Harvard Law Review, Law Reviews, Law Schools, Minority Issues, Racism

Congratulations, New Law Review Editors!
(And a question about minorities on law review.)

It’s early August. Law students are getting ready to go back to school. And some students — lucky or unlucky, you be the judge — are going back earlier than others, to work on their schools’ law reviews.

Over the summer, rising 2Ls around the country received the rather important news: whether they made it on to their school’s law review. Serving on the school’s official law review can involve a lot of work. But it’s generally regarded as worth it, in terms of the prestige / résumé boost, intrinsic value of the experience, and networking opportunities with current and former editors. If you’ve been selected, congratulations!

New editors of the Harvard Law Review — former home of President Obama and still the nation’s most prestigious law journal, despite various incidents of ridiculousness over the past few years (scroll through our past coverage) — were notified last month, around the week of July 19. The good news was delivered primarily by phone.

The Yale Law Journal also welcomed its new editors last month, after selecting them through a Bluebook and editing competition. At a mixer I attended here in New York, for YLJ alumni and newly accepted editors, one joyous new recruit told me that he celebrated his acceptance by going out to Hugo Boss and buying shiny silver pants dress shoes. (“I went to Prada at first, but they did not treat me the way I should be treated!”)

Silver pants New shoes from Hugo Boss? Making law review is clearly a big deal.

But is the prize of law journal membership being distributed fairly? This year, at certain law journals, controversy appears to be brewing about the new editors….

Given the still-recovering legal job market, the coveted credential of law review membership is arguably more important than ever. Being on the law review could mean the difference between having a job and being unemployed (or, more realistically, between having a job and having a better job). So the stakes may be higher today than in the past.

The question now making the rounds at some law schools is not a new one (even if it has increased in importance thanks to the job market): Are there enough minorities / people of color and women on law review? The controversy flares up from time to time. For a history of it at Harvard, for example, see this interesting Crimson article. Assuming the 2006 article is still accurate — if things have changed, let us know — some editors are selected based on grades and writing competition scores, some are selected based on the competition alone, and some are selected through a “discretionary” basis (which may or may not be used to increase minority representation).

With respect to this year and minorities and women on law reviews, a source reports:

You may want to investigate proportions of URMs [underrepresented minorities] and women at some top 5 law reviews. I hear that [one school] took 29 1Ls, but only 7 women and no African-Americans. [Another school] took 45 first-year editors, about even male/female, but only 2 URMs in the bunch.

We’ve not mentioned any schools by name because we haven’t been able to confirm the reports (yet). If you have verified information about the demographic profile of your school’s new law review editors, or any other interesting tips about the law review, please email us (subject line: “[Law Review Name]”). Thanks.

P.S. Speaking for myself, I think that law review editors should be selected in a colorblind, merit-based process — and if that process yields very few (or no) women or “URMs,” then so be it. But I recognize that others, perhaps including my co-editors, might disagree. To some folks, the demographics of law review mastheads are a matter of concern; hence this post and request for more information.

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