Thursday, February 19, 2009

All Journal Tryouts, All The Time

So 1Ls pick up their journal tryout packets tomorrow. We'll have more then on the entire process, including some retrospectives from former 1Ls, but for now suffice it to say:
- it's expensive (costs money to do it, and maybe even more to put it together
- it's a ton of work
- being on journal itself also entails even more work (though this varies greatly depending on the journal).
So should you do it? Really, especially in this economy, you'd be out of your mind not to. OGI will be brutal next year, and current 1Ls should leave nothing undone in the quest to make themselves competitive candidate. "Journal or moot court" - that talk was soooo last year (along with "NYC to 190!!!") - the new line is "journal and moot court"!

Of course, we're being hyperbolic. Grades will always reign supreme when it comes to securing a job (after the fact that you all go to UVA - and that really does mean a lot). But behind this exaggeration there's more than a whit of truth. David Lat said when he came to UVA that recruiting next year was going to be unpleasant, and he wasn't kidding. Secondary journal membership - for reasons that are more or less unclear to us - is at least moderately important to some employers. The amount of work (1 weekend, plus 1 weekend of cite-checking per semester if you get yourself on one of the easier journals) more than justifies the benefit (an increased possibility of securing one of those JOB things that everyone has been talking about), EITE.

So here is our non-exhaustive advice about journal tryouts:

(1) Do it. (See above)

(2) Focus on the bluebooking section. Most or all of the secondary journals care MUCH more about your ability to do bluebooking than your ten page essay. You want your bluebooking to be perfect. The key is nailing the punctuations (usually in the wrong place), the capitalization (usually words that should be capitalized aren't, and vice-versa), and the abbreviations (take it as a given that every abbrievation is wrong). Also look out for the regular, dumb English errors - the sort you see on this blog - like using "there" instead of "their", etc.

The writing section is obviously more important if you are trying to get on the actual Law Review. You might be thinking that, well, anything worth doing is worth doing well, and so that you should give this section your all as well. That's fine - but remember this. The Va. L. Rev. is only letting 15 people write on. If you're going to spend the bulk of your time working on the essay, you better make sure that it is in the top 15 of all 300+ of your classmates who are going to be doing journal tryouts.

That's why I would tackle things in the following order: bluebook, reading essay materials, writing essay. Make sure your bluebook is perfect, edit it again and again, and only consider it done when you're sure it's a flawless.

(3) Don't skip your Friday classes. Apparently it's an honor code violation. Also, remember that you don't need that much time to do journal tryouts. The bluebook shouldn't take more than six to eight hours including all the edits. As discussed above, the writing section is really about how much you want to spend on it. Obviously the kids that do make Law Review are going to spend a lot of time on it but remember that there is an element of diminishing returns here, and if you're hitting a wall on the thing on Saturday night, take a deep breath, go to a party, and come back the next day and remember that at the end of the day it's other students who are going to be evaluating your work - so just do what you can and don't kill yourself. Save that energy for prepping for finals.

(4) Pick Secondary Journals Carefully. We'll be straight - employers probably don't know the difference between secondary journals at UVA. Yet there is a difference - some publish four times a year and some publish twice. Some have very limited requirements for 3Ls; others work 3Ls to the bone. Some have a lot of opportunity for 2Ls to serve on the managing board in the fall (something you can put on your OGI resume); others do not. In our opinion you should look at - in order:

  • the amount of work (# of cite checks/year? how bad is each cite check?)
  • your chances of getting on (VJIL is a lot harder to get on than VaSE, et cetra).
  • [big gap]
  • how much the subject matter interests you. (Checking tax footnotes is not really all that different from checking social policy footnotes, although this is just our opinion, and some may disagree).

(5) Try Your Best, Don't Be Too Sad if You Fail. If you don't make a journal, don't sweat it. Yea, it's a nice thing to have on your resume and yea it's something some employers may wonder about it, but on the plus side you won't be stuck cite-checking while your classmates are gearing up for finals, and you won't have the darn thing hanging over your head while you're trying to coordinate your callback interviews. We know lots of people who aren't on a journal (for whatever reason) and are still working at great places this summer. It's fair to say here, though, that you should plan to sign up for and do moot court in the fall.

Feel free to add to / contradict this in the comments section.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you give a basic rundown, maybe even a list, of the journals in order of competitiveness?

Help!!!

-Terrified 1L

Anonymous said...

Journal Tryouts (and journals) are worthless. No firms ask or care about Journals. Most people who ignored the whole process (thus, no journal) got jobs. Many who wrote onto the "best secondary journals" did NOT.

UVA law blog is misleading you. Don't do it!

Anonymous said...

7:44 is half right. That is, a journal is not going to make up for a 2.5gpa or anything, and if you have a 3.5 you might not need it. But to say they are worthless is patently false. Between two average GPA students, you'd better believe employers will look at journal participation as a potential deciding factor.

B Colas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rule 12 (f) said...

Right, and since you don't even know what your final GPA will be . . . why leave it to chance?

Anonymous said...

8:59pm is right on. Remember you are not just competing against UVA peers, but also against people on "secondary journals" at other top 10 schools. Do you really want to listen to a bunch of 3Ls who got summer jobs in an entirely different economy? These are the same people who never imagined there would be delayed start dates, rescinded offers, and layoffs everywhere.

Oh, and it's not just about firm jobs. Many judges consider journal experience to be a requirement when they evaluate clerkship applications.

In this economy, no hiring manager is foolish enough to just look at your GPA, and your GPA alone, to determine if you get an interview. If you have a bad GPA, a journal won't rescue you, but if you have a good GPA, you have only crossed the threshold, and they will then look at what else you can do besides study. The thresholds have gone up considerably.

When Fall OGI rolls around and you don't get the interview you wanted so badly, trust me you'll be wondering in the back of your mind whether some kid on a journal took your spot.

Anonymous said...

@6:50 - from one group's discussion of journals, there are three groups - competitive, average, and less-competitive. (Not including Law Review)

Competitive:
International
Social Policy
Politics

Average:
Tax
Business

Less competitive:
Environmental
Technology
Sports & Entertainment

Also, to echo Rule 12(f)'s sentiments in the post, don't worry about taking all day Friday to work on your tryout. I know of at least one (normal, not superhuman) guy that only worked on the tryout for two days and made both journals (but not Law Review, so take that with a grain of salt).

Anonymous said...

I have never heard anyone tell me that social policy or politics is competitive. The only truly competitive one is VJIL.

Unless you are applying to some niche practice like tax, IP, or environmental law, no employer cares which journal you are on, as long as you are on one - with the possible exception of Sports and Entertainment (not saying they're crappy, just that it's so new and nobody really knows them).

Anonymous said...

First, S&E is fine, ignore what the above poster said, it's as good as any secondary journal (or maybe better since they don't require a lot of work).

Second, here's the definitive ranking of secondary journal competitive.

VIGIL
Politics

Tax
Business

Social Policy
Technology
Environmental
Sports and Entertainment

I'd be sure to apply to at least one (if not two, you can never be too risk averse ite) in the bottom tier

Anonymous said...

Don't believe the hype, they're all pretty much the same - law review and everyone else. Two bits of advice (1) do NOT join VJIL unless you're into masochism and (2) make sure to submit to either Technology or Business.

Anonymous said...

While some journals will be more competitive than others, I don't think it's quite accurate to just place them in a flat order of competitiveness (or even tiers). There are more factors which aren't necessarily publicly known, like if the journal needs more people, how many tryouts they receive that year, etc. If you want to hedge your bets by choosing one 'less competitive journal,' that's reasonable, but don't be discouraged from trying out for a journal you want because you're afraid it's too competitive.

Anonymous said...

Best writing on the subject I've ever seen:
http://febclub.blogspot.com/2008/02/journal-tryouts-are-biggest-scam-in-law.html

Anonymous said...

the febclub blog advice from last year while amusing is not good advice in this economy.

Anonymous said...

"Don't believe the hype, they're all pretty much the same - law review and everyone else."

Wow. That's all I'll say about that.

Also, you have to realize that the level of competitiveness varies from year to year. People hear that a particular journal was easy to get onto one year and then the next year it becomes competitive. Just pick something you're interested in. Prior comments notwithstanding, I would think twice about VaSE. I would join it if you either want to put in some work to help turn things around (they nearly didn't publish last year), or if you really just don't care and want the line on your resume.

Anonymous said...

"between two average GPA students, you'd better believe employers will look at journal participation as a potential deciding factor."
So wrong. Have you gone through the process?

Yes, grades are #1. But after that they want a really good interview. Good confidence, looks appropriate (sad but true) and a great ability to sell self and past experiences

Anonymous said...

2:04,

You'll note it said potential deciding factor, not exclusive deciding factor. Also, you fail to realize that just like grades, several students might have equivalent interviews, too.

Anonymous said...

And 2:04, everything you said is valid ONLY IF you get past the initial screening

Anonymous said...

12(f) - The journal tryout is expensive for journals, but you don't have to pay to do it as a 1L.

UVA Law Blog Guest said...

O RLY? I seem to remember spending like 20 bucks copying and such - with such a princely sum I could almost buy lunch at Scott Commons!

Rule 12 (f) said...

that was me above, sorry, using the guest account . . .

Anonymous said...

12(f) - Yeah, I guess you're right. I suppose I was just thinking that unlike the first round of moot court, where you have to pay for the packet itself, the journal tryout packet is paid for by the journals.

Anonymous said...

Friends,

It is simple (and I don't know why people get all excited debating about it). Being on a journal means you get to add an important line to a resume. There are a lot of law school activities that many employers know nothing about (especially if they aren't from UVA). All employers DO know what a journal is, and they notice it. And yes, some employers do ask about your journal and what you do for it.

Is being on a journal make or break? Of course not - your resume won't be instantly tossed in the shredder when they see no journal. But, if it is on your resume, it will become a part of your package that they will consider.

Anonymous said...

While the value of being on a journal may be debatable, I will say that I (as a current 2L) found being on the managing board as a 1L to be very useful. I definitely talked about my position in most of my interviews, with the added bonus of no journal cite checks.

Anonymous said...

I think employers want to see that you do something other than study. But I'm not sure a journal is the only way to do this. A lot of employers are interested in seeing community service, pro bono, and other good works. The Law Journal is a good thing for the resume but at the end of the day it's self-aggrandizing and doesn't do anyone else much good. Sometimes a good attitude can take you farther than a good cite check.

(NOTE: You still need to know how to use the Bluebook. Sorry.)

Anonymous said...

I've spoken with 3 hiring partners at Vault100 firms, and all have said that their firms could not care less about journals other than LR. Moot court and/or some pro bono work should be more than enough to show that you have some interests outside of studying. And a good 1L summer job should go a long way as well (and provide some good substantive talking points to your 2L OGI interview). And frankly, I would think that firms could see right through you if the only reason you joined a journal was to "puff" your resume.

Rule 12 (f) said...

I strongly strongly disagree with the above. Journal membership is an important credential, and I think most firms treat it as such.

Anonymous said...

You're free to disagree, but that's the first-hand info I have. I'm sure that some firms do give it some weight, and it might help with prescreening in some cases. I'm certainly not disputing that. But overall in the hierarchy of credentials, I think it ranks significantly behind grades, work experience (including 1L summer), interview skills, and geographic connection.

Rule 12 (f) said...

Yea, but you have little control over many of those factors at this point.

Any 1L who doesn't seriously consider a journal and the tryout that goes worth it, EITE, is simply crazy.

Anonymous said...

I have asked three of my friends who are taking Tax, and they all have MacBooks. Everyone in Tax has a MacBook. You may not believe me, but I have first-hand info, here.

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