Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On Not Making Law Review

Although very few people probably want to hear this, let alone from me, but I recently read a post by Nick that I felt needed addressing. He, like the majority of petitioners, did not make law review. The following is a part of his recollection of his acceptance cycle (which is actually a pretty clever recollection):
Depression came next and it was profound. My legal career: aborted in the first trimester of law school. My ego was wounded, badly. It hurt I tell you, it hurt. I was listless. I could barely bring myself to have breakfast in bed and jet ski all afternoon. I had to dig deep to get through that day at the spa. What kind of career can I expect, I thought, if I'm not on law review? Is the un-cite-checked life worth living? These questions and others swirled in my head, not unlike delicious frozen margaritas.
While he was clearly exaggerating for comedic effect, there was probably a little truth in these statements (a very little). Even if Nick was completely joking (as I suspect), there probably is someone who thinks this way (i.e. that their legal career is "over" before they are out of law school). For those of you who know this, please excuse my ramblings... but anyone who might think otherwise (even if it is only secretly, deep down in the "fear" center of your brain), please read on and I will do my best to show why this is bull$#@.

First, just to get it out of the way, I know there are some freaky 1Ls (I guess most of them are 2Ls now) that I don't even know (or care exist) who might scream "If law review isn't a big deal, why do YOU post about so much?" My main response is the reason I post about law review is, surprise surprise, because I am on law review. This is my blog, so I tend to post about me, so it makes a lot more sense to post about my experience on law review than on the Civil Rights Moot Court. Also, I was happy that I made law review, and I do feel it is a great way to improve some skills which will be useful later on in a legal career. But, that doesn't mean you can't get the same skills at other journals, in your summer work experiences, or on a moot court. Each journal at Minnesota give you just as much cite-checking experience, just as much writing experience, and just as much improvement in legal argument as every other journal.

Second, while I shouldn't need to tell anyone who reads this, being on law review (or not being on law review) is no indication of your intelligence or your legal prowess. I am certainly evidence of this. I'm a normal guy who gets normal grades, who definitely has no strong passion about "the law" (or at least not so much that I feel the need to discuss it outside of school or work). The other summer associates at my summer firm are also great evidence of this. Only one of them is also on law review, yet they all got a job at this firm, which is no small feat. Two of them also go to Minnesota and aren't on law review (one is on the Journal of Law, Science, and Technology, and the other is a rising 2L who didn't make law review and has yet to hear what journal he will be on) and have picked up the tricks of patent law much faster than I did. My office mate isn't on law review at her school, and she has a much better grasp of the law than I do, and she goes to Pittsburgh for gosh sakes.1 If law school teaches you anything, let it be this... grades or anything else law school uses to indicate that one student is "better" than another is total B.S., and has more to do with how well someone scraped together a good written argument on a random day than with actual intelligence.

Finally, although it certainly is helpful to have "Law Review" on your resume when you are looking for jobs, the fact that you don't have it on there won't be a hindrance. If you have great grades and publish a really good article for JLI, you are in much better shape for getting a firm job or judicial clerkships than someone with mediocre grades who couldn't get his crappy note published for law review. Employers know that there is much, much more than law review, so just don't worry about it.

OK, that's enough of the lecture... I'm sure there will be plenty of anonymous commentors who will love to tear into me for it, so bring it on.

1I actually have nothing against Pittsburgh or its law school, but I couldn't go through the entire summer without giving K at least some crap on my blog.


At 10:38 PM, Blogger Now with 110% more bitter! said...

While I agree with quite a bit of what you said, I do have one big area of contention, namely the following sentence:

"Each journal at Minnesota give you just as much cite-checking experience, just as much writing experience, and just as much improvement in legal argument as every other journal."

Since I was on one of those "other" journals, I can state firmly that you do NOT get as much experience cite-checking or in general writing as you do in law review. This is for a number of reasons: 1) Other journals, at least mine, didn't do as many cite checking assignments. I believe you had three each semester while we had one. 2) From what I understand you're articles had to be written and re-written a number of times... they really drilled you on the writing aspect and were much harder on your work than our journal was. At the end of doing journal second year, I didn't ever get any substantive feedback on my cite-checking or writing - just a basic "good."

That being said, there are perks on doing the other journals... namely less work. My friends on law review worked their asses of and contemplated suicide often. I had one or two bad weekends of cite checking, but it really wasn't all that difficult or time consuming. Also, I managed to get one of those really good BIGLAW jobs in a major market with a secondary journal attached to my name instead of law review. Then again, my grades were good. (Although I did have to deal with the pesky - "You're grades are good enough, so why didn't you get on law review question too many times during OCI.")

More generally - 1) Law review on the resume clearly beats out every other court and journal in terms of jobs. 2) If your grades are good/great, you can still get a job at a good law firm with a "lesser" journal on the resume. (So I do take issue with your point that "Finally, although it certainly is helpful to have "Law Review" on your resume when you are looking for jobs, the fact that you don't have it on there won't be a hindrance." It is a hindrance - you won't make the cut at some firms without law review, even if your grades are fantastic.) 3) If you want to really get excellent at writing, work as a research assistant for a prof. I learned more from doing that in a few weeks than I picked up during my journal experience.

One last comment... I've seen the members of our class who gripped an moan about the horrors of law review as second years turn into total asses about it now... the same people who complained about how harsh the editors were last year now seek to haze the new class of law review members. One editor went so far as to say "I'm going to make their lives miserable." I don't get that whole mentality shift, but I hope you TUM TUM, don't get into it. LR is important and prestigious, and requires a great deal of work, but one need not be an ass about it. I doubt you will have this problem, but I found it interesting.

(Speaking of bad writing, I had so many typos I had to take off this comment and spell check it. Sad!)

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Unreasonable Man said...

Your royal bitterness,

We did do more cite-checks... but I believe that each of your citechecking assignments were longer than ours, so the page number requirements are close (at least that's what a friend on MJLST told me... I don't know about your journal though). I'm guessing a lot of the difference will be this year, as we do seem to do many more rounds of revisions.

But I think you providing evidence proving my overall point... that in the long run, whether you made law review or didn't, you can still get a great job. Look at you, you're out in Cali living it up, while I'm still here in the Mini-Apple. And as for the firms that won't hire you at all unless you are on law review, why would you want to work for a firm that is obviously run by assholes?

Finally, none of my editors were jerks to me this year (some of the Note & Comment editors were kind of useless, but not jerks), so I don't plan on being a jerk to any of our staffers. I totally agree that law review requires enough work as it is, so editors being jerks is not necessary.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I co-sign everything Bitter said, including the cite-checking stuff.

UM - Do you also think firms that only hire the top 10% are "obviously run by assholes"? Or what if they only hire from Ivies? The nerve of them wanting people with credentials!

That said, people who don't make law review should remember that it's not professors or lawyers who are grading their petitions; in fact, no one with any legal qualifications at all is passing judgment on the petitions. As a result, they fail to pick out the best students (of the top 36 graduates this year, less than 1/2 were on law review). So, if someone's mad about not making LR, be comforted that you're still in good company.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Unreasonable Man said...


I only meant a firm that will hire no one who is not on law review, knowing (or at least who should know) that law review does not indicate who might be a good lawyer (at least not all by itself). If I were a hiring partner, and one candidate was Top 5 (not 5%, but Top 5) at a Top Tier school, had glowing recommendations, and clearly would be an excellent fit, but wasn't on law review, I wouldn't say "Oh darn, not on law review... too bad" and chuck their resume in the garbage. If I did, that would reek of dickishness... especially if I proceeded to hire someone from the same school who was on law review, had worse grades, and didn't really have interests which fit the firm. There's a difference between hiring based on credentials and being blinded by credentials.

Also, while I see your point that neither professors or lawyers grade the petitions, it is a little disingenuous (not to mention sounding a little like sour grapes) to say that "no one with any legal qualifications at all is passing judgment on the petitions." Your argument has some weight, but you make it sound like we were just wiping our asses with the petitions and seeing which made the prettiest patterns.

Everyone on the board has passed two years of law school, and gotten jobs at very good law firms. Granted, this doesn't make us professionals, but it does give us some perspective to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to legal writing.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Now with 110% more bitter! said...

I'm back.

First TUM TUM - all I am saying is that your grades have to be better to get a "good" job if you don't have law review on the resume, not that it's impossible. In general:

LR + Mediocre Grades = BIGLAW

No LR but other Journal + Great Grades = BIGLAW

LR + Great Grades = TUM TUM

No Jounral + Shitty Grades = McDonalds

Now, just a quick thought on the grading process of petitions. I have to agree with anon on this one... on the level that the petition grading is completely subjective (as is all grading in law school to a great extent, especially on papers). After hearing some comments by various petition graders on all journals, I became acutely aware that the graders personal beliefs could have a good deal of influnece on their marks. This was especially true in this years case with the issue being so hot button. It was possible that a person argued heavily against gay marriage and backed up their shit with petition materials, and thereby offended the personal beliefs of the grader. While this ideally shouldn't have played a role in the grading process, it probably did in a number of cases.

Another factor to consider is that those grading are working for the most part as summers at big firms - complete with all the social events and longer hours. How much time does one really want to devote to reading those things after you've worked a full day and then spent 3 hours at happy hour kissing up to a partner on the hiring committee?

I don't have a better option for petition grading, so I'll be quiet now. (And yes, I'm still bitter about not making law review.)

At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the same journal as 110%, and am also still bitter about not making law review, mostly because there are some people who did make it that are, well, assholes. but mostly, I'm just pissed that I also got virtually no substantive feedback on my paper. That sucked. And my grades were fine, good but not great, and with a great deal of trauma, I eventually did get a job at a blue chip firm. So there's that. But I'm still pissed about not making it, an insult which is exacerbated by the fact that I DID get honors in legal writing - for some reason, that increases the frustration.

At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh - and one more thing - the quality of grading of the petitions is pretty unclear to me, considering that on multiple occasions I have corrected my editors' bluebooking. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but DOES make me think, "did they ding me for something on my petition when I got it right and they got it wrong?"

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous L. Rev. Alumna said...

As a Law Review alumna, I would like to add one caveat. I realize the majority of law students generally want to work at a firm that will pay them enough that they won't even think about their hefty loan payments. Nevertheless, there are a few of us who seek/sought public interest jobs. Obviously, I wanted to be on JLI, but there was some mix up during the petition process and Law Review informed all other journals that I had accepted on the spot, when in fact I did not because I wanted an offer from JLI. When I didn't hear from any other journals, I accepted Law Review's offer.

Despite the fact that my note got published, public interest employers (including the one I had worked at the prior summer) would have preferred that I spend all the time I dedicated to Law Review to a clinic, or more trial advocacy, or more volunteer work. Granted, they appreciated the public interest note that got published; however, I was unable to land a public interest position. That being said, I was able to secure a corporate/banking boutique firm position in Philadelphia within a week of graduating. They loved the Law Review accolades and luckily respected my public interest background.

My point is not that Law Review ruined my life, because I'm definitely happy about where I ended up. Nevertheless, for all those public interest gurus (and by all, I mean all ten of you at UMN), make sure you don't rely on Law Review alone to land you a position at Legal Aid or the ACLU. Law Review is not a guarantee for anyone. I have friends that were on Law Review for two years, had great grades, and no jobs at graduation or even at the time of the bar exam. Don't be fooled by the talismanic value of Law Review membership, for often it is simply that.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One poster noted that they were bitter. Why are you bitter? Are you bitter because you think the petition graders (who grade blindly) had personal issues with you? Or are you bitter because you are ablsoutely sure that your petition was better than the petitions of those who made law review? I doubt it is the former, because the purpose of blind grading is to ensure that personal bias against petitioners does not play a role in the selection process. If your reasoning is the latter, I would ask what sets you apart from the pretentious "a$$holes" who are on law review. Is it possible that your petition was not one of the best 18 or 27 or 36 petitions submitted?

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Now with 110% more bitter! said...

Not really bitter I guess... just sad. And lonely. And depressed. Someone call my shrink.

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UM - I was going to argue with you some more, but I was swayed by your The Firm reference.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its OK to be sad/depressed/angry. I have not met many law students who set their expectations low. But if 200 people are going to apply for the same job and there are only 36 openings, that means that there are going to be 164 disappointed, but very talented people. So, get angry/sad/depressed, but then get over it because I sense that you more talent than most (based on you enrollment at a top 20 Law School). Cool?

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Unreasonable Man said...

Most recent anonymous. I didn't mean to imply that you can't (or even shouldn't) be mad or sad. It never feels good to be rejected. I was merely trying to point out that you shouldn't make a big deal about it because it certainly isn't the end of the world.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So did your summer associate 1L friend hear back from any of the journals yet? I haven't and neither have a few of my friends. Talk about feeling rejected. I have had a week or two to get over law review; now I just want ANY journal.

I am not in the bottom of my class, so not getting called for any of the journals has officially crushed any reminisce of ego that might have survived the first year.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Unreasonable Man said...

I have not heard anything about when the other journals are going to be making offers. I will e-mail the people I know at those journals and see where they stand.

Don't be disheartened. The journal process sucks, but it will all be over soon. Remember, no matter what, you aren't a 1L anymore... and that's a very, very good thing.

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about not being a total doucehbag? Where does that fit into the employment continuum?

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, I know 3 people at Minn. who have above a 3.9 that did not make law review. This is not to say that the people who did make law review are not deserving. Just that those who missed the cut are in good company.


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