As the spring semester draws to a close, first-year law students are rightfully setting their sights on the new opportunities available to them in the coming academic year, and law journals offer students an enticing chance to hone new skills and build their resumes. But coming off 1L year, it can be difficult to know what you're signing up for when entering the Write On Competition. If you're on the fence about whether a journal might be a good fit for you, here are a few key points to keep in mind.
1. It's a big commitment.
No matter what journal you write on to, be prepared to put in more time and effort than you're getting academic credit for. Staff editors have regular source collection and spading responsibilities and hard deadlines to meet. Each new assignment comes with its own quirks and challenges, and the rest of the staff is counting on you to do your best to prepare the article for the next step in the editorial process.
In addition to these duties, staff editors are required to write either a note or a case comment. While case comments are shorter than notes, both are major pieces of academic legal writing that require extensive research and thoughtful analysis. Prospective staff editors should anticipate devoting many, many hours over several months to crafting their notes and comments. If your piece is selected for publication, count on spending additional time editing and refining your work to get it ready for the issue.
2. You will develop a deep, personal relationship with the Bluebook.
Be prepared to take your casual relationship with the Bluebook to the next level! After the first year of legal writing, most law students approach the Bluebook with, at best, a sense of resentful acceptance. But once you're on a journal, the Bluebook will be your new best friend. Spading assignments require staff editors to check all of an article's citations and correct them to proper Bluebook format. After a few months in this new role, you will start to memorize the more commonly used rules, and even their respective rule numbers. While it may not sound like a selling point now, this familiarly with the Bluebook comes in very handy for all the legal writing you'll do both in law school and in your burgeoning career.
3. It will make you a better legal writer and law student.
All of that spading, editing, researching, and writing is a great way to exercise the essential analytical and communication skills you need as a law student and future attorney. Beyond an increased familiarity with the Bluebook, journal participation will improve your writing overall and expose you to novel legal questions you may not have otherwise encountered in your regular studies. As you take more writing intensive and seminar classes, your experience on journal will help you to feel more confident in your abilities and produce higher quality work.
4. Each journal is different, so do a little research before picking your top choice.
Rutgers has a variety of law journals spread out across both Camden and Newark campuses, and each one has a different focus and a different way of operating. If you're not sure which journal is right for you, reach out to current staff editors to ask about their experience. This is a particularly good idea if you're considering writing on to a journal that's based out of the other campus. There are unique logistical considerations to collaborating across campuses, so try to find out how the journal you're interested in handles this challenge before deciding if it's a good fit for you and your schedule.