Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Monday, September 13, 2004

Is UM Law Review too Exclusive?

The current size of the UM Law Review is not in the best interests of the student body as a whole, and probably not even for those who make it on. ALL students would benefit in their nationwide job searches if the Law Review headcount were doubled.

I may not have this exactly right, but to make Law Review as a 1L at UM you have to:
1. Be in the top 7% of your class, or
2. Be in the top 7% of your section, or
3. Write on.
This year, about 30 or so students made it, with only 2 writing on.

Is it an honor to make it on? Yes. Do they do a good editing job? Yes. Does the school benefit as a result? Yes. Do employers take notice? Yes. Is the fact that employers take notice good for everyone? No. Is it good for Law Review Members? Maybe.

In the national legal job market, Miami suffers the same perception that many so-called "second-tier" schools share. Namely, that 2nd tier schools produce a handful of excellent lawyers, mostly mediocre ones, and quite a few terrible ones (along with students who struggle to pass the bar). In the local job market, Miami's perception is somewhat better, and a student with a mediocre GPA has a better shot here than say, New York.

The perception, in Miami's case, is false. The school produces far more than a handful of excellent graduates who ought to be competing for the same jobs sought after by Ivy League or other "first-tier" law graduates. The national legal job market is irrational and or inefficient in this regard. As I've said, the local situation isn't so bad, due to better information posessed by the local firms through experience and outreach.

Now I will assert something that hopefully not even Law Review members would contest: it is doubtful that the student who barely makes the top 14% is any significantly more or less skilled to handle Law Review membership than the #1 ranked student.

If my assertion is roughly true, and unless there are administrative difficulties, the quality of the Law Review would not suffer if its membership were doubled. Further, given that 60 is still a relatively small percentage of a 1L class, it would not make membership any more or less prestigious in the eyes of employers if the headcount were doubled.

What would this mean for Miami grads in the national job market? It would mean that twice as many graduating 3L's would have Law Review on their resume, which would increase the number of Miami graduates landing the prestigious jobs they truly deserve. More national employers would be exposed to the quality UM produces, and they would therefore be more likely to hire more UM grads in the future, even those lacking Law Review credentials.

Law Review members loose nothing (well, perhaps a de minimis dillution), have more bodies to share the work of publication with, and indirectly benefit from the long term improvement of UM's perception in the legal community.

In case anyone is curious as to my possibly being biased, my proposed change would have no effect on whether I not I would have made Law Review. It is also highly doubtful that I will seek employment outside of Florida.


  • At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Shouldn't the optimal size of the law review be determined by the staff size needed to put out a good law review, and not by anything to do with either sharing or hoarding a credential?

  • At 8:24 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said…

    I don't see why that should be the case. As a practical matter, a surprising number of 1L's believe that Law Review is simply an honor, oblivious to the journal that goes along with it. Further, most employers are well aware that the amount of effort put into Law Review varies widely among the membership. In other words, Law Review is a de facto honor, with the actual journal being somewhat of a footnote.

    Can you support this assertion that the size should be based on this need-only criteria, untainted by strategical goals of increasing the marketability of UM graduates? What harm, so long as the quality of the journal doesn't suffer?


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