As a second-year student, you will probably be as active as you want to be in the journal, but you may not have a title. In your third year, you may apply for positions such as managing editor, articles editor or assistant editor. Your job will be more supervisory and administrative -- working with the law school to make sure that the journal has proper support and funding, working directly with prospective authors, assigning second-years to various office tasks and generally managing the journal's publication. Becoming an editor is prestigious and will teach you much about writing and publishing legal work. If you choose not to become an editor, you can still be a member of the journal and contribute in other ways.
Some students contribute a "Note" to the journal. The note is an analysis of a legal issue in the journal's subject. The student must have especially good credentials because the note will be included among articles by prominent legal scholars. In some schools you do not have to be a member of the journal for which you are writing a note. A litigator must have excellent writing skills and publishing a note is both great experience and a prestigious accomplishment. When people look up your subject in Westlaw, they will find your name as a published author.
The competition for journals occurs at the same time that moot court does, in early summer. Each school has a different selection process; typically, you will be assigned one topic to write about for all journals. The journals' editorial staffs will review the submitted essays and the students' grades and, possibly after a group interview, select students for the upcoming year. If you did well on the essay and have good first-year grades, then you may have your pick of journals. Choose your journal based on the subject matter, the staff and the journal's reputation.
The exception to this journal selection process is law review. Each school has a law review which is similar to but by far the most prestigious of any other journal. Most students are invited to join on the basis of their first semester GPA alone. The cutoff varies, but students frequently must be in the top 10 percent of their class. In other respects, law review does not differ from other journals, except that it is far more time-consuming. When you are signed on to law review, you are signed on for your second and third years. And while it is possible for a particularly ambitious student to participate in both a journal and moot court, it is almost unheard of for a student to do both law review and moot court.
Nothing, however, will put you ahead of the pack like law review. Even if your grades slide after your first year (not too much, hopefully), having law review on your resume will give you bragging rights for years to come, and be a huge advantage during the recruiting process.
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