(Ming Shui is a 2L at Michigan Law and the Executive Technology Editor of the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review.)
I, like many law students, aspired to be a member of the elite, those who spend half their waking lives in the library gathering old tomes of legal wisdom, copying page after page of scholarship, memorizing all the abbreviated words on T.6, and doing tasks that a fourth grader could do in her sleep. Sure there would be hours of mind numbing source gathering and cite-checking work to be done, but the glory of being on law review, the accolades, the recognition, LINE ON THE RESUME would make up for such shortcomings. Luckily, I was rejected from law review. Instead, I accepted a position on a specialty journal, the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review (MTTLR).
To understand why being on a specialty journal was the right choice for me, some background information is in order. I graduated with a technical degree and came to law school to pursue IP law. Iím also fairly active in the school, holding executive board positions in several student organizations. If I had gotten on Law Review, I would have given up participating in these groups in order to have enough hours in the day to read, sleep, outline, and maintain some tattered semblance of a social life. Being on MTTLR, I was able to get journal experience and still do all the other things I wanted to do in law school.
Life on a specialty journal moves at a slower pace than life on Law Review. MTTLR publishes twice a year. That means there are fewer sources to gather, fewer cites to check, and a less hectic schedule to get things done. It meant that our articles and note editors usually gave us two or three weeks to get an assignment done so that we could schedule our time without worrying about being rushed due to some project being due a particular week. But in completing our assignments, we worked as hard as anybody. We trekked to the other libraries, copied microfilm, sought out obscure books, ranted about unlocatable materials; we just didnít do it as much as Law Review. Despite doing the same work, a specialty journal still translates to lesser prestige and recognition than Law Review. But, as many of the other commentators point out, joining a journal for prestige is the wrong reason to join.
This is not to say that there are no rewards for being on a specialty journal. Accepted articles are in an area of law that Iím interested in reading about. I can stay involved with other activities in law school. Itís also easier to get an Editorial Board position. Being on the Editorial Board gives me a say in the future of our journal. There are other perks as well. MTTLR recently received a significant amount of funding for a symposium to be held next year on the trade-offs between copyright protection of content owners versus technological innovation. The ability to help shape the law on this topic is one of the reasons I came to law school in the first place. I doubt that Iíd have the opportunity to be involved on such a project if I was on Law Review.
In short, working on a specialty journal gave me same kind of bluebooking experience that students on Law Review receive, allowed me to read articles on topics that were in my field of interest, and gave me the time to pursue the other activities I wanted to be involved in during law school. Did it hurt me in getting a job or clerking? I don't think so, but I can't be sure. It might have affected some firms, but the trade-off is well worth it for me.