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Monday, March 27, 2023

Should Law Students Get Paid for Their Work on Law Reviews?

My new essay at Washington Monthly is about a recent proposal to pay law students for their work as law journal editors. I am in favor, although not entirely for the reasons the students put forward.

Here is the gist:

Washington Monthly

Should Law Students Get Paid for Their Work on Law Reviews?

A group of NYU law students recently raised the novel proposition that they should be paid for their work as law journal editors. The students pointed out that they do a job “performed by full-time staff and tenured faculty in other academic disciplines.” 

It is a bargain that the great majority of law professors have been ready to make, receiving almost guaranteed publication somewhere and freedom from tedious work, in return for empowering students with editorial control, for nearly all scholarly publications.

Without reasonable compensation, many economically disadvantaged students must forgo the resume enhancement of journal membership in favor of a part-time job, creating an uneven playing field in recruiting interviews. And the idea may have other virtues as well, although not the ones put forward by the NYU students.

The New York University Law Review, for example, has over 60 senior editors and about 80 staff editors. And NYU has eight other journals, with probably at least 400 more editors. Even just $5,000 per semester—covering only about two hours daily at $25 per hour—would come to over $5 million annually.

NYU could, however, agree to pay for, say, 10 or 20 editors for each journal—at an annual cost of perhaps $200,000—while eliminating all other positions. That would quickly reveal just how important payment really is for the disappointed 400 students.

Without the near guarantee of publication somewhere, law professors would be motivated to improve their submissions, and many would probably give up writing altogether.

So, paying student editors seems like a win-win outcome for the quality of legal scholarship, although it would be a lose-lose for the students who would no longer have the opportunity to serve on journals and for the professors who may find themselves with nowhere to publish their completed articles.

You can read the entire essay at Washington Monthly.

Posted by Steve Lubet on March 27, 2023 at 10:06 AM | Permalink


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