second major piece of advice I can give is to let your Editor know that you are eager to put in the effort. While this could quickly cross over into pandering, a certain amount of enthusiasm lets them know you are serious abut completing the write-on process. Since Law Review is all about legal scholarship (some of the posts in this Symposium are a little more cynical on this subject than I), showing that you are excited about contributing your own piece of legal scholarship goes a long way in providing incentives for your Editor to give you back timely edits and to really put in the extra effort to help. In other words, don't kiss up, but be enthusiastic. It's a nice chance you're being offered. If you are really serious about getting onto LR and let it be known from the start, it will be a positive experience for both you and the Review.

Third, make sure you're writing on for the right reasons. Heidi has a good post on this subject, and I encourage you to read it. If you're applying to Law Review through the second chance option just because you want prestige on your resume, then it's going to be a long couple of months, and I'd hazard a guess that the Note will be more of a nuisance than a source of pride. What kept me going on my own Note-writing process was that (i) I really enjoyed writing it, and (ii) I knew the end goal justified any tough times I had with writing/researching/etc.

Fourth, buy a copy of Eugene Volokh's Academic Legal Writing. I can't stress enough how valuable this little tome was to my Note. Volokh does a great job of breaking down how law articles are supposed to work, offering ideas on how to get a Note topic, and providing clear advice on how to write a forceful legal piece. It's not too expensive and will really help you figure out exactly where you want to go with your Note. Also, it's an entertaining read.

In the end, not many people decide to write on. Whether it's because the perceived value of Law Review passes with the end of job interviews, or the task of writing a Note seems too daunting, many understandably decide not to pursue the second chance option. I write this post to let you know that it can be done, even if it seems an uphill battle. Write-ons must prove themselves, and that can be an exhausting effort after a couple of months. But, if Law Review is worth it to you, I can't recommend writing on highly enough. I was accepted just last Friday, and my Note is now on the fast track to an October or November publication. While a certain amount of pride is involved, it's more just a nice validation of a lot of hard work.

If your school has a second chance option, I say go for it. Just remember it's not easy and that you shouldn't expect it to be so.

April 20, 2005 03:50 AM | TrackBack
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