Build Your CV
One of the most important criteria for getting an academic job is the candidate’s publication record. There are some practical steps you can take as a student to publish scholarly work.
- Develop Research Ideas: Take classes in which you will have the chance to write scholarly papers and get to know professors. As you take classes, start a file of ideas that might become articles. It is advantageous, although not essential, that there be some intellectual relationship among your different articles, so as to form a coherent research agenda. This doesn’t require that they all deal with the same subject matter (e.g., environmental law). They could instead share a common set of concerns (e.g., distributional fairness; the (dis)incentive effect of legal rules on individual behavior; the litigation process) or a common set of methodological tools (e.g., historical, qualitative empirical investigation, experimental, econometric, philosophical) that you are applying in different substantive areas. But the most important thing is to get writing done, and on subjects you care about, even if the various papers don’t obviously cohere.
- Write an article: If possible, you should try to produce at least one paper while at law school that you can turn into a publishable article (or student note).
- Write a book review: Many law reviews like to publish book review essays regularly, and often have fewer such submissions from established faculty than they would like. If you pick out a book on a hot topic or by a prominent professor and submit a review to a flock of law reviews, there is a good chance of having it published, even while you are a student.
- Unlike other disciplines, in law the book review essay is often article-length and gives the author space to develop independent ideas. At the same time, book reviews are easier to write than conventional articles because they typically don't require extensive independent research or a freestanding thesis. They count less than articles, but are much better than no publication.
Law Review Participation
Many students think that law review membership or editorship is a prerequisite to academic careers. This used to be true, but no longer is. Traditionally, employers (including law school hiring committees) valued membership on law review primarily because it correlated with very high grades, or provided the only opportunity for law students to familiarize themselves with the scholarly side of the enterprise. At many law schools, including Stanford, law review membership is no longer connected to grades, a fact well known to most hiring committees. Moreover, if hiring committees care about grades, they can just look at them directly. And there are now a wealth of other opportunities for law students to engage with the scholarly enterprise.
As a result, many law schools recruiting new faculty place no weight on membership or officership on law reviews. Once again, this is more likely to be true the more prestigious the law school. On the other hand, some law schools still value it, it will give you some exposure to current legal scholarship, and it is unlikely to hurt you anywhere. But these possible benefits of law review should be weighed against the costs. If you do law review, chances are you will be spending a lot of time doing routine work editing other people’s articles. If you would use that same time instead to do more of your own writing, or even work as a research assistant for a professor, those alternative uses of your time will in many cases be more advantageous.
The above advice, however, goes only to the direct value of the bare credential of law review membership or officership on the academic market. There are two collateral benefits that may flow from membership that may have some independent value on the academic market. The first is the opportunity to publish a student note. Most student-run law reviews will publish student work only if the student is a member of their own editorial board. You should not overvalue that opportunity, however. In most cases, having a good idea and turning it into a good article is the hard part. Finding a place to publish it is relatively easy. Specialty journals and faculty-run (peer-reviewed) journals will publish student work. In addition, you can write while a student, but wait until you graduate to send it out to conventional law reviews for publication as an article.
The second possible benefit is that, because many judges still value law review membership, being on law review is (all other things being equal) likely to boost your chances for a prestigious clerkship, which will be a mild plus with most law school. Again, however, one would want to weigh those advantages against the opportunity costs of time spent on law review.