Law Reviews

Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of legal writing and English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we found out that only 29% of our readers lie back and think of England when dealing with punctuation and quotation marks. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

This week, we turn to a hotly-debated issue among legal professionals: the use of the Bluebook. At least one federal judge hates it, joining hundreds upon thousands of law students to date.

Should we consider putting the Bluebook on the backburner in our legal writing?

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Judge William Adams

* Remember Judge William Adams, the Texas state court judge who was reportedly videotaped in the act of beating his daughter, Hillary Adams? He has now commented on the situation (and so has his ex-wife, Hallie Adams). [KZTV.com]

* And here is Kashmir Hill’s take on the whole sad situation. [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* Members of the law review at GW Law School have issued a comment on the recent email controversy — which is impressive! (Aside: lighten up, guys; it’s all in good fun.) [Nota Bene]

* FYI, if you have problems with anonymous comments here at Above the Law, you should know that we’re having an internal discussion about possibly changing our system. [What About Clients?]

* Beating a dead horse isn’t illegal. Doing what this woman did to a dead horse isn’t illegal. Sucks to be a dead horse. [Daily Mail]

* Our friend Joseph Rakofsky makes it into the Urban Dictionary. [The Trial Warrior; Legal Skills Prof Blog]

* Says Elie: “Some say WVU’s lawsuit against the Big East reflects ‘arrogance.’ The real arrogance is how Notre Dame refuses to come in and save the conference.” [Legal Blitz]

* Swordplay: it’s all fun and games until someone’s intestines spill out of his abdomen. [CBS 3 - Springfield]

I feel like we have this story every fall. Every year, new 1Ls get to law school campuses and invariably, some of them quickly look around to see which boots are most in need of licking. The first few weeks they kiss so much faculty ass they look like they’re applying for tenure. And right around now, they start looking for fellow students to suck up to.

Well, there’s a way to suck up to fellow students, and usually kissing butt requires you to be in the same room as your betters. Cold, unsolicited emailing — while fine for general networking — is almost always the wrong way to approach your peers. We’ve explained this to you before.

If you find yourself sending out cold, unsolicited, mass emails, well, welcome to Above the Law, little 1Ls….

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For editorial use only.

When I signed on to write full-time for Above the Law, I thought that I might be able to make some of our readers and commenters see the sunnier side of things at lower-ranked law schools. I had a very positive experience, and I don’t have very many regrets about the school I chose to attend.

But sometimes lower-ranked law schools do things that make even me cringe.

News came to us that the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law has created what the school is calling an Illustrated Law Journal. UDC Law’s new journal aspires to provide visual illustrations of laws and legal concepts so that laypeople and jurists can get a handle on the law in the world around them.

In other words: “Hey John Q. Public, you’re pretty dumb, here’s a comic book about law.”

When about 95% of the legal profession is centered around the written word, why do we need a coloring book law journal?

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I don’t think it’s going to come as a galloping shock to anybody that law review was not my kind of thing. My conversational style, inattention to detail, and aversion to boredom really didn’t mesh with anything law review was selling.

And after my 1L year, my grades were strong enough that I knew I’d get a Biglaw job somewhere during OCI; I didn’t need the résumé bump. Why in the world would I want to compete with individuals who really wanted it and would cut me to get on, when at the end the “prize” was being on boring-ass law review? No thanks.

When I received my law review application, I quickly ushered it into the trash.

A current Harvard Law student had a more expressive way of saying no to law review — a more combustible rejection…

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Choosing the next editor of the law review.

It so happens that we are right in the middle of election season for law review boards. At top law schools around the country, 2Ls who want to be Supreme Court clerks — or Supreme Court justices, or even presidents — are finding out if they’ll be able to include “Editor in Chief: Law Review” on their résumés for the rest of their lives. At less prestigious schools, 2Ls are hoping that a place on the editorial board of their school’s law review will help them get a job upon graduation.

(And people who are not on law review have another week or two to get hammered and enjoy the fledgling spring before they need to hunker down and cram for finals.)

The people involved in law review elections take the popularity contest selection process very seriously. At many places, the debates over whom to pick last well into the night, and the election takes many ballots before a winner is declared. The process at many places is so ritualistic, it’s a wonder that newly minted editors-in-chief don’t adopt new names when they win, just like the Popes. Can’t you see it now: Homosextius I of the Harvard Law Review?

Of course, if there are winners, there have to be losers. And some losers don’t take their losing lying down. Thanks to the magic of forwarded emails, we are able to bring you one such story of law-review-losing bitterness…

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[N]eedless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness — ‘The horror! The horror!’ — and am tempted to end there.

— Judge Richard Posner, in a scathing Yale Law Journal review of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed.).

(For additional discussion and funny excerpts, see Paul Horwitz, Ilya Somin, and Eugene Volokh.)

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

First, a story; then, an attempt to find a job for an unemployed former editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

Here’s the story: After I wrote The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, I thought about how to maximize sales of the book. I had the clever (if I do say so myself) idea of sending free copies to the editors-in-chief of a bunch of law reviews. I figured that those folks were likely to (1) read a book and (2) be “opinion leaders” on their respective campuses, so word of the book would spread.

But there was a fly in my ointment. If you send a law student a book, the student is likely to read the book and pass it on to a friend, who will do the same in turn. That generates readers (which is nice), but it doesn’t generate sales (which is nicer).

How do you prevent this?

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Home to the Lord of all law reviews, Gannett House on the HLS campus.

All law reviews are not created equal. We all know this.

But the prestige of your law review isn’t directly correlated to the prestige of your law school. One obvious case of that is the fact that the Harvard Law Review is widely considered to be the most prestigious law review, even though Yale has a better law school (according to U.S. News… and people who don’t like crowds).

Unfortunately, U.S. News does not rank law reviews — at least not yet. One day, U.S. News will rank everything from high school debate programs to cremation operations; for now, we are left with only our general assumptions about who has the best law review.

But not anymore. The good people at Concurring Opinions have found a website that puts together a fairly competent rating of the nation’s best law reviews. Finally, students who edit the best law reviews, and professors who publish in them, can point to a list when they are trying to use their prestige to pull digits at a bar.

And this list passes the smell test, which is to say it pretty much tells us what we already think we know…

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We’ve been doing a series of posts looking at whether women and minorities are adequately represented on the mastheads of the nation’s law reviews. The subject is definitely a contentious one, and our posts have generated a high number of comments.

Perhaps we should shift our focus to underrepresented minorities (URMs) — sayonara, Asians — since women are actually doing just fine for themselves. And you don’t have to take our word for it. This conclusion comes from a report (PDF) that was just released by Ms. JD, which conducted a study of law reviews at the 2009 U.S. News “Top 50″ law schools for the 2008-2010 academic years. Based on the study, Ms. JD made the following findings:

  • The overall percentage of women who are members of law reviews, 44.3 percent, correlates strongly with the number of women awarded law degrees during the same time period, 45.7 percent.
  • The percentage of women in leadership positions on law reviews, 46.2 percent, also correlates strongly with the number of women awarded law degrees during the same time period, 45.7 percent.

But there was one area where women remain underrepresented….

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