Frequently Asked Questions
What is law review/journal?
A law review is a scholarly, generally quarterly, student-run scholarly legal journal that publishes work by professors, judges, attorneys, and law students. Some journals, such as the SMU Law Review, cover a wide-range of legal issues. Others, such as Journal of Air Law and Commerce, The International Lawyer, and SMU Science and Technology Law Review, focus on a particular area of law.
What if I’m not interested in practicing aviation law, international law or technology law?
No problem! It is not a requirement of any journal that you plan to practice in, or even have an interest in, any specific area. However, you should understand that you will be required to edit articles and write on topics in this area of law. You may come away from the experience more convinced that you have no interest in that area of the law, or you may be surprised by how much you like that area law. Even the topic-specific journals generally cover broad legal areas that may touch on more of your interests than you expect.
What will I be required to do when I’m on a journal?
In addition to attending orientation and regular meetings, every journal requires the same three obligations for first-year members (known as “Staff Editors”): a casenote, a comment, and cite checks. While the specifics of each requirement vary between journals, the casenote is generally a 10-12 page scholarly article, due mid-Fall (typically in October), that focuses on the impact of a recent judicial opinion or legislative action. The comment is a 40-55 page in-depth scholarly article on a particular issue of law within your journal’s topic area that you find compelling and relevant. Comment topic selection is done in the Fall (usually November) and a final draft is usually due early-to-mid-Spring (typically February or early March). Each journal publishes their best student articles each year. Throughout the year, staff members are also required to perform cite checks on articles that have been chosen to be published in their journal. Students review the writer’s sources, check the accuracy of the writer’s citations, and edit the article’s content. Most journal members will complete 2-4 cite checks during their Staff Editor year.
Law review is generally a two-year commitment, so first-year students participating in the Write On Competition should expect to serve on the journal for both their 2L and 3L year. Second-year students may also participate in the Write On Competition; their services are considered fulfilled at graduation. In their second year of service, students serve in various leadership roles as members of the Editorial Board.
How will I benefit from being on a journal?
Service on law review provides invaluable editing experience, broadens your understanding of the law, and improves your research and writing skills. Former law review members have reported that their time on law review deeply improved their attention to detail and ability to work with long, dense pieces of writing, a crucial skill in legal practice. In addition, law review participants receive three hours of class credit in their first year of participation and two hours in their second year and fulfillment of the General Writing (GW) graduation requirement. Some journals also offer scholarships or writing awards for their members. Law review can also provide incredible opportunities in your search for employment. Many top law firms exclusively hire students with law review experience.
What is involved in completing the Write-On Competition?
The application consists of three sections: editing, citations, and writing. The editing section resembles a cite check; you will be asked to review and edit an actual article according to citation and grammar rules. For the citation section, you will be given excerpts from several sources and asked to create an accurate citation according to Bluebook and Greenbook rules. For the writing section, you will be given several sources and asked to write a 4-5 page essay on a given prompt. No additional research is required for the writing section beyond the sources provided. The amount of time it takes to complete the competition packet varies significantly depending on each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, but you should expect to spend at least 3-4 hours per section. The competition takes place over four days to enable you to participate while also working, traveling, or fulfilling other personal obligations.
When is the Write-On Competition?
Typically the Write On Competition takes place in mid-May, beginning one week after the last day of Spring final exams. The Transfer Competition takes place in late July. Both competitions will begin at 9 AM on Thursday and end at 9 AM the following Monday.
Do I have to be in Dallas to participate?
No, but it is strongly recommended. Late applications are not accepted for ANY reason, and e-mailed submissions carry a much higher chance of problems and errors. Applications that are not received due to spam filters, internet outages, attachment file size limits, incorrect email addresses, or any other problem will not be considered, regardless whether caused by the applicant or by the SMU IT system. Applicants submitted electronically are also advised to check and double-check that the PDF file they submit is not missing any pages.
What do I need to participate in the Write-On Competition?
Applicants will need a USB drive and a large document-sized envelope. All applicants will need access to a printer and a high-quality scanner. For the editing section, applicants will need a red pen; we recommend Pilot FriXion red erasable pens, available on Amazon. An erasable pen will save you considerable time and make your application easier to read, increasing your chances of a high score. For the best possible results, all applicants are encouraged (but not required) to have a copy of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, The Greenbook: Texas Rules of Form, and either the Manual on Usage and Style or The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style.
Who is eligible to participate?
To be eligible to participate, an applicant must (1) be enrolled or accepted at SMU Dedman School of Law, and (2) have completed all 1L courses.
Can transfer students participate?
Absolutely! However, due to the timing of transfer acceptances over the summer, it is impractical for most transfer students to participate in the normal Write On Competition, so we also hold a special Transfer Competition in late July. Transfer students may participate in either competition, but they may only participate once each year. In other words, if you are able to participate in the normal Write On Competition, you may not also participate in the Transfer Competition in the same year. Transfer students coming from law schools outside of Texas should be advised that Texas cases and statutes use a different citation format than the Bluebook and should familiarize themselves with The Greenbook: Texas Rules of Form before the competition begins.
Is the Write-On Competition anonymous?
Yes. Participants’ names are kept completely anonymous until after selections are made. The names of those who are not selected remain anonymous in perpetuity.
How are Write-On applications evaluated?
Each journal association will receive an anonymous copy of the student’s application and will independently evaluate the entries based on writing ability, understanding of legal issues, editing ability, and citation accuracy. The emphasis given to each factor is entirely up to the individual associations. Journals may also consider an applicant’s GPA, class year, and optional personal statement in making their decisions.
Can I be selected for more than one journal?
No. As part of the application process, each candidate will rank (“pref”) the journals based on their own individual interest. After all applications are scored, the journals will rank the candidates based on their scores and will cross-reference those rankings with the candidates’ preferences. You will only receive one journal offer, so make your rankings carefully.
How do I know which journal to pref?
All three journal associations will co-host an information session in the Spring to share more about their journal and what they can offer to prospective members. You can also learn more about each journal by visiting their respective websites on the SMU Law Journals page.
How many students participate and how many students are selected?
Each year around 150-180 students participate in the two competitions, and around 120 students will be offered membership on a journal. Approximately 50 students will be accepted onto SMU Law Review Association, 45 students will be accepted onto The International Law Review Association, and 25 students will be accepted onto SMU Science and Technology Law Review.
If I don’t Write On this year, can I try again next year?
Yes, any student enrolled or accepted at SMU Dedman is eligible to participate in the Write On Competition provided that they have completed their first-year courses. However, only rising 2Ls are eligible to “Grade On,” and rising 3Ls may not be eligible for certain benefits (such as scholarships, Editorial Board positions, credit hours, and job search advantages). It is highly recommended to Write On as a rising 2L to receive the full benefits of journal membership.
What is "Writing On" versus "Grading On"?
To be eligible for membership on a journal you must participate in the Write On Competition and make a good-faith effort. Most candidates will be chosen based on their Write On Competition score, known as “Writing On.” However, rising 2L candidates who completed their first year of law school at SMU may instead be chosen solely based on their academic achievement, known as “Grading On.” The Grade On cutoffs vary by journal and are subject to change. Traditionally, SMU Law Review Association automatically accepts students in the Top 10%, and International Law Review and SMU Science & Technology Law Review automatically accept students in the Top 25%. Transfers students, rising 3L or 4L students, and students who do not make a good-faith effort on the Write On Competition are not eligible to Grade On.
Are there any grade cut-offs for membership?
SMU Law Review Association does not accept any candidate in the bottom 50% of their class. This applies to all candidates, including upperclassmen and transfer students. However, students in the bottom 50% are still eligible for membership on International Law Review Association and SMU Science & Technology Law Review.