Legal Writing Students

Guidelines for Excellence in Law Reviews

400x400_fitbox-journal1In 2011, The Scrivener released the Scribes Guidelines for Excellence in Law Reviews written by Bryan A. Garner and Richard C. Wydick.

According to Garner & Wydick, every member of a law review should be required to buy and learn the current editions of these books:

Each edit suggested by a new member of the review should be supported by citation to one of those texts.

A law review office should have in its library current editions of the following books:

The guidelines mention that anyone wishing to become an editor of the law review should be able to certify that he or she has read at least three of the books listed above.

It is also advised to do the following:

  • Fret about the opener of each piece: an interesting lead that immediately predisposes readers to continue (be wary of stultifying “roadmaps”).
  • Insist on good, idiomatic English of the kind to be found in such publications as The New Yorker or The Economist and other first-rate nonfiction publications.
  • Delete every unnecessary paragraph, sentence, and word.
  • Footnote sensibly, not rabidly. Use your head — and repeal any “rule” that requires a footnote after every sentence.
  • As a tonic to your style, as a caution to your members, have everyone affiliated with your law review read Fred Rodell’s Goodbye to Law Reviews — Revisited, 48 Va. L. Rev. 279 (1962). While you’re at it, you should also read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” 4 The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell 127 (1968) (and widely reprinted).

These are great guidelines for law review editors to become excellent editors. In addition to the above list of recommended reading, I would add William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.

Jamie Baker is the Interim Director of the Law Library at Texas Tech University School of Law. She also teaches Civil Trial Research & Academic Legal Writing, as well as sessions in the Legal Practice program and Excellence in Legal Research program. She blogs at www.gingerlawlibrarian.com.

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