How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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I found my law review editing experience and note writing experience to be a complete waste of time that only caused me a lot of stress and aggravation second and third years. As for the articles, never once in practice have I ever found a law review article useful. It's all academic masturbation that's of no use to real lawyers. Hundres of reviews and journals published for any audience of other professors. Why would people waste their time to write for a tiny audience of other people who are also writing only for the same tiny audience. Blogging, on the other hand, allows you to reach ... well, other bloggers. Yeah, nevermind. I got work to do.


I think that's unduly harsh to Leiter... Granted, he obviously finds the value of student contributions to the intellectual rigors of academia to be, well, not to be. However, he also points out that it's the fundamental laziness of faculty members that helps perpetuate the system.


Dave!--I might be too harsh on Leiter, but is it for the reason you suggest? On the laziness issue, Leiter does say that one of the reasons law-student-edited journals exist is "[t]o provide slave labor to law professors too lazy to properly cite-check and document their articles." Point taken, and there Leiter criticizes law professors. But he's only criticizing them for being too lazy to citecheck, not for being intellectual dolts. The intellectual doltishness of the professors--which Leiter says led to errors like Critical Legal Studies and "postmodern legal theory"--is primarily blamed on the law-student editors who were too vacuum-headed to prevent the theories from being published.

These theories were not only published, but were popular: didn't the fascination of certain law professors with the theories Leiter criticizes also help to popularize them, at least as much as the "error" of the law-student editors in publishing them in the first place?


Leiter also criticizes faculty for laziness with respect to running their own journals. "(4) To save the faculty the trouble of editing and producing a legitimate scholarly journal..." Don't worry, the "legitimate scholarly journal" dig is not lost on me.

However, I think the issue of intellectual doltishness is a chicken-egg argument. Are law review articles intellectually weak because students are dolts who can't select good articles? Or because weak-minded faculty prey on student inexperience to slough off poor quality work? Does it really matter?

I was frankly astonished to learn that law reviews function the way they do. They are anomalous in academia. If the purpose of a law review is scholarship then why aren't they peer reviewed? If the purpose is training and educating students, why aren't faculty members more involved? It seems to me that Leiter is right about showing off to potential employers. That's fine, but that's not the same as an academic journal.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, though. The law review model fits with the other anomalies of a legal education. Law school is sink or swim. No one is really teaching much of anything. Students are pointed to a bunch of resources and then expected to rise to the challenge. Again, fine, whatever. But law review is no different. For all of the griping of the professors, it seems to me law review is what it is because the entire process of legal education is what it is. We pay a lot of money to teach ourselves law. Separating law reviews from that process is silly, they are fundamentally the same as the entire process, and unless the process is changed, why should they be?

I have not been a part of law review, but it is something I'm pursuing. (As a first semester 1L, I can't make that call yet, but I intend to try to write on, if I must). I'm under no illusions about it. I personally want the experience because I'm very disappointed in my legal writing program. It's an extremely practice oriented program, but I want to explore some purely academic writing. And of course, I want it on my resume. I suppose I'll have a more educated perspective to the debate in a few years.

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