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Author Topic: Importance of Law Review for those interested in public interest/crim law  (Read 3402 times)

VitaminE

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So the write-on competition is about to start at my school (apparently only 3-5 students each year grade-on... and I won't be one of them).

I'm also starting my summer (paid) public-interest clerkship during this time.

I know that I either want to work as a public defender or in the public interest arena (preferrably in the disability/mental health law field).

EVERYONE says to try for law review. Even the public interest place where I will be working this summer. About 300 students are trying to write on this year (hello TTT law school competition). There are 45 spots.

How applicable is law review to a public defender or public interest career? Wouldn't volunteering in one of these areas be a better use of my time? Would law review be a make or break thing for my career?

red

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Law review is very relevant during fall recruiting.  If you are considering government with public interest work, then I think its worth doing.  I actually think its worth doing, even if you aren't looking at fall recruiting type jobs.  Anything you do as a lawyer is going to require you to have good research and writing skills.  That is what law review develops. 

A lot of public interest jobs are very competitive.  Law review is a great way to set yourself out from the rest of your class. For this reason, I wouldn't view volunteering as a comprable substitute for law review.  Anyone can work for free, but as you pointed out, only 45 people get on law review. 

Also, law review gives you something to talk about in interviews.  You will be able to discuss your note or comment with interviewers, and they often ask about it if they see law review on your resume. (Notes and Comments are the articles that students write when on law review or journal).  Volunteering would also give you something to talk about, but only if the volunteer work is really meaningful and worth doing.  You can never be sure what you will do, or if you will have any work product that you can show interviewers until you get there.  Law review is much more of a sure thing, in terms of giving you substance to talk about in an interview.

In terms of volunteering, you might be able to do both law review and volunteer.  See if your school has internships for credit.  Then you would earn credits for working, and reduce your class load.  I did this last semester, with law review and it worked out. 


StevePirates

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I agree with Red.  Standing out from the crowd never hurts.  There are only so many public interest jobs per area to be filled each year.  Law Review is an honor and indication that you've got a really good legal mind.  That would certainly help.

kilroy55

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Well your experiences on law review will have nothing to do with actual legal work.  Your writing and editing may improve, and perhaps your research skills.  But all in all, law review is about prestige.  Every interview I have been on has asked me about law review, and my experiences.  2/3 of each class are allowed to write-on at my school, with people in the top of the class getting a weighted score.  Law review sucks, I can vouch for that.  I have never met a law student yet who actually enjoys the experience, but it opens doors.  People who are in the Top 50% of a class, but manage to get on law review are better off in the job market than those who didn't.  It is just a fact of life.  To give you an idea, I worked for a DA last summer.  Two people in the DA's office were on their schools law reviews.  The public defenders I dealt with on a daily basis, 2 of the 4 were on their schools law review.  With law review, you can apply to so many more jobs.  This summer I am working for the Pennsylvania Securities Commission.  They only interviewed people in the top 1/3 of classes, and law review members.  It opens doors, and if you decide you do not want to do criminal practice, like I did after last summer.  It can really come in handy.  Try for it, quit after your first year if you hate it so much.  At least then, you can put it on your resume.

VitaminE

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Thanks for you advice. Although I'm not enthusiastic about working on this "fun" write-on project right after finals, you guys bring up some good points :)

JohnnyAwesome

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Another thing to consider VitamenE is that you think you want to be a public defender now, but things can change. And even if you want to work criminal defense you may want to make some good money for your work. Law Review will help you get an offer from some of the bigger crim. defense firms in your city. Also many employers are going to look at your grades and if they are good ask why you are not on law review. It's one thing to say you wrote on but were not accepted and something quite worse to imply "i was too lazy to attempt to get on law review"

VitaminE

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Yeah, I was also actually wondering about that, JohnnyAwesome. I'm assuming, then, that it is worse to say that you didn't try to get on, than to have not been accepted. That makes me feel better about trying, especially because the negative part of me wonders what the point is when the competition is so stiff.

In my city it seems like most of the lawyers who work at the crim defense firms usually put in a few years at the Public Defenders office first... I don't know if this is the case everywhere. I actually will be living in the 'burbs after school, and the PD office where I will be living is looking for 2L volunteers. There's a large Spanish-speaking population there (and I'm fluent)... So maybe it will turn out to be a good match for me.

I'm hoping that between my summer clerkship and my experiences next year, I will figure out what the heck I want to do. And I'll try for the law review as well. At this point, what's another couple of weeks of work?

Burning Sands

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Law review is very relevant during fall recruiting.  If you are considering government with public interest work, then I think its worth doing.  I actually think its worth doing, even if you aren't looking at fall recruiting type jobs.  Anything you do as a lawyer is going to require you to have good research and writing skills.  That is what law review develops. 

A lot of public interest jobs are very competitive.  Law review is a great way to set yourself out from the rest of your class. For this reason, I wouldn't view volunteering as a comprable substitute for law review.  Anyone can work for free, but as you pointed out, only 45 people get on law review. 

Also, law review gives you something to talk about in interviews.  You will be able to discuss your note or comment with interviewers, and they often ask about it if they see law review on your resume. (Notes and Comments are the articles that students write when on law review or journal).  Volunteering would also give you something to talk about, but only if the volunteer work is really meaningful and worth doing.  You can never be sure what you will do, or if you will have any work product that you can show interviewers until you get there.  Law review is much more of a sure thing, in terms of giving you substance to talk about in an interview.

In terms of volunteering, you might be able to do both law review and volunteer.  See if your school has internships for credit.  Then you would earn credits for working, and reduce your class load.  I did this last semester, with law review and it worked out. 




Couldn't agree more.

When you go out into practice, there are 2 questions that you will get asked everywhere you go:

1. where did you go to law school?
2. did you make law review?

Irrespective of the field of law you plan to go into, these two things will follow you around and, as many people have noted here, will open doors for you that are not open to others.  It is definitely worth the 1 or 2 weeks of aggravation that you will have to put up with right now when you consider the benefits you will receive for years to come once you start practicing.



Burning Sands

jd06

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Couldn't agree more.

When you go out into practice, there are 2 questions that you will get asked everywhere you go:

1. where did you go to law school?
2. did you make law review?

Irrespective of the field of law you plan to go into, these two things will follow you around and, as many people have noted here, will open doors for you that are not open to others.  It is definitely worth the 1 or 2 weeks of aggravation that you will have to put up with right now when you consider the benefits you will receive for years to come once you start practicing.


Totally disagree.  You will get asked those questions during an interview but, as a practicing attorney, I can tell you I rarely get asked where I went to school and I NEVER get asked whether or not I was on law review.  Both are largely irrelevant when you're "in the trenches."  It's all about your lawyering skills, your work product, and your performance in the courtroom.  Believe me, you tear it up in court and no one gives a crap where you went to school..... 



eli250

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I heard public defender jobs are a lot more competitive than you'd think considering the pay sucks. 

Also, here in Atlanta they just laid off s ton of public defenders because of budget crunches.