Law school is not a barber college (although it may be trending in that direction). A legal education is a graduate education which entails reading and writing about important issues in a scholarly manner. Reading and writing is required, but true mastery comes with reading something, analyzing it, thinking about it, and then putting those thoughts into writing. This process is called the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and is the basis of a classical education. Students have several opportunities not only to write, but to engage in the scholarly writing process; to explore an issue at its deepest level and demonstrate their knowledge. This process enables students to sharpen their analytical and writing skills, add a great line on their resume, and learn what it’s like to be a law professor for a short time.
Writing anything for publication is not an easy or simple process. A lot of time and effort goes into the research and writing process, not to mention the thinking about what topic to write on. On top of all this you have to live with a topic for an extended period of time and get to know it intimately. Your topic is like a spouse; they may start out sexy and attractive, but after some amount of time love is what keeps you together.
The above is not intended to discourage anyone from writing something for publication. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with seeing ones name in print (or in pixels depending upon the journal) is well worth the blood, sweat, toil, and tears that research and writing entails. In order to encourage you to embark on this journey I have listed below some useful resources for helping the would-be scholar chose a topic and write.
William J. Bridge, Legal Writing After the First Year of Law School, 5 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 411 (1978).
Christian C. Day, In Search of the Read Footnote: Techniques for Writing Legal Scholarship and Having It Published. 6 Legal Writing 229-54. (2000).
Richard Delgado, How to Write a Law Review Article, 20 U. San Francisco L. Rev. 445 (1986).
Fajans, Elizabeth and Falk, Mary. Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes and Law Review Competition Papers. 2nd ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 2005. KF250 .F35 2005
Elizabeth Fajans and Mary Falk, Comments Worth Making: Supervising Scholarly Writing in Law School, 46 J. Legal Educ. 342 (1996)
Kevin Hopkins, Cultivating Our Emerging Voices: The Road to Scholarship, 20 B.C. Third World L.J. (2000).
Jerold H. Israel, The Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Scholar, 102 Mich. L. Rev. 1701 (2004).
Debra Kaufman, Writing Research Results for Publication, 84 L. Libr. J. 617 (1992).
David B. McGinty, Writing for a Student-Edited U.S. Law Review: A Guide for Non-U.S. and ESL Legal Scholars, 7 N.Y. City L. Rev. 39 (2004).
Heather Meeker, Stalking the Golden Topic: A Guide to Locating and Selecting Topics for Legal Research Papers, 1996 Utah L. Rev. 917 (1996).
Ruthann Robson, Law Students as Legal Scholars: An Essay/Review of Scholarly Writing for Law Students and Academic Legal Writing, 7 N.Y. City L. Rev. 195 (2004).
Pamela Samuelson, Good Legal Writing: Of Orwell and Window Panes. 46 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 149 (1984).
Eugene Volokh, Writing a Student Article, 48 J. Legal Educ. 247 (1998).
Eugene Volokh, Test Suites: A Tool for Improving Student Articles, 52 J. Legal Educ. 440 (2002).
Volokh, Eugene, Academic legal writing: law review articles, student notes, seminar papers, and getting on law review. New York, N.Y. : Foundation Press, 2010. KF250 .V65 2010 (Earlier editions available). The book evolved from the author's article, Writing a Student Article, referenced above.
Three major legal publishers also have contributions to assist prospective student scholars:
BNA, Finding a Topic/Case on Which to Write
This is a PowerPoint presentation from BNA on using their materials to find topics.
LexisNexis, Starting Your Law Review Note
This web-based tutorial takes you through using Search Advisor, preemption checking,
Mealy’s topical newsletters, and updating your research.
Westlaw, Guide to Law Review Research
This 33-page guide provides help with selecting a topic, conducting a preemption search, developing a topic, checking citations, and related subjects all with the use of the Westlaw system.
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