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Law Review Write-On Tips, Part 2 -- Set Up the Right Environment for the Write-On:

Many first-year law students will be participating in write-on competitions right after the end of the semester. (Some schools, like UCLA, conduct their competitions during Spring break, but the start of the Summer turns out to be the most common time.) I thought I'd blog a bit about this, mostly (but not entirely) based on the "Getting on Law Review" chapter of my Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review book.

The write-on competition is going to be time-consuming and time-pressured; you'll usually be allotted only several days to do a pretty difficult task. So try to make sure you have no other obligations during the alloted time. If you're working part-time, see if you can take the week off, and make up the lost time before or after. If you have children, do what you can to get the other parent or someone else to spend more time with them during the competition.

Try to avoid leaving town to see friends or family. You might intend to do lots of work when you're on the trip, but it's hard to work when you're around people you haven't seen in months, and who understandably want your company. Going out to dinner with friends is fine; everyone needs a study break. But try to avoid more demanding commitments. If, however, you can't get out of your other obligations for the week, don't use that as an excuse to just sit out the competition. It's possible for you to do well even if you also have to travel, work, study, or mind the kids that week -- it's just easier if you can focus solely on the competition.

Finally, one suggestion that isn't in the book, but that a student recommended to me: If you live with a roommate, see if you can borrow a solo friend's apartment for the duration of the competition. (Since it will be during vacation, you might have quite a few friends who are out of town for work or for play, and who haven't sublet their apartments for the whole summer.) Not everyone prefers solitude for such things, and some people value familiar surroundings more than they value solitude. But for many people, the extra solitude can be a big plus.

All this is hardly rocket science; you may have thought of it already. But my sense is that students sometimes miss the obvious, so it's worth repeating.

Traveler:
Eugene writes: "try to make sure you have no other obligations during the alloted time."

In particular, I advise not scheduling your wedding for that week.
5.3.2006 4:15pm
JohnO (mail):
If you're going to be a summer associate or summer intern, try to start after the write-on competition is over. I found thew following system worked pretty well:

First thing each day, play basketball with law school buddies.

Then work on the law review petition for 3-4 hours.

Then take a two-hour break to watch reruns of Hawaii Five-O and Magnum, P.I.

Then work on the petition for 3-4 hours.

Grab something to eat and then maybe read a few of the key cases while watching baseball at night.

Repeat each day. It also helped that, if I recall correctly, my wife was gone for part of the period to visit her family.
5.3.2006 4:27pm
DaveK (mail):
At the same time, there's no need to freak out about using every last minute of the time available. At Georgetown, at least, we got about two weeks, and a good casenote can easily be written in a few solid days. Any longer than that invites procrastination and overstressing, and likely results in diminishing returns. There are no points for having the absolute best note--a solid, well-written piece will probably get you on to your school's most competitive journal, even if other notes are more brilliant.

I pretty much wrote mine sitting on the couch at home alone, though, so I second the recommendation for a nice block of time and place to work (whatever works best for you). I had no other major obligations during the week I wrote it, although I went ahead and started my summer job during the second week of the competition (by which time I'd pretty much finished).

Try to have some fun with it, and you'll do fine.
5.3.2006 4:37pm
Wintermute (mail) (www):
And console yourselves that this is better than a purely grades-based competition. Parrots are not terribly creative thinkers.
5.3.2006 6:16pm
JRL:
Well, my advice is just do it the night before--that's really what everyone else is doing anyway. It worked for me!
5.4.2006 12:34am