For those who "made" the final law school hurdle to Law Review, you will enjoy a significant psychological--and fiscal--boost, particularly at the starting gate. This advantage doesn't hold perfectly... especially after you begin to appreciate the tenuous correlation between law review dweebdom and law practice performance.
For the other ninety percent who did not, a mention of law review touches a raw, exposed nerve.
I'll go on record: were I Emperor, law review would be mandatory for all law students. For, you see, law review presents an interesting chicken-and-egg question. Whether it is: (1) mere recognition of latent genius, or (2) an incubator of legal skill is unclear and, more practically, is a rare concern among hiring Seniors; they simply favor the halos. It's not really their place to care.
The answer, by the way, is: both (and probably more of the latter). Through a process of dreadfully boring work, law review does give its members an added educational benefit to which other law students are denied. The meat of the common law is the synthesis of endless statutory and case law and secondary sources. This skill, which is probably the more important of the two functions of law reviews (student training and academic dissemination), is glossed over, if not completely ignored, during law school for non-review students.
I am grateful that my own law review experience gives me credibility to castigate from within. It is most emphatically not true that "others" are unworthy of law review. Ninety-plus percent of all law students are perfectly capable and motivated to do as good a job as is legitimately required... and the ten-minus percent who cannot, arguably, shouldn't be lawyers. For law review admission, however, the proportions are instead reversed, leading to no small misery and adversity among the talented but misfortunate majority. These soapbox paragraphs notwithstanding, law review has odd consequences in law practice.
If you were on law review, chill out. You're not quite as valuable as others make you believe. A little modesty, s'il vous plat. More importantly, put your law review skills into perspective. They'll make legal research a little less scary, but, at the same time, will encourage you to go overboard. Be careful. Few Seniors want law review-type memos to cross their desks. They want, instead, to see short, sweet, and quick results. Particularly for you true dweebs out there, this is a conundrum. (I take liberty to condescend because I am one (... a dweeb, not a conundrum)). Fortunately, most of you were sufficiently distracted, bored, or lazy enough during your second and third years to not take things too seriously. You do need to be serious, but judicious, in practice.
If you were not on law review, chill out. You're not quite as worthless as others--and you--made you believe. A little perspective, s'il vous plat. Practice and academics have very different purposes. Law review is even farther off the theoretical end of the scale. If you want to be a successful practitioner, yet are embarrassed by your law school "failure", remember that you're in populous country: a good percentage of successful practitioners were not at the top academically. This is more than statistics at work; practice rewards street smarts as much as the other variety.
If you're coming up from behind the power curve, credential-wise, you'll need to work that much harder to prove yourself, if that's important to you. Remember too that discussions of law review come up rarely in practice, except among the insecure.
If you're in litigation, law review is the least helpful, and may even be inversely correlated with a smooth transition; the best litigators are comfortable in the courtroom, not the library. Smart Senior litigators look for the lean and hungry look, which is rarely found in hallowed halls. When assigned a case, grab hold and do a kick-ass job. This should not imply that you need to be rude, or dishonest, or needlessly crafty. Nine-tenths of litigation success is in outpreparing your opponent (which may understate things by about ten percent). (Though a good set of facts and favorable law help, too.)
If you're competing with snotty reviewers, pick up your unused Bluebook and double-check citations as you go along. This is, after all, how law reviewers learn. (You do need to learn how to cite properly. More on that, later.) But don't go overboard: few Seniors still know, or follow, the technical conventions of law reviewdom. Guard against the dangers of overcompensating; converts are usually the most devout... and irritating.
And snotty people are best ignored. Don't give them the satisfaction of acceding to their caste regime.
Excerpted from The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book, by Thane Josef Messinger, a graduate of the U. of Texas Law School, where he was an editor of the Texas Law Review.
Copyright 1996, The Fine Print Press
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