Law in Contemporary Society
We're encouraged to write notes, but do they really do anything worthwhile? Granted, they will have an effect on the note writer herself, if at all taken seriously writing a rather large paper ought to improve writing and organization skills along with research. But, on a larger scale, what do student-written notes matter? Most of the time a student is not going to make some kind of incredible discovery or develop some original theory that shakes things up; in fact, from what I've heard (speaking with random 3Ls) most folks simply write about circuit splits or small points of law that professors don't bother with (feel is beneath them). Additionally, I've heard a decent amount of speak against the benefit of notes from folks in our class - something along the lines of why write a note about an issue that will inevitably be resolved over time. An example was used comparing note-writing about an incorrect point of law to writing about taking out the garbage, why write about something that just happens (or, I suppose, why write about something instead of just doing it)?

I put some thought in on this, and I figured I'd share it. That's what the wiki is for, right?

Aside from the individual benefits of writing a note, which I consider pretty much enough reason to do it in the first place, I think there are some benefits to the profession as a whole. One such benefit would be a more capable lawyer in the world (yes! individual benefits can also have larger repercussions). I feel like note writing on minor points of law is in a sense similar to a judge writing a dissenting opinion, only it's not been asked for, and the only weight it carries is the soundness of the logic used. Still, it's important because it's a chance to lay down the framework on which a case can be built which may overturn the questionable point of law, especially if the issue is one not currently being litigated or if there's a lack of standing, which obstructs bringing suit. This will facilitate the litigation in the event suit concerning the law is brought. Additionally, it's important to put out a well reasoned argument because lawyers who actually end up litigating these matters may not have the same ideas the note writer does, and their argument may suffer for it. An additional pair of eyes on a subject never hurt anyone.

I dunno. What do you folks think? Note writing worthwhile, or a waste of time, caffeine, ink and paper?

-- MichaelHilton - 22 Apr 2010

What Eben just said concerning lawyers without a client seems pretty relevant to this (note writing) as well. More or less, that was my whole point. He's a bit better with words than I am.

-- MichaelHilton - 22 Apr 2010

I think writing a note might be one of the only useful reasons to actually be on a journal. As I understand it, writing a note gives you some opportunity to create a substantial relationship with a faulty member, which is something I'd really like to have. I also think it gives you a chance to really put some thought into a piece of legal writing - sort of like taking our Moglen papers to the next level (although Eben would say it's easier to write the 10,000 word paper than the 1,000 word version).

While I think writing a note might be worthwhile, I've been wondering whether it's worth it to join a journal. I'm not really sure how spending 5-20 hours/week cite checking is going to help me become a better lawyer, and I'd rather use that time learning skills that will help me in the future. There are obviously some career benefits if you're on Law Review, but how much is it going to help you to cite check and edit papers for a journal that you aren't really interested in? It seems to me that journals are one those classic law school things that you do because it's assumed that you will do them. Maybe the thing to do is take a seminar on a subject that is really appealing and write a paper for the seminar that you try to get published in a journal?

-- NathanStopper - 23 Apr 2010

From what I understand from the 2Ls that I've spoken to, the value in writing a note (if you do it well) is that it forces you to thoroughly examine a very specific topic and come up with a well thought out piece of work discussing it. It forces you to think about a "real world" problem and really look at the details.

The vast majority of the papers that we have written won't ever get published. The 3 essays that I wrote in Mr. Bresnahan's 9th grade English class on why Catcher in the Rye was a good book were pure crap. They didn't assert anything groundbreaking, were written in mediocre English and likely didn't even make much sense. That said, they were valuable to me. They forced me to write.

One of the best ways to learn to write well is to write a lot and get feedback. Unfortunately, law school is only 3 years long and we do little writing the first year (2 memos and a brief). The more experience we can get the better, and writing a note is yet another chance to gain experience with legal writing.

Perhaps this is a naive point of view (it may be useless), but this is why I think notes can be valuable, and this is why I think we have the Major and Minor Writing Credit requirements.

-- DavidGoldin - 23 Apr 2010



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r4 - 13 Jan 2012 - 22:04:28 - IanSullivan
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