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Law Review Orientation

The law review orientation program reviews: law review board policies, research tips, the writing process, and cite checking responsibilities.

Student Notes

Researching, Writing and possibly publishing a law review note can be a daunting proposition.  A law review note is often a law student's first chance to publish something that will enter the record of legal scholarship and a successful note can be a prized item on resumes and curriculum vitaes going forward.

What Is and What Is Not a Note?
The basic difference between a case note, a comment, and articles is the breadth of the subject matter covered.  A case note should analyze a case and a comment addresses a narrow area of the law or a piece of legislation.  An article is typically broader and written by a professors, judges, or scholarly-minded practitioners. One thing that all good Notes have in common is that they are well researched. 

What Should a Note Accomplish?
Student written Notes serve a unique role in legal scholarship.  A good Note identifies the current state of the law and offers an clear understandable thesis or solution.  Practitioners and scholars turn to Notes for comprehensive research and for legal reasoning.  Here are examples of the types of legal claims:

  • Law X is unconstitutional because ...
  • Properly interpreted, this statute means....
  • Courts have interpreted this statute in the following ways....and therefore the statutes should be amended as follows....
  • The case was decided incorrectly.
  • The court is correct, but for the wrong reasons.
  • The court missed this point....

Whatever type of claim you choose, your Note will likely include descriptive and prescriptive elements - you will need to identify the probem and propose a solution to that problem.

Crafting a Case Comment:

A quality case note requires good organization and clear analysis. 

The outline or structure of a case note includes:

Introduction - Briefly introduce the reader to the area of the law and the organization of the case note.  Explain the "noteworthiness: of your case.

Facts - Include only the relevant facts in a clear and interesting manner.  Focus the reader on the critical facts central to your issue(s).  Include the lower court's holding, appeals, and any subsequent action.

Holding - State the court's holding on each relevant issue.

Background or Discussion of Prior Law  - Provide the reader with the relevant background law relating to the issues regardless of whether discussed in the decision.  Describe the existing law and its development.  In closing this section, relate the selected case to the prior law to illustrate how, if at all, the selected case affects the prior law.

Reasoning or Analysis - Describe and critically analyze the court's reasoning and decision.  State whether the reasoning makes sense and present the context of the law as it is or should be.  Attempt to predict the impact your case will have on future decisions.  Address any ambiguous statements made by the court and questions that the court left unanswered.  This constitutes the majority of your comment and your analysis ties your thesis and argument using cases and secondary sources.

Conclusion - Briefly restate the underlying reasoning for your argument and the outcome for which you are advocating.

Writing Sample:  A Highly Successful Student Article:

James E. Ryan, Smith and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: An Iconoclastic Assessment, 78 Va. L. Rev. 1407 (1992).


Professor Leora Harpaz, Western New England College School of Law, Guide to Writing a Student Law Review Note.

Further Reading

Eugene Volkh,
Writing a Student Article,
48 J. Legal Educ. 247 (1998).

Heather Meeker,
Stalking the Golden Topic: A Guide to Locating and Selecting Topics for Legal Research Papers,
1996 Utal L. Rev. 917 (1996).

Eugene Volokh,
Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review
(Foundation Press, 4th ed. 2010).  Available in Open Reserves in the Library!