Law review editors everywhere can attest to the fact that their work is never done—or at least it sure feels that way! Keeping up with editorial assignments, classwork, studying, and law schools’ notorious networking activities can feel like running on a giant hamster wheel. Thankfully, there is an end in sight—that shimmering last article decision! In the meantime, we wanted to provide some guidance to make it through submission season without falling off the aforementioned hamster wheel or suffering symptoms of vertigo.
WARNING: If you experience a spill or extreme dizziness we suggest seeking medical attention and possibly a personal injury lawyer (…or becoming one?).
We reached out to three articles editors: an editor of one Boston University law journal (who requested to remain anonymous); Chris Walker, senior articles editor at Michigan State Law Review; and Matthew Heins, senior articles editor at Northwestern University Law Review to find out what tips they have to not only survive submission season, but to thrive in the process. All three editors stressed time management and planning above all else, starting with the style guide.
When Chris Walker was preparing for his role as senior articles editor at the Michigan State Law Review, he started out by getting to know all of his style guides from cover to cover. “I initially familiarized myself with the editorial style guides by reading through them (nearly) completely one time,” he said.
Walker said that as an editor it is important to recognize editorial errors and have a grasp of the rules for them, but it’s not necessary to memorize every rule. “As long as you know what resource to use to find that rule, you are golden,” he said.
In addition to learning style book layouts to reduce time spent searching for answers, Walker emphasized the importance of addressing matters of stylistic inconsistency early on.
“One important thing for any senior board to do is highlight potential differences between manuals, and form a definite policy that the journal is going to implement moving forward,” he said. “By maintaining a unified editing team the journal will fare better than individuals choosing different rules to implement from different sources.”
Matthew Heins of Northwestern University Law Review added that, even with the written style rules handy, it’s important to know when to ask fellow editors or legal professors for help.
“I have improved as a writer and editor as a result of bouncing ideas off my friends and colleagues,” said Heins. “Moreover, law review article selection dramatically improves with the input of knowledgeable professors; a willingness to engage faculty in peer review has benefited our process immensely.”
As part of refining an editorial eye, the BU law journal editor we spoke with explained that it is also helpful to become familiar with prior issues of the journal you are working on and law journals.
“Knowing what your journal and other journals have done in the past will come in particularly handy when going through article selection,” she said. “If you know what law articles should look like you’ll have an easier time choosing quality pieces.”
Even for the most accomplished style guide mavens, managing law school and law review activities simultaneously can prove a challenge. For Walker, mapping out blocks of time for specific activities is the best way to stay focused. He suggests that editors make their schedules with their peak times of productivity in mind.
“For example, I try to edit articles during what would be a normal workday because I tend to be more focused on details during this time,” he said.
As part of his schedule planning, Walker also tries to finish schoolwork in advance each weekend.
“This plan allows me to deal with potential law review issues as they arise,” he said. In this way Walker said he is able to avoid stressing about day-to-day coursework along with law review assignments.
Heins added that, in order to fully commit to a firm schedule, feeling a sense of ownership over personal obligations is key.
“Strive to become emotionally and intellectually invested in both school and journal,” he said. “If you have the opportunity, take classes that interest you and enroll in courses taught by professors who will both challenge and engage you. When you are given journal assignments, make a conscious effort to understand the publication process and how the article fits into both your journal and the broader literature. Feeling a sense of ownership in your classes and your journal makes the workload much more manageable.”
Walker emphasized that, while it’s easy to get caught up in the everyday responsibilities of law review, if an editor aims to publish a note during their term it is vital that they start planning early on. He added that authors must consider the timeliness of their submission topics.
“The note will likely not be published for nine months to a year after the numerous months of researching and writing it,” he said, “so the topic has to have some longevity to withstand that kind of time frame.”
Walker added that it’s helpful to choose a topic that is trending, but not one subject to quick preemption (such as a pending Supreme Court case).
All three editors we spoke with expressed that the success of a law review editor as a reviewer, student author, and law student in general comes down to attitude.
“As long as a person is motivated and disciplined, I think he or she will be able to succeed,” said Walker.
There you have it, some proven tips for staying on the giant hamster wheel that is managing law review assignments and schoolwork simultaneously (we hope you enjoy that mental image)!
If you have additional suggestions to share, please leave a comment!