The call for law schools to pay students who staff prestigious law reviews and journals is growing. Those familiar with the law school game know law students compete with one another for the “right” to do a lot of grunt work for journals. In return, they’re given zero dollars but a CV entry. At a handful of law schools (such as University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University), you might earn credit hours for the work, but that’s about it.
The movement to change all that began at NYU Law, where law students who cannot dine out on prestige alone signed a petition asking for more from the university. The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates agrees — confirming that that law schools should be paying law review editors, either in cash or school credit.
Now journal editors across the country are coming together to demand compensation and call for solidarity with other journals. Thus far, the following journals have signed onto the demand:
- CUNY Law Review
- Georgetown Environmental Law Review
- Georgetown Immigration Law Journal
- Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law
- Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspectives
- Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy
- Georgetown Law Technology Review
- Journal of National Security Law & Policy
- NYU Environmental Law Journal
- NYU Review of Law and Social Change
- Stanford Environmental Law Journal
- Stanford Law & Policy Review
- Stanford Law Review
- UCLA Law Chicanx-Latinx Law Review
- UCLA Law Disability Law Journal
- UCLA Law Review
- Yale Law & Policy Review
A compelling part of the argument for compensation is that as a time-consuming volunteer position, the prestigious position is effectively being gatekept from those who need to earn money to support themselves while in law school:
Working as a journal editor prevents students from working to support themselves while in school, and this in turn serves a powerful gatekeeping function in legal academia. Students face a debt crisis, and, in a country that has built its educational system on the profit interests of corporate loan providers and servicers, this reality pushes financially precarious students away from journal work. This leads to less diverse journals turning out blinkered legal scholarship. For students, this means only those who can afford to work on journals are granted the reputational prestige it confers for clerkships, firm associateships, and other competitive legal positions. The students who do join journals face greater financial burdens, which disincentivizes them from future public interest work. The commitments our universities have made to diversity and inclusion and the public interest are simply irreconcilable with uncompensated labor.
Which seems like a great reason to change how law journals have historically been handled.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.