As a law student, I'm sure you've heard of or read various law review articles in your lifetime. But where did the law review begin? What is its purpose? Why do students try so hard to join their school's law review? Why are law review articles important? How have they affected the legal world? The first law review published in the United States of America was the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. According to their website, "Founded in 1852 as the American Law Register, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review is the nation’s oldest law review. In the 2014-2015 academic year, the Law Review will publish its 163rd volume." Now there are numerous law reviews published by a multitude of law schools nationwide. The Ave Maria School of Law Law Review is dedicated to:
Promoting excellence in the presentation of legal scholarship in all areas of the law in order to be an authoritative and reliable source for the research needs of lawyers, judges, professors, and students.
Developing the scholarly writing and technical skills of its members through active involvement in the writing, editing, and production of an excellent legal journal.
Engaging the whole legal community in thoughtful dialogue on the entire spectrum of legal issues, while affirming the Catholic legal tradition, built upon the foundation of faith and reason.
As these goals indicate, the purpose of a law review is multifaceted. The members of a law review seek to discover, edit, and publish articles on relevant legal scholarship nationwide as they approach topics and issues that the legal world faces today. Their goal is providing information and insight into these issues in order to assist with the determining of the best outcome. Furthermore, law review members (from the associate editors to the editor-in-chief) all develop their writing and technical skills as they develop the articles being published each volume. Finally, a law review has the unique opportunity to engage the legal community on an intellectual level while discussing the legal and oftentimes moral issues facing our nation today.
Typically, students going into their 2L year apply to join the law review. Most (but not all) law reviews conduct a write-on competition where the applicants must prepare and submit a writing sample, such as a closed memo, which is evaluated by the current executive board in order to determine which students will make the cut. Having Law Review on your resume can greatly boost your chances in the job market. "A potential employer who sees Law Review on your resume knows that you have been through rigorous training, and will likely think that you are intelligent and have a strong work ethic, eye for detail, and good writing skills." (about: education) The workload of a law review editor is intense; however, the skills developed as a law review editor are well worth the stress and exertion it takes to succeed.
But that still doesn't explain the relative utility of law review articles to the legal world. Are they only read by intellectuals and professors? By philosophers and other students? Or do they have a real impact on the legal world and our laws? According to Benjamin Cardozo, "Judges and advocates may not relish the admission, but the sobering truth is that leadership in the march of legal thought has been passing in our day from the benches of the courts to the chairs of universities . . . . [T]he outstanding fact here is that academic scholarship is charting the line of development and progress in the untrodden regions of the law." According to the Wall Street Journal, some of the most cited articles have been cited over 3000 times. While law review articles remain only secondary sources and, therefore, persuasive authority, they are often referenced, reviewed, and even cited by attorneys, judges, and legislators in their legal work as explanatory for a specific issue or area of law.
As a parting note of joviality, watch this video for the "real story" of the law review (skip the first 47 seconds to get to the song).