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ACADEMIC LEGAL WRITING: LAW REVIEW ARTICLES, STUDENT NOTES, SEMINAR PAPERS, AND GETTING ON LAW REVIEW by EUGENE VOLOKH Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law UCLA School of Law with foreword by JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit FOUNDATION PRESS NEW YORK, NEW YORK Third Edition 2007 To my beloved wife and sons, Leslie Pereira, Benjamin Pereira Volokh, and Samuel Pereira Volokh ABOUT THE AUTHOR Eugene Volokh is the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at UCLA, where he teaches free speech law, Religion Clauses law, criminal law, and academic legal writing. Before going into teaching, he clerked for Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Since 1995, he has written over 50 law review articles and over 80 op-eds in publications such as the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, and many others. He also wrote The First Amendment and Related Statutes, a textbook from Foundation Press, and has since 2002 operated a daily Web log called The Volokh Conspiracy (http: // volokh.com). Before going into law, he published over a dozen technical articles in computer magazines. He has been a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel since 2005. The article he wrote while in law school, Freedom of Speech and Workplace Harassment (UCLA L. Rev. 1992), has been cited in over 170 academic works and in 14 court cases; this seems to make it the student article from the 1990s and 2000s that has been most cited by academic works. A 2002 survey by University of Texas law professor Brian Leiter listed Volokh as the third most cited professor among those who entered law teaching after 1992 (with 810 citations in law reviews at the time). In Spring 2006, he participated anonymously (and, he’s glad to re- port, successfully) in the UCLA Law Review write-on competition, to better hone the advice that he gives in the “Getting on Law Review” chapter. His pain is your gain. TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD, BY JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI 1 INTRODUCTION 5 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 8 I. ARTICLES AND STUDENT NOTES: THE BASICS 9 A. The Initial Step: Choosing a Claim ....................................................9 1. The claim......................................................................................9 2. Novelty .......................................................................................15 3. Nonobviousness..........................................................................17 4. Utility .........................................................................................17 5. Soundness: prescriptive claims.................................................21 6. Soundness: historical and empirical claims.............................31 7. Selling your claim to your readers............................................34 8. Topics and structures you should generally avoid ..................34 9. Case notes ..................................................................................37 B. Organizing the Article.......................................................................39 1. Write the Introduction...............................................................39 2. Explain the facts and legal doctrines necessary to understanding the problem.......................................................54 3. Prove your claim ........................................................................58 4. Make your article richer: Connect to broader issues, parallel issues, and subsidiary issues ......................................61 5. Rewrite the Introduction...........................................................66 6. The Conclusion...........................................................................69 C. Turning Practical Work into Articles...............................................69 1. Extract........................................................................................70 2. Deepen........................................................................................71 3. Broaden ......................................................................................73 4. Connect.......................................................................................73 D. Budgeting Your Time ........................................................................73 E. Deciding What to Set Aside ..............................................................75 F. Choosing a Title.................................................................................77 G. Summary............................................................................................82 1. Choose a topic.............................................................................82 2. Make a claim..............................................................................82 3. Write a first draft.......................................................................82 TABLE OF CONTENTS 4. Edit .............................................................................................83 5. Publish and publicize ................................................................83 6. Think about your next article ...................................................83 II. SEMINAR TERM PAPERS 84 A. Introduction: Comparing Seminar Term Papers and Academic Articles ...............................................................................................84 1. Nonobviousness..........................................................................84 2. Soundness...................................................................................84 3. Writing and structure................................................................84 4. Utility .........................................................................................84 5. Novelty .......................................................................................85 B. Figuring Out What Your Instructor Expects...................................85 C. Finding a Topic ..................................................................................86 D. Budgeting Your Time ........................................................................87 E. Turning the Paper into a Publishable Article .................................87 III. RESEARCH 89 A. Identifying Sample Cases and Incidents .........................................89 B. Understanding the Law ....................................................................91 1. Get the big picture .....................................................................91 2. Get the details............................................................................92 3. Find other works on the topic (the literature search) .............92 4. Identify in what way the articles you find are relevant..........93 C. Knowing When to Start Writing.......................................................95 D. Digging Deeper into the Key Sources...............................................95 E. Digging Deeper into the Facts ..........................................................96 F. Talking to Your School’s Reference Librarians ...............................97 1. If you’ve selected a topic............................................................98 2. If you’re looking for a topic........................................................98 3. If you have questions about a specific task..............................99 4. If you want bluebooking help....................................................99 5. Talk to the librarians with the right attitude..........................99 G. Various Research Tips.....................................................................100 IV. WRITING 102 A. Try Starting with a Zeroth Draft....................................................102 B. Edit, Edit, Edit.................................................................................103 1. Go through many drafts ..........................................................103 2. If you see no red marks on a paragraph, go over it again.....104 3. If you need to reread something to understand it, rewrite viii TABLE OF CONTENTS it................................................................................................104 4. Read the draft with “new eyes”...............................................104 5. Edit with the attitude that there are no lazy readers— only busy readers.....................................................................105 C. Finish the First Draft Quickly/Defeat Writer’s Block by Skipping Around..............................................................................106 D. React Effectively to Editing Suggestions .......................................106 E. Use Subsection Headings................................................................108 F. Use a Table of Contents ..................................................................109 G. Note Down All Your Ideas...............................................................109 H. Things to Look for: Logic.................................................................110 1. Categorical assertions .............................................................110 2. Insistence on perfection...........................................................110 3. False alternatives ....................................................................110 4. Missing pieces ..........................................................................111 5. Criticisms that could apply to everything..............................111 6. Metaphors ................................................................................112 7. Undefined terms ......................................................................113 8. Undefended assertions, and “arguably” / “raises concerns”..114 I. Things to Look for: Writing.............................................................114 1. Paragraphs without a common theme....................................114 2. Long paragraphs......................................................................114 3. Inadequate connections between paragraphs........................115 4. Redundancy..............................................................................115 5. Unnecessary introductory clauses..........................................116 6. Other unnecessary phrases.....................................................117 7. Needless tangential detail.......................................................118 8. Legalese/bureaucratese ...........................................................119 9. Unnecessary abstractions .......................................................120 10. Passive voice.............................................................................122 11. Clichés ......................................................................................123 12. Figurative phrases...................................................................123 13. Literary or pop culture allusions ............................................126 14. Abbreviations ...........................................................................127 15. Word choice errors ...................................................................128 J. Things to Look for: Rhetoric ...........................................................129 1. Unduly harsh criticism............................................................129 2. Personalized criticism .............................................................130 3. Caricatured criticism...............................................................130 K. Proofreading.....................................................................................131 L. Editing: Three Exercises.................................................................132 ix TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Basic editing.............................................................................132 2. Editing for concreteness ..........................................................133 V. USING EVIDENCE CORRECTLY 134 A. Read, Quote, and Cite the Original Source....................................134 1. Legal evidence..........................................................................134 2. Historical, economic, or scientific evidence............................137 3. Newspapers..............................................................................138 4. Transcripts ...............................................................................141 5. Web sites ..................................................................................142 6. Wikipedia .................................................................................143 7. Avoid Falling Into Others’ Bad Habits...................................144 B. Check the Studies on Which You Rely...........................................144 C. Compromise Wisely .........................................................................145 D. Be Careful with the Terms You Use ..............................................146 1. Avoid false synonyms ..............................................................146 2. Include all necessary qualifiers ..............................................147 3. Use precise terms rather than vague ones.............................148 E. Try To Avoid Foreseeable Misunderstandings ..............................149 F. Understand Your Source.................................................................149 G. Handle Survey Evidence Correctly ................................................151 1. What do surveys measure?......................................................151 2. Errors in generalizing from the respondents to a broader group.........................................................................................152 3. Errors in generalizing from the question being asked..........155 4. Errors caused by ignoring information from the same survey .......................................................................................158 5. Respondents giving incorrect answers to pollsters................160 6. An exercise ...............................................................................160 H. Be Explicit About Your Assumptions.............................................161 1. Inferring from correlation to causation..................................162 2. Extrapolating across places, times, or populations ...............164 3. Inferring from one variable to another...................................170 4. A summary plus an exercise ...................................................171 I. Make Sure Your Comparisons Make Sense...................................172 1. Consider alternative explanations for disparities .................172 2. Make sure that cost/benefit comparisons sensibly quantify costs and benefits.....................................................................174 3. Say how many cases the comparison is based on, and how small changes in selection may change the result.................174 4. Make sure your comparison at least shows correlation, x TABLE OF CONTENTS even before you worry about whether it shows causation ....178 J. A Source–Checking Exercise ..........................................................179 K. Summary..........................................................................................181 VI. CITE–CHECKING OTHERS’ ARTICLES 182 A. Recommendations for Cite–Checkers.............................................182 B. Recommendations for Law Review Editors ...................................184 VII. PUBLISHING AND PUBLICIZING 185 A. Consider Publishing Outside Your School .....................................185 1. You can .....................................................................................185 2. You should................................................................................186 3. Here’s how................................................................................187 B. Working with Law Journal Editors................................................195 1. Have the right attitude about edits........................................195 2. Insist on seeing all changes.....................................................198 3. Always keep a copy of any marked–up draft you mail..........198 4. Make sure your earlier changes were properly entered........198 5. Use the opportunity to edit more yourself .............................199 6. Keep the copyright, but grant nonexclusive rights ...............199 C. Publicizing the Article Before It’s Published.................................202 1. Post the article on SSRN.........................................................202 2. E-mail noted bloggers in your field.........................................203 D. Publicizing the Published Article ...................................................203 1. Reprints....................................................................................203 2. Distributing the article electronically ....................................204 E. Planning the Next Article ...............................................................206 VIII. ENTERING WRITING COMPETITIONS 207 A. Why You Should Do This ................................................................207 B. Competitions That Don’t Offer Publication ...................................207 C. Competitions That Guarantee Publication....................................208 D. Competitions That Offer a Chance for Publication.......................210 E. Competitions That Solicit Published Pieces ..................................211 F. Competitions That Solicit Unpublished Pieces .............................211 IX. GETTING ON LAW REVIEW 213 A. What Is a Law Review?...................................................................213 B. Why Be on a Law Review? ..............................................................214 C. Which Law Review?.........................................................................215 D. “Making Law Review” .....................................................................216 xi TABLE OF CONTENTS E. Writing On: Background.................................................................217 F. What the Competitions Are Like....................................................217 G. Begin Before the Competition Starts .............................................218 1. Do background reading ...........................................................218 2. Especially focus on the Bluebook............................................219 3. Check past competitions..........................................................220 4. Talk to people about what to expect.......................................221 5. Review your professors’ comments on your written work.....222 6. Clear your calendar .................................................................222 7. Figure out how your friends can help (including by staying quiet) ...........................................................................223 8. The really good and fortunate friends can help by lending you their apartments...............................................................223 9. Oh, no I’m reading this chapter the day before the competition is to start..............................................................224 H. A Timeline for After You Start .......................................................224 1. Start quickly.............................................................................224 2. Read the instructions ..............................................................224 3. Photocopy .................................................................................225 4. Read the assignment and the source materials.....................225 5. Choose a claim .........................................................................226 6. If you can’t find the perfect claim, go with what you have ...228 7. Do the editing/proofreading/bluebooking test (if there is one) ...........................................................................................229 8. Write a rough draft of the paper, quickly...............................231 9. Use the sources effectively ......................................................238 10. After the first draft is done, go over what you’ve highlighted in the sources.......................................................240 11. Ignore the mid-competition blues...........................................241 12. When you have a moment, reread the instructions...............241 13. Edit ...........................................................................................242 14. If you have time, reread this section and the Writing section.......................................................................................245 15. What to do if you’re over the page limit .................................245 16. Near the end.............................................................................247 I. Special Suggestions for Case Notes................................................248 J. The Personal Statement..................................................................249 1. Write well and proofread carefully .........................................249 2. Pay attention to the instructions............................................249 3. Make yourself sound interesting, but politically unthreatening ..........................................................................250 xii TABLE OF CONTENTS 4. If you’re applying to a specialty journal, stress your interest or experience in the specialty....................................250 X. ACADEMIC ETHICS 251 A. Avoiding Plagiarism ........................................................................251 1. The Two Harms of Plagiarism ................................................251 2. Your Obligations......................................................................252 3. Copying from Yourself.............................................................254 B. Being Candid ...................................................................................255 C. Being Fair and Polite to Your Adversaries....................................256 D. Being Fair to the Law Review Editors Who Publish Your Article...............................................................................................256 E. Preserving Confidentiality..............................................................256 F. Treating Sources Fairly ..................................................................257 G. Making Data Available ...................................................................258 CONCLUSION 260 APPENDIX I: CLUMSY WORDS AND PHRASES 261 A. Needlessly Formal Words ...............................................................261 1. Verbs.........................................................................................261 2. Nouns........................................................................................263 3. Adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions .............263 B. Circumlocutions...............................................................................264 1. Generally..................................................................................264 2. Verbs turned into nouns or adjectives....................................266 3. “The fact that”..........................................................................267 C. Redundancies...................................................................................267 APPENDIX II: ANSWERS TO EXERCISES 269 A. Editing Exercises.............................................................................269 1. Basic Editing, p. 132................................................................269 2. Editing for Concreteness, p. 133.............................................274 B. Understand Your Source, p. 150.....................................................277 C. USA Today Survey Report, p. 160..................................................279 D. Drunk Driving Study, p. 172 ..........................................................280 E. Source–Checking Exercise, p. 179..................................................281 1. The First Claim........................................................................282 2. The Second Claim ....................................................................284 APPENDIX III: SAMPLE COVER LETTERS 288 xiii TABLE OF CONTENTS A. For Sending an Article to Law Reviews.........................................288 B. For Sending a Reprint to Potential Readers..................................289 C. For Sending a Reprint to Potential Readers on Whose Work You Substantially Rely....................................................................291 ENDNOTES 293 INDEX 301 xiv ACADEMIC LEGAL WRITING: LAW REVIEW ARTICLES, STUDENT NOTES, SEMINAR PAPERS, AND GETTING ON LAW REVIEW xv FOREWORD, BY JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI A few years ago I interviewed a candidate for a clerkship. He had record-breaking grades from a name-brand law school and his recom- menders sprinkled their letters with phrases like “Kozinski clone” and “better even than you.” This kid was hot. His interview went well, and I had pretty much made up my mind to hire him on the spot, when I popped a fateful question: “So, have you decided on the topic for your law review note?” “It’s done,” the candidate replied. And, with a flourish, he pulled an inch-thick document from his briefcase and plopped it on my desk. Im- pressed, I picked it up and read the title page: “The Alienability and Devisability of Possibilities of Reverter and Rights of Entry.” After making sure this wasn’t a joke, I started wondering why someone would write a piece on such an arcane topic. Maybe this kid wasn’t so smart after all. I decided I had better read the piece before making a hiring decision. After the applicant left, his article sat on the corner of my desk like a brick. Every so often, I’d pick it up, leaf through it and try to read it, but with no success. It was well-written enough; the sentences were easy to understand and followed one another in seemingly logical fash- ion. But the effort was pointless because the subject matter was of abso- lutely no interest to me. Instead, my mind wandered to doubts about the author. How did he come to write on such a desiccated topic? Under that veneer of brilliance, was there a kook trying to get out? Could I really trust his judgment as to the countless sensitive issues he would have to confront during his clerkship? Would he constantly aim for the capillary and miss the jugular? It is difficult to overstate the importance of a written paper for a young lawyer’s career, especially if the piece is published. Grades, of ne- cessity, are somewhat grainy and subjective; is an A- that much better than a B+? Letters of recommendation can be more useful, but they still rely on someone else’s judgment, and they often have a stale booster quality about them. Words like “fabulous” and “extraordinary” lose their force by dint of repetition—though “Kozinski clone” is still pretty rare. A paper is very different. It is the applicant’s raw work product, un- filtered through a third-party evaluator. By reading it, you can person- 1 FOREWORD, BY JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI ally evaluate the student’s writing, research, logic and judgment. Are the sentences sleek and lithe or ponderous and convoluted? Does he lay out his argument in a logical fashion, and does he anticipate and refute objections? Is the topic broad enough to be useful, yet narrow enough to be adequately covered? Is it persuasive? Is it fun to read? Writing a pa- per engages so much of the lawyer’s art that no other predictor of likely success on the job comes close. A well-written, well-researched, thought- ful paper can clinch that law firm job or clerkship. It is indispensable if you aim to teach. Published student papers can also be quite useful and influential in the development of the law. A few law review notes and comments be- come classics cited widely by lawyers, courts and academics. Many more provide a useful service, such as a solid body of research or an impor- tant insight into a developing area. Most, however, are read by no one beyond the student’s immediate family and cause hardly an eddy among the currents of the law. Why do so many published student papers fail in their essential purpose? (The same question might well be asked about non-student academic writing.) The simple answer is that most students have no clue what to write about, or how to go about writing it. Finding a useful and interesting topic; determining the scope of the paper; developing a thesis and testing its viability; avoiding sudden death through pre- emption; and getting it placed in the best possible journal—these are among the tasks that most students aren’t trained to perform. My ap- plicant, smart though he was, went off track because no one showed him where the track was or how to stay on it. Many students make the same mistake every year. This book fills a void in the legal literature: It teaches students how to go about finding a topic and developing it into a useful, interesting, publishable piece. It gives detailed and very helpful instructions for every aspect of the writing, research and publication process. And it comes from the keyboard of someone who has authored articles on a dizzying variety of legal topics and is widely regarded as one of the brightest lights in legal academia. But I digress. I pondered the fate of my applicant for some weeks and never did get myself to read more than a few lines of his dreary paper. Finally I called and offered him a clerkship with a strong hint—not quite a condi- tion—that he drop the paper in the nearest trash can and start from scratch. I explained to him what was wrong with it, and what a success- 2 FOREWORD, BY JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI ful paper should look like. “You can do whatever you want,” I told him, “but if you should have the misfortune of getting this dog published, it will only drag you down when you apply for a Supreme Court clerkship or a position as a law professor.” The applicant gratefully accepted the advice. He chucked the “Possi- bilities of Reverter” paper and went about developing a new topic. Some months later, he produced a dynamite piece that became one of the sem- inal published articles in a developing area of the law. Eventually, he did clerk for the Supreme Court and has since become a widely respect- ed and often quoted legal academic. His name is Eugene Volokh. 3

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