BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
This past weekend, there was an election. Not for something silly like the President of the United States, or the leader of Iraq, or the head of the local school board, but for the person who will lead this nation’s – nay, the world’s – most important student-edited legal journal for the next twelve months, through all of the trials that a student-edited law review must face: whether to run the article about reconciling sovereignty and global governance through global government networks, or the article about organizations as internal capital markets: the legal boundaries of firms, collateral and trusts in commercial and charitable enterprises. Or to run both. The fate of dozens of professors at third-tier universities around the country lie in the hands of the student elected, as he will make decisions that impact the entire planet. Which recent publications will be reviewed? Will they switch to recycled paper? What size font will they use when printing next year’s competition packet?
I apologize if I’m trivializing the role of the Law Review in our nation’s consciousness. I know it’s important that the process be allowed to work, no matter if it takes 96 hours in a classroom here in Cambridge, the current members dressed up in their finest breeches and topcoats, wearing their most fashionable wigs and wooden teeth, and making sure to carefully scrutinize every comma each candidate changed over the course of the past year, every semicolon he or she added, and every sandwich order called into the local delicatessen. Mistakes can be costly. Forget the extra mustard, and you may have just disqualified yourself, and forced upon yourself a year spent as Page Count Editor instead of the all-important, all-knowing, all-powerful Editor-in-Chief, able to make or break young legal careers at the drop of an issue of the California Reporter, making the decision between whether each young and eager 2L will get to work with Judge Posner, or Judge Judy. Judge Easterbrook, or Judge Wapner. Judge McConnell, or Judge Reinhold.
I’ve been able to obtain a copy of the candidates’ statements, and would like to share some highlights. “Enjoys fluorescent lighting,” “Has memorized the entire bluebook,” “Is able to produce energy through photosynthesis.” “Is allergic to the outdoors,” “Reads thirty-seven pages a minute,” “Makes a really good cup of coffee.” “Has dreamed about this position since childhood,” “Has dreamed about this position since birth,” “Came out of his mother’s womb with a marked-up version of her pancreas.” “Never sleeps,” “Doesn’t need to use the bathroom,” “Has invented a machine that gives the day twenty-six additional hours.” “Eats legal scholarship,” “Breathes legal scholarship,” “Is married to a ream of printer paper; daughter is a file folder.”
In prior decades, the Law Review was known as a place where young scholars spent long and grueling hours editing manuscripts that were perhaps thirty-six thousand, even thirty-seven thousand words long. No more. Not since the recent reform, announced in bold type on the Law Review’s web page: “The Review will not publish articles exceeding 35,000 words – the equivalent of 70-75 law review pages – except in extraordinary circumstances.” This decision, of course, marks a whole new generation in legal scholarship, and was met with a great deal of resistance from the broader Law Review community. Seventeen million readers cancelled their subscriptions, arguing that the Law Review was their publication of choice for articles exceeding 35,000 words, and where would they now go to get their book-length-article fix. Others argued that this was a policy with no teeth. After all, in the past year alone, “extraordinary circumstances” under which the Law Review has published articles exceeding 35,000 words have included: “it tackles an important issue in jurisdictional frameworkitude,” “it’s a short sixty thousand,” “someone famous wrote it,” and “article was really long.”
One American institution that is sad to see the changing of the guard at the Law Review is the venerable U.S. Postal Service. In a coup for the Postal Service, after years of stalemate and intense negotiations – we all recall the Berlin Summit of 1993, where the process broke down completely after the Law Review Submissions Editor removed his hat in front of the Postmaster General – the Service was able to achieve its dream of a world where it would be the preferred – nay, the required – carrier of all Law Review submissions packets completed by 1Ls taking the competition outside Cambridge. To great fanfare, the following language appears on the Law Review web site: “Students taking the competition outside of Cambridge must mail their competitions to the Law Review via U.S. Post Office Express Mail, postmarked no later than May 28, at 5 p.m.”
A victory for all, it seems. Unlike this past weekend, which was a victory for only one. But, really, it was a victory for the democratic process. This was, after all, the most important election in American history.
Jeremy Blachman is a 3L. Will you be his valentine?