Academic Legal Writing:

I thought I'd take the liberty of giving my periodic reminder that Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (by yours truly) makes a nice present for a friend or relative who's going to law school, or going to start the second year of law school. And it's not a bad present for yourself, too, if you fit those categories.

True to its title, the book is about writing law review Notes, writing law review articles more broadly (there isn't much of a difference between the two), writing seminar papers, and doing law review write-on competitions. Even if you already wrote on to law review, or have no interest in being on law review but are planning on writing an independent research paper or a seminar paper, it can help you with choosing a topic, structuring the article, figuring out a research plan, improving your writing, and then circulating the article for publication.

Here's a very nice review from Tiger Jackson and Jeff Newman, in 11 Scribes J. Legal Writing 141 (2007):

Every law student is encouraged to try to make law review, but no one has ever explained how to do it as well as Volokh. His tone and style are so natural that you can hear his voice in your mind. Starting from scratch, he explains what a law review is, why the experience is valuable, what the write-on competition entails, how to boost your chance of success on it, and what the staff of a law review does. He demystifies the details of the write-on, making this section alone well worth the price for first-year law students.

But even a student who has no desire to be on law review will find this book enormously helpful for writing a seminar paper. In addition to reviewing important points of writing style (e.g., passive voice, legalese, redundancy), Volokh briefly explains the often-overlooked elements of logic and rhetoric and how their misuse can diminish an argument. Unlike most other writing guides, Volokh's book spends plenty of time showing the reader how to use evidence and why it must be critically examined rather than blindly accepted. Even though only five pages are especially devoted to seminar papers, much of the advice Volokh dispenses about writing for law review applies just as well to writing for a professor, and Volokh explains why. He encourages students to consider submitting papers to competitions and even to other law reviews, whether or not they are on their own schools' law review.

Despite the subtitle, this book isn't just for law students. Novice and experienced law-review writers will also find sound advice for improving their writing and expanding their markets. Volokh systematically guides the reader through the stages of producing publishable legal writing, from choosing your subject to methodically researching it, writing about it, and submitting the piece for publication. This book is a must-have for every law student. We also recommend it for practitioners interested in writing and publishing scholarly papers.

As I mentioned before, the publisher no longer gives me copies than I can sign and sell. But I've finally made up some bookplates — basically labels with a simple design on them — that I'll happily inscribe, sign, and send to anyone who asks. Send no money, but e-mail the address and the preferred inscription (if you have a preference) to volokh at

You can also check out the reader reviews.

JW Nelson (mail):
I carried this book to England when I went to an international LLM program. It helped me with my dissertation, it helped me with my first post-law school article, and it helped me with my student note. As a former journal editor, I wish more professors and other aspiring authors had read this book. (Just thought I'd stump for it since I just finished reading bits of it as I polished my LLM thesis for submission.)
8.11.2009 10:03am
Law Review Student:
I participated in the write-on competition this summer. I followed Volokh's recommendations to a T. I made Law Review.

Simple as that.
8.12.2009 10:54pm

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