It’s getting awfully quiet around here. The upper-class students are taking their exams, and the 1Ls are finishing up their classes and getting ready to start their first forays into the legal working world. But for many of our 1Ls, there’s one last thing to do before leaving the Law School behind for the summer: the journal writing competition.
The Law School has three student-edited journals: The Law Review, The Legal Forum, and the Chicago Journal of International Law. The Law Review is published four times a year and publishes on any legal subject. The Legal Forum is a “symposium journal,” meaning that it hosts a symposium on a single topic each year, then published the articles from that symposium along with student work on the same topic a year later. CJIL publishes twice a year on international law topics, and publishes standard articles, symposium pieces, and shorter essays that might not find a home in more traditional journals.
These journals are all entirely student-managed and student-edited. A board of third-year students manages each, and the journal is staffed by second-years. These 2Ls are chosen by a writing competition that takes place immediately after exams at the end of 1L year. Students choosing to participate in the competition write a "Topic Analysis," a 10-page paper detailing the merits of a particular topic as the basis of a Comment. All three journals use the same writing competition, and students may enter for any of the journals. The topic is selected by the Boards of the various journals, and all relevant materials are provided in a packet; no outside research is permitted. For the Law Review, participating students must also complete an edit of a short sample of legal writing. Students are given about two weeks to complete the competition, and entering transfer students can enter the competition along with the other rising 2Ls.
For CJIL and Legal Forum, the writing competition is the only way staff members are selected during this summer. (All upper-class students have the opportunity to become staff members on the journals by writing a publishable article, known as a “comment,” during their 2L or 3L years.) For Law Review, 10 of the 29 students offered membership over the summer will be chosen completely based on the writing competition. The other 19 students will be offered membership based on their 1L grades and the submission of a "good faith" entry in the writing competition (described below). Because all members are required to enter the writing competition, neither members nor the Board know whether an individual student has "written-on" or "graded-on."
The writing competition isn’t easy, to be sure – students are tired from exams, and are generally starting new (and often daunting) jobs while trying to complete the Topic Analysis. But journal membership can be very rewarding and interesting, and the experience of writing and editing legal scholarship serves many of our students well in their careers. We encourage you to visit the websites of our journals and see what they have to offer.