Frequently Asked Questions
Columbia Law Review Basics
What is the time commitment for 2L members?
Work for 2L members begins on July 28, and for the first month, staff training and work is expected to occupy three to five full days each week, taking into consideration other obligations such as EIP. Once the fall semester begins, the workload decreases, with members generally responsible for two or three assignments per week and each assignment taking between four and eight hours. On average, staffers spend 12–18 hours per week on Review obligations during the school year. To improve the flexibility of members’ work schedules, the Review has a debit/credit policy which allows members to pick up an extra assignment during a week they have extra time, and drop an assignment in a particularly busy week. In addition to editorial responsibilities, first-year staff members are required to author a student Note for possible publication in the Columbia Law Review. Assignments and the fall Note-writing obligation end well in advance of final exams.
Although the time commitment is significant, members of the Review still have time to participate in a wide variety of other activities during their 2L year, acting as leaders of student organizations, coaches and editors of first-year moot-court programs, interns and externs, and teaching and research assistants for Columbia faculty, among other things.
Substantively, what will I be doing day to day as a 2L staffer on the Review?
2L members substantively edit scholarly works and ensure the academic integrity of the pieces we publish. For each assignment, 2L members will be responsible for editing a section of a given piece set for publication. Editorial tasks range from evaluating and critiquing authors’ arguments to checking the substantive and formal accuracy of their citations throughout all stages of the production process.
How burdensome is the Note requirement?
Authoring a Note provides Columbia Law Review staff members with a unique opportunity to create a substantive piece of academic scholarship under the guidance of a Note Editor and faculty advisor. Many staff members have remarked that their Note writing experience was the most intellectually rewarding experience of their tenure at Columbia Law School. That said, writing a Note is a serious and significant academic endeavor. However, the Note is structured around other academic and Review obligations. The bulk of the work finding a topic comes in late August, the bulk of outlining comes in late October, and the bulk of the writing occurs over Winter Break. As a result, the work is spread out over a significant amount of time and does not interfere with exams. Authoring a Note can and often does fulfill a staffer’s major writing graduation requirement.
Will I be able to do a clinic, externship, semester abroad, or DC externship as a staffer?
Members of the Review frequently participate in various NYC-based clinics and externships without a problem. Due to the two-year commitment of the Review, however, participation in semesters abroad and the DC externship program is possible, but more limited. All 2L members must be in New York for the duration of their 2L year. During their 3L year, however, members may study abroad or participate in the DC externship for one semester. During this time, members will be expected to complete their normal editorial workload electronically. Students who plan to study abroad or participate in the DC externship their 3L year will not be eligible for Administrative Board positions.
Will I be precluded from traveling outside of New York City during the semester or during callbacks because of Review assignments?
Not at all. 2L members frequently travel outside of New York City during the semester for job interviews, family obligations, and vacations, among other things. Members generally have the freedom to choose the days they work, so if they are traveling over the weekend for example, they can arrange to complete their assignments during the week. The debit/credit policy also allows staffers to have a lighter workload one week in exchange for a heavier workload another week. Finally, members have the option of completing assignments electronically when traveling outside of New York City.
Will working on the Review in August hurt me during EIP and callbacks?
Not at all. The majority of (but not all) 2L members participate in the EIP process. Almost all (if not all) have felt that being on the Review substantially helped them during the interview process. Members will be expected to work the week of EIP, but most do so over the weekend or on days with no scheduled interviews. During callbacks, members may complete assignments electronically if they are unable to arrange their schedules to complete the whole week’s assignments in New York. The Review’s debit/credit policy also provides staffers the flexibility to have a somewhat lighter workload during EIP if necessary.
I’m really passionate about a specific area of law. Would I be happier on that specialty journal?
As a general interest journal, the Review gives members an unparalleled opportunity to pursue their passion for a specific area of law in one of the most influential law journals in the country. In past years, the Review has published student Notes on topics including special education law, Native American law, human trafficking, etc. Furthermore, as 3Ls, members of the Review have the opportunity to shape the identity of the Review by selecting articles for publication, and thus can increase the visibility of an issue about which they are passionate.
Can I work on another journal at the same time, either during my 2L or my 3L year?
No. Due to the significant time commitment required of 2L and 3L members of the Review, we do not allow our members to work on another journal once they begin their editorial duties.
What if I am taking a year off after my 1L year?
If you are taking a year off, you should apply the summer before you will definitely return to law school, as you cannot defer an offer of membership. If you participate in the writing competition and subsequently decide to take a year off, you may not re-apply upon your return.
Why does the writing component take place right after finals?
The membership selection process, which includes evaluating all writing components, personal information, grades, and personal statements, is a time-intensive process. In order to give full consideration to each applicant and provide sufficient notice of acceptance for members to be back to Columbia on July 28, it is necessary for the application process to begin right after finals.
What if I am traveling or beginning work right after finals?
The time allotted for the component takes into account that many students may be traveling or working during the same period. As such, the component is not designed to take all ten days, but rather to accommodate the obligations of students in the week after exams. Thus, students traveling or working right after finals will have more than enough time to complete the component and will not be disadvantaged.
What do you look for in the personal statement?
The personal statement is intended to offer applicants an opportunity to share their background, work experiences, legal interests, or other relevant information that will help them contribute to the community of the Review. In other words, the personal statement is an opportunity for us to get to know about you as a person. The personal statement is also another example of your writing, so we value organized, thoughtful, and overall well-written statements.
My grades this year have been disappointing. Should I still apply?
Absolutely! Fifteen of the positions are determined solely on the basis of the writing component, which means that grades are not considered for those positions at all. For the rest of the positions, grades are but an aspect of the evaluation. We routinely accept applicants with average to very low grades, but with stellar personal statements and solid writing-component performance.
I feel like my LPW teacher didn’t teach me Bluebooking as well as others. Should I be worried about the writing component or staffer work?
The Bluebook exercise is weighted the least heavily out of all the application materials, so those whose teachers focused less on Bluebooking will not be disadvantaged in the application process. With regard to staffer work, there is a steep Bluebook learning curve for all members, regardless of previous Bluebooking knowledge. Orientation training and immersion in the Bluebook the first few weeks of work will teach you everything you need to know to complete your staffer work with flying colors.
What if I have questions during the response period about the writing component? Who should I contact?
Please direct questions about the Writing Component to the Executive Notes Editor, Alyssa Barnard (firstname.lastname@example.org), and all other questions, including questions about the application process, to the Editor-in-Chief, Dennis Fan (email@example.com).
Will ranking the Columbia Law Review first hurt my chances at making it onto another journal?
No. The Law School uses a computerized system to match 1Ls with CLS journals. Because of the way the system works, it is essential that all 1Ls applying to the Review rank it first. Student Services finalizes the matches for Review members before all other journals, so if you are not accepted or decline an offer to join, Student Services will match you as if you did not apply to the Review. Other journals will not know that you ranked the Review first.
What if I can’t make it back for Orientation?
Attending Orientation beginning July 28 is a requirement for all 2L members. Generally, employment obligations will not preclude members from returning for Orientation, as employers are usually incredibly happy to accommodate students accepted to the Review. If you have another serious, non-negotiable conflict that would prevent you from attending Orientation, please contact Dennis Fan (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request an exemption. Please be advised that exemptions are granted exceedingly rarely and only in truly exceptional cases.
What if I am participating in HRIP?
All 2L members on the Review must return to Columbia on July 28 for Orientation. In the past, summer employers, including domestic and foreign public-interest organizations, have been more than willing to release members of the Review from their employment obligations, and HRIP allows students leaving their placements early for Orientation to receive their full stipend. However, HRIP will not pay for a second plane ticket if a student needs to change his or her travel arrangements. As a result, SJI recommends that HRIP students budget for potential changes in travel plans for this purpose. If travel costs would prohibit you from returning for Orientation, please reach out to Dennis Fan (email@example.com) to make individual arrangements.