One of the greatest achievements a student can obtain in law school, or any sort of educational institute for that matter, is scholarly publication. A well-written article or Note impresses potential employers, can be cited in an annotation or legal encyclopedia, or may even get cited in a Supreme Court opinion. Student scholarship is a demonstration of a student’s ability to master complex concepts and discuss them in an interesting new light. Students who are published demonstrate to their respective professional communities they are competent and that they can contribute to the progress of their field. Good scholarship is one way a student can help shape the law.
With that said publishing a scholarly work takes serious time and effort and will likely saturate your life for a good period of time. Forget about free time for a while. You will be fussing over commas and spending hours trying to get a sentence perfect. After all, once a work is published, it is out there for everybody to see. A published work must be polished, intelligent and most importantly, logically sound. If shaping the law is what you are after, a poorly written work can be the antithesis of what you are trying to achieve. A bad argument on your part can easily be cited to show why your position is wrong.
The students chosen to be published in the Thomas Jefferson Law Review (TJLR) go through a grueling process to ensure their Notes are something of which they can be proud of. The process takes almost an entire academic year and requires nearly constant focus.
The Notes published in TJLR are typically selected from a group of Notes written by TJLR’s Staff Associates every semester. Staff Associates must write a Note of “publishable quality” to be formally invited to join the Editorial Board of TJLR. Writing a Note is a semester long process that requires surviving a thesis defense in front of the Managing Board of TJLR, eight written submissions, and incorporating four rounds of edits from two editors. Writing a Note is difficult in itself. For students who are chosen to publish, this is just the beginning.
Once a student is chosen to be published based on their Note, more editing and revision begins. This time, the timeframe is truncated. Generally, a publication editor will edit the document and make significant large-scale edits, such as organization. It is also not unusual to ask the writer to incorporate more research or ask for an entire new section to be added. The writer will typically have less than a week to incorporate these edits. This can mean round the clock work by the writer to get it done. The writer then sends the Note back to the editor, only to have it returned several days later with many more new edits to incorporate. This goes on four or five times until the work is close to a finished product.
If the writing and editing wasn’t difficult enough, every source cited in the Note must be “source checked.” Source checking is primarily due diligence on the part of TJLR and requires every source to be found in hard copy, photocopied, including book cover, spine, and title page, and finally archived in a binder. Source checking the hundreds of footnotes in a Note can take hours upon hours and is probably the last thing any author wants to do after spending all that time writing. Fortunately, it is the last major hurdle over which the author must conquer.
TJLR is not the only avenue for a TJSL student to publish. Many ways of getting published exist. There are even services, such as ExpressO, that will submit your written work to almost any law review and journal out there for $2.20 per submission. LexOpus will submit your work to any of their participating journals for free. Being a published student is really a rewarding experience. Apart from being able to provide your own Lexis or Westlaw citation on your resume, it can define you as a professional and make you stand out in your field of legal expertise.