Law Review Write-on Tips, Part 3 -- Review Your Professors' Comments on Your Written Work:

In most write-on competitions, writing quality is a big part of your grade. What's more, the quality of your writing affects the perceived quality of your substance: Bad writing can keep readers from grasping your good arguments, and it can keep you from identifying your bad arguments.

So before the competition, go over any comments that you've gotten on your past written work, such as the papers in your first year legal writing course. Most writers make the same mistakes repeatedly. Figure out what your weaknesses are, so you can avoid them while doing the write-on.

If you can, meet with your writing instructors to see if they can elaborate on any comments they might have given you, or give you broader advice. Writing teachers like it when you come to them out of a sincere desire to improve your writing; and they often have specific suggestions that they'll be glad to pass along.

Law Student:
Mr. Volokh, I wish I had known about your book last summer. Although I successfully completed the competition, it was a most stressful and unpleasant experience because I was in the dark about the details. I strongly encourage people to read Mr. Volokh's book. In addition, I recommend reading several student notes before beginning the competition. Look at the structure of these notes. Finally, borrow a copy of the Texas Style Manual or something more thorough, like Brian Garner's Legal Writing Manual. The Texas Style Manual and Brian Garner's book provide guidance on the proper use of commas, punctuation, and other useful writing tidbits.
5.3.2006 4:17pm
Also keep in mind your target audience--harried summers trying to juggle their firm and journal responsibilities, who will likely give each entry no more than a half hour read. Competent and straightforward is a lot better bet than trying to be clever and subtle.
5.3.2006 4:42pm
I agree with Anon, above. Like with exams, the key is to try to figure out what the grader is likely to award the most points for. For the law review I work on, the graders are very unlikely to be familiar with most of the materials, and so clear writing is the most important element by far. Also, I know that for our law review, the page limit is very tight (usually under 10 pages), and if you finish well short of the limit (more than one page), some (though not all) graders will assume you put too little time into the competition and may penalize you for it somewhere. If the page limit is tight on your writing competition, then go ahead and fill out the pages -- it's the safest move. But don't feel obligated to fill out the page allotment for endnotes.

And another thing, and this should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway -- DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER, EVER, EVER VIOLATE THE FONT OR MARGIN RULES. YOU WILL ALWAYS GET CAUGHT, AND IT WILL MAKE THE GRADER'S DAY TO PENALIZE YOU FOR IT. You can always cut your argument down to the required length. Something you said wasn't critical. And even if every word is vitally important, the grader probably wouldn't know it anyway. Just don't be stupid and play around with this.
5.3.2006 6:15pm
Witness (mail):
Why would anyone want to be on law review?
5.3.2006 6:28pm
Federal Dog:
Professors' comments on written work?

5.3.2006 7:00pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I had the same thought, Witness... I see it as a scam to get free labor. Would anyone want to serve as an editor if it was purely volunteer? Of course not. It's drudgery. But if they take a bunch of A-type law students and tell us it's a COMPETITION, we fight for our spot.
5.3.2006 7:55pm
Dunno, Witness. Maybe they want to get a good job?
5.3.2006 8:20pm
I got a job just fine without it.
5.3.2006 9:43pm