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Former editors say Law Review experience invaluable

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During his third year of law school, Bryan Babb did three things – eat, sleep and edit.

Babb, chair of the appellate services group at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, was editor-in-chief of Volume 74 of the Indiana Law Journal at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He oversaw the work of a 70-member staff which selected articles and extended invitations for publication, cleaned the citations to match Bluebook style and, of course, edited.

He would print a hard copy of the article and, using red and blue pens, set about marking up the text. The different colors did not have any special meaning, Babb explained, but looking at two pigments was easier than reading a sea of red ink. Day and night he would spend hours editing, even having his wife drive on trips so he could sit in the back and continue working.

A former captain in the field artillery with 1st Armored Division of the U.S. Army, Babb described his turn in the editor’s chair as the most demanding thing he has ever done.

Editors and former editors echo Babb’s sentiments. The long hours they spent reading and editing articles honed their writing and critical thinking skills, the abilities they need and use in the practice of law.

Outside academic institutions, law reviews are seen in a different, sometimes less flattering, light. The common complaints about publications include concerns that students are editing the articles, getting a piece published can take months, and the end product has little relevance to the practicing bar.

In a 2007 column, Adam Liptak, U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, quoted sitting judges who said they do not read journals because the articles are too theoretical for practical use.

Indeed, when Chief Justice John Roberts made his famous quip about law review articles being too esoteric, he was adding to the criticism of the scholarly journals that can be traced at least as far back as 1936 and Fred Rodell’s article “Goodbye to Law Reviews.”
 

sullivan-frank-no-robe Sullivan

Frank Sullivan, retired Indiana Supreme Court justice, thinks the disparaging critiques are badly misplaced. Law reviews, he said, have been indispensible to him as a practicing attorney, judge and now as a teacher at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

While on the Supreme Court, he regularly read the scholarly journals and required his clerks to do a survey of law review literature whenever he was researching and drafting an opinion. The articles were helpful in gaining a better understanding of a provision in a statute or the Constitution.

Sullivan pointed to his opinion in City of Indianapolis v. Armour, 946 N.E.2d, 553, 556-57 (Ind. 2011) as one example. The central issue was whether a city ordinance violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

As part of his research, Sullivan drew upon two law review articles and his own examination of a previous U.S. Supreme Court case, Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co. v. Commission of Webster County, 488 U.S. 336 (1989). He reached the same conclusion as the articles’ authors that Allegheny was no longer good law and the ordinance was constitutional.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed his ruling in a 6-3 decision.

Esoteric and theoretical

Leandra Lederman, professor at IU Maurer School of Law, acknowledged at times that pieces in the law reviews can seem as if academics are talking to each other rather than offering something useful to practicing attorneys. However, the theoretical can lead to practical applications.


lederman-leandra-mug Lederman

David Herzig, associate professor at Valparaiso University Law School, agreed. In an article for a legal journal, he said, scholars can go beyond describing the problem and move to offering potential remedies. And there within lies the law review’s strength – the proposed solution can invite discussion among people that can then lead to an answer.

Law is formulated by people collaboratively thinking about the problem and talking about a possible antidote, Herzig said. It does not get formulated in a Legislature.

The article Herzig wrote on exchange funds illustrates the point he and Lederman made. Although the topic has limited appeal, the New York State Bar’s tax section referred to Herzig’s article when it made recommendations to the U.S. Treasury regarding exchange funds.

In turn, the journal Tax Notes asked the Valparaiso academic to write a response to the New York Bar’s suggestion, which he did in a shorter article. The conversation between the bar association and Herzig, he pointed out, was started by a law review article.

Former Valparaiso University Law Review editor-in-chief Jonathan Sichtermann reads law journals now that he is a deputy Indiana attorney general. The articles keep him abreast of development in the law and give him ideas for arguments to make in the briefs and motions he files with the court.

The law reviews are very important to lawyers, he said.

“They’re esoteric, they have a philosophical voice but law reviews look at the law from what it should be. They deal in broad philosophical issues that don’t come out in court,” Sichtermann said. “I think you need the scholarly journals to provide the foundation to practice.”

Student editors

Having published extensively in her 20-year career, Lederman has a positive perception of student-edited law journals.

“My experience talking to students at law reviews, they work really hard to do a good job,” she said. “They try to pick the best articles and they want the journals, when they come out in print, to be the best product possible.”

Students can be biased, picking the articles that cover the areas of law they have studied, Lederman said. Articles written on subjects not part of the first-year curriculum could have a harder time getting accepted and law professors may then have an incentive to craft their pieces in ways that tie into the topics taught in the classes that most students take.

Yet the student-edited journals can get the written works into print faster than peer-reviewed publications, Lederman said, and, in her experience when students are editing the articles, they will usually defer to the author.

Most of the student editors’ time is spent checking footnotes and making sure the citations conform to the Bluebook style. In print, the footnotes are usually separated from the article by a line and student editors take full control of what is below the line.

Herzig admitted he gets frustrated by the ongoing tradition of having a citation for practically every sentence. When law reviews were available only in paper form, having detailed footnotes with page numbers were necessary for research. But now, he said, with online formats readers can use a keyword search to find the cited passage.

Easing the rigid citation rules would give the students more time to edit the text which, Herzig added, is a more useful learning activity.


sichtermann-jonathan-mug Sichtermann

Sichtermann remembers his experience working on Volume 46. He devoted afternoons and evenings to editing and always got a little anxious when calling the authors to discuss his suggestions for changes to the text.

Now that he is a practicing attorney, he would like, at some point, to sit on the other side of the table by writing an article for a law review. When the student editor called him with questions and changes, Sichtermann said he would keep his own experience at the Valparaiso Law Review in mind.

“I would know where that 3L is coming from,” Sichtermann said. “I would give that 3L full control below the line and we’d talk about above the line.”•

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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