Law review

Law review

A law review is a scholarly journal focusing on legal issues, normally published by an organization of students at a law school or through a bar association.[1] The term is also used to describe the extracurricular activity at law schools of publishing the journal.

Law reviews should not be confused with non-scholarly publications such as the New York Law Journal or The American Lawyer, which are independent, professional newspapers and news-magazines that cover the daily practice of law (see legal periodical).


History of law reviews in the United States

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review is the oldest law review in the U.S., having published continuously since 1852.[2] Also among the oldest and most storied law review publications are the Albany Law Review, successor to the Albany Law School Journal, which began in 1875 and the nation's first student-edited law review; the Columbia Law Review, successor to the Columbia Jurist, beginning in 1885; the Harvard Law Review, beginning in 1887;[3] Yale Law Journal, beginning in 1891; West Virginia Law Review, beginning in 1894;[4] and Dickinson Law Review, beginning in 1897.[5] The first law review originating outside of the Northeast was the Michigan Law Review, beginning in 1902; followed by the Northwestern University Law Review, beginning in 1906; and the Kentucky Law Journal, beginning in 1910. The California Law Review, beginning in 1912, was the nation's first law review published west of Illinois.[6]


The primary function of a law review is to provide a vehicle for academic publishing in the field of law. The vast majority of law review articles are written by law professors, although it is not uncommon to find articles written by judges and other legal practitioners.

Many law reviews also publish articles written by law students, normally called "notes" and "comments".[7] Law review articles serve an important purpose in that they express the ideas of experts with regard to the direction the law should take in certain areas. Such writings have proven influential in the development of the law, and have frequently been cited as persuasive authority by the United States Supreme Court and other courts throughout the United States. However, this influence may have been diminishing over recent decades.[8]

Law reviews also provide necessary background research to legal practitioners. Student-written articles in particular, which may not be able to influence judicial opinions to the same extent as professionally written articles, add to the legal discourse primarily by providing concise and well-researched background material on distinct legal issues or particularly important cases.

Almost every major American law school publishes a law review. Generally, each school's law review, also referred to as the "main" or "flagship journal", publishes articles dealing with all areas of law. This review is normally named after the law school (e.g., the Stanford Law Review, or the Wisconsin Law Review, or the Harvard Law Review). Some other schools do not call their flagship journal a "law review" but, rather, use the term "law journal" (e.g., the Yale Law Journal, or the Rutgers Law Journal, or the Duke Law Journal). At some schools, the "flagship" journal is the specialized journal. Additionally, most schools also publish secondary publications - journals that deal with a particular area of the law. Typically, these journals publish only articles that focus on a specific area of law, such as civil rights and civil liberties, international law, environmental law, or human rights (e.g., Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, the NYU Journal of Law & Business,[9] the Cornell International Law Journal, the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology, or the Lewis & Clark Environmental Law Review). These are often referred to as "specialty law journals" or "satellite journals." There are also a small number of journals focusing on statutory, regulatory, and public policy issues (e.g., the Journal of Legislation or the NYU Journal of Legislation & Public Policy).

Editorial staff

United States

As law professor Erwin N. Griswold wrote of the Harvard Law Review: "Some people are concerned that a major legal periodical in the United States is edited and managed by students. It is an unusual situation, but it started that way, and it developed mightily from its own strength."[10] During the 1990s, the American Bar Association followed suit and began coordinating its own practitioner journals with law schools, courting student editorial bodies for publications including Administrative Law Review, The International Lawyer, Public Contract Law Journal, and The Urban Lawyer.[11] Despite Griswold's confidence in student editors, criticism of this practice continues. In 2004, Judge Richard Posner wrote a scathing attack entitled "Against the Law Reviews" in the magazine Legal Affairs.[12] However, Justice Posner also wrote that his own time as President of the Harvard Law Review represented a “Golden Age… for student-edited law reviews”.[13]


In Canada, the fully student-run law reviews (without a Faculty Editor-in-Chief) include, in order of the frequency they are cited by the Supreme Court of Canada:[14] the McGill Law Journal/Revue de droit de McGill, the Queen's Law Journal, the Alberta Law Review, University of Toronto Faculty of Law Review, the University of Ottawa Law Review, and the University of British Columbia Law Review. Membership requires demanding time commitments, and many editors move on to top clerkships, top articling or first year associate positions both inside and outside of Canada, or eventually join the legal professoriate in Canada. The country also has several specialized publications run entirely by students.

Continental Europe

Outside of North America, student-run law reviews are the exception rather than the norm. In Continental Europe law reviews are almost uniformly edited by academics. However, a small number of student-edited law reviews have recently sprung into existence in Germany (Ad Legendum, Bucerius Law Journal, Freilaw Freiburg Law Students Journal, Goettingen Journal of International Law, Hanse Law Review, Marburg Law Review, StudZR Heidelberg Student Law Review) and the Czech Republic (Common Law Review). A student-run publication has also been established in Italy, under the name Bocconi School of Law Student-Edited Papers, adopting the format of working paper series, as a way to complement - rather than compete with - peer-reviewed publications and offer scholars an additional round of feedback.[15] In relation to the law of the European Union, the leading journals such as the Common Market Law Review are also not student run.

United Kingdom

Within the United Kingdom, as in the rest of the Commonwealth outside of North America, all of the leading law reviews are edited and run by academics. The leading law reviews in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth more generally are the Law Quarterly Review, the Modern Law Review, the Cambridge Law Journal and the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. None is student run or edited.

The UCL Jurisprudence Review was the first student law review when it began publishing in 1994. Since then, the Edinburgh Student Law Review,[16] Student Journal of Law,[17] Cambridge Student Law Review, UCL Human Rights Review, Warwick Student Law Review,[18] "Durham Law Review",[19], and the Southampton Student Law Review[20] have also emerged.


In Ireland, the leading student law reviews are the Trinity College Law Review, the UCD Law Review, the Irish Student Law Review and the Cork Online Law Review.

Nordic Countries

In Iceland, Úlfljótur Law Review, has been in publication since 1947. In 2007 it celebrated its 60th anniversary. Since its creation in 1947 it has been edited and run by students at the Department of Law, University of Iceland. Úlfljótur Law Review is the most senior of all academic journals still in publication at the university and held in great respect by Icelandic jurists and legal scholars.

In Finland, Helsinki Law Review, edited by students at the University of Helsinki, has been active since 2007. Earlier, University of Turku published Turku Law Journal from 1999 to 2003.

Sweden's first law review is Juridisk Publikation. The first number of Juridisk Publikation was published in April 2009. It originated as a review by students from Stockholm University. It is now delivered to Swedish law students from all universities, but edited by top students from the law schools in Lund, Stockholm and Uppsala.

In Norway, the first student edited law review Jussens Venner was founded in 1952 by students Carsten Smith and Torkel Opsahl (both of whom later became distinguished academics). Occasionally it features peer-reviewed articles, but its editors are composed of one student from the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo and one student from the Faculty of Law at the University of Bergen. Its articles are mainly related to the curriculum at these universities.


In Australia, the leading student-edited peer-reviewed academic law reviews are the Melbourne University Law Review and Sydney Law Review, although the Melbourne University Law Review regularly outperforms Sydney Law Review on impact, citation in journal and cases and combined rankings.[21] These publications are among the most-cited law reviews by the High Court of Australia and among the most cited non-US reviews by US journals. [1] The top international law journal in Australia is the Melbourne Journal of International Law, also a student-edited peer-reviewed academic law review. [2] The Melbourne Journal of International Law is also considered to be more influential and prestigious than most generalist law reviews in Australia.[21] The top ten ranked Australian law reviews, according to impact, citations and combined rankings, are:[21]

Rank Journal Combined
1 Melbourne University Law Review
2 The Sydney Law Review
3 The Journal Jurisprudence
4 Melbourne Journal of International Law
5 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy
6 Federal Law Review
7 The University of New South Wales Law Journal
8 Deakin Law Review
9 The University of New South Wales Law Journal
9 Australian Journal of Corporate Law
9 Monash University Law Review
9 Public Law Review
9 Torts Law Journal


In Brazil, law reviews are usually run by academics as well, but there are efforts by students to change this. The University of Brasilia Law Students Review (REDUnB) was reborn in 2007, and is now on its 8th edition. However, academics and official rankings usually refuse to evaluate student law reviews as "equals". To pursue academic recognition by the Brazilian Ministry of Education, review bodies must include post-graduated and ranked academics, which prevents students law reviews to even be recognized or compared to other similar legal periodicals.


Among academic law journals in India, the Journal of Indian Law Institute and the Delhi Law Review published by the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi since 1972 are most prominent and respected among Indian legal scholars and academicians.[citation needed]

National Law Schools/Universities are now leading the law review publication field,[citation needed] with notable reviews[says who?] being the NALSAR Student Law Review and the National Law School of India Review.

Online legal research providers

Online legal research providers such as Westlaw and LexisNexis give users access to the complete text of most law reviews published beginning from the late 1980s. Another such service, Heinonline, provides actual scans of the pages of law reviews going back to the 1850s. On 17 March 1995, the Web Journal of Current Legal Issues, became the first law review available exclusively on the Internet.

Student activity

Membership on the law review staff is highly sought after by some law students, as it often has a significant impact on their subsequent careers as attorneys. Many federal judges and partners at the most prestigious law firms were members or editors of their school's law review. There are a number of reasons why journal membership is desired by some students :

  • some see the intense writing, research and editing experience as invaluable to the student's development as an attorney;
  • others see the selection process as helping differentiate the best and the brightest from an already strong group of law students.

At schools with more than one law review, membership on the main or flagship journal is normally considered more prestigious than membership on a specialty law journal. This is not the case at all schools, however. At many schools, the more prestigious journal is the specialty journal; a low-ranked general journal will rarely attract as much attention as a category-leading specialized journal. Often the best indicator is the age of the journal; a newer journal will rarely have the same clout with employers that the older journal has, even when the older journal is specialized. In any case, membership on any such journal is a valuable credential when searching out employment after law school.

The paths to membership vary from law school to law school, and also from journal to journal, but generally contain a few of the same basic elements. Most law reviews select members after their first year of studies either through a writing competition (often referred to as "writing on" to the law review), their first-year grades (referred to as "grading on" to the law review) or some combination thereof.[22] A number of schools will also grant membership to students who independently submit a publishable article. The write-on competition usually requires applicants to compose a written analysis of a specific legal topic, often a recent Supreme Court decision. The written submissions are often of a set length, and applicants are sometimes provided with some or all of the background research. Submissions normally are graded blindly, with submissions identified only by a number which the graders will not be able to connect to a particular applicant. A student who has been selected for law review membership is said to have "made the law review."

Secondary journals vary widely in their membership process. For example, at Yale Law School, the only one of its nine journals that has a competitive membership process is the flagship Yale Law Journal—all others are open to any Yale Law student who wishes to join. By contrast, other secondary journals may have their own separate membership competition, or may hold a joint competition with the main law review.

A law review's membership is normally divided into staff members and editors. On most law reviews, all 2Ls (second-year students) are staff members while some or all 3Ls (third-year students) serve as editors. 3Ls also typically fill the senior editorial staff positions, including senior articles editor, senior note & comment editor, senior managing editor, and, the most prestigious of all, editor-in-chief of the law review. (Upon graduation, the editor-in-chief of the law review can often expect to be highly recruited by the most prestigious law firms.) As members, students are normally expected to :

  • write a note or comment of publishable quality (although it need not actually be published), and to
  • edit and cite-check the articles that are being published by the law review, ensuring that references support what the author claims they support and that footnotes are in proper Bluebook format, depending on the publication's preference.

The editorial staff is normally responsible for reviewing and selecting articles for publication, managing the editing process, and assisting members in writing their notes and comments. Depending on the law school, students may receive academic credit for their work on the law review, although some journals are entirely extracurricular.

See also

  • Bar journal


  1. ^ The New York International Law Review, for example, is published by the New York State Bar Association instead of a law school.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The traditional distinction between "notes" and "comments" is that a comment (sometimes called a "case comment") is an analysis of the holding in a specific court case, while a note is focused on either legislation or on a more general legal theory or principle.
  8. ^ Adam Liptak. When Rendering Decisions, Judges Are Finding Law Reviews Irrelevant. The New York Times. 19 March 2007.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Erwin N. Griswold, The Harvard Law Review - Glimpses of Its History as Seen by an Aficionado (1987).
  11. ^ The Administrative Law Review and The International Lawyer continue to maintain some of the highest circulation rates in the legal community despite the transition to student editors.
  12. ^ Legal Affairs: "Against the Law Reviews"
  13. ^ Posner, Richard A., “The Future of the Student-Edited Law Review” in Stan. L. Rev. Vol. 47, No. 6, (1995): 1133
  14. ^ Cummins, James, McGill Law Journal 60th History Anniversary Book (Montreal, 2011)
  15. ^ Longobardi, F. & Russi, L. (2009), A Tiny Heart Beating: Student-Edited Legal Periodicals in Good Ol' Europe, German Law Journal 10:7,
  16. ^ Law/
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c
  22. ^ Wes Henricksen, Making Law Review: The Expert's Guide to Mastering the Write-On Competition (2008).

External links

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