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Is it time to change the way we write law review and law journal articles?

law journal

What is the purpose of writing an article which interprets and analyzes current situations relating to the legal field?

Some may say that the purpose is to show the legal community (lawyers, judges and law professors) how sophisticated you are on a given topic so that you may change policy or help with judicial interpretation. Fewer may say that the purpose of writing an article is to educate the general public on legal issues that are affecting them in substantial ways.

Most legal articles are drafted with decorative vocabulary and citations to the oldest of textbooks. But why? Why have we succumbed to this one way of writing articles? So that people can see how smart we are? To show that we know how to open a book for proper citation formatting?

The many questions to our current practices remain unanswered. In my experience, the best authors are those who can effectively write a legal argument in such a way that is both entertaining and modern. Articles which require me to use a dictionary for every five words is not going to compel me to agree with the author’s contention because I feel inadequate as a reader when I do not understand what the author is trying to portray by the use of their vocabulary. When you have to read a judgement for a law school class, would you prefer a dense reading full of legal jargon or would you prefer an opinion that is simplistic in its tone yet complex in its meaning?

Today, people are searching the internet for any bit of information on a variety of topics, so legal articles need to be formatted in a way that will attract readership so that the knowledge from that article may be distributed across social media.

As a future lawyer, I am constantly asking myself the question, “How am I supposed to help the world if no one can understand what I am saying?” I try to solve this problem by taking dense issues and breaking them down to a more common understanding. This may not be the correct approach, but if your goal is to attain readership, try to make the article easier read because you are more likely to catch public attention.

Another issue is the fact that Bluebook citations require you to find a print source before using a web-based source. Why? We live in a digital age, and most legal research is conducted online because researching online is cost-effective, efficient and easily accessible to both the researcher and the reader. A source found on the internet is just as valid as the print version of the source. A person would be more likely to search a URL than a book in the library.

The counter-argument may be that more people need find books in the library, or that more people need to research with physical copies of the sources. But is this cost effective? Paperless copies of information are the more practical approach because paperless copies are better for the environment and are more attuned with modern society.

Additionally, the legal citation rules are not uniform among Bluebook or ALWD, so an author has a difficult time determining which format is proper for their paper.

My take on writing law journals may be in the minority opinion, but I contend that the way we write law journals should be easily understood by the general public. The best way to effectuate change is to educate the public on really complicated issues. The power of the people moves government.

Yes, lawyers help but people, as whole, are powerful. If we want the legal community to be a dynamic body, we need to change our practices to fit the society we live in.

Katherine Read Katherine Read is a 2L at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La. She is a Junior Editor of SULC Law Review; the Vice Chair of the SULC Moot Court Board; and the teaching assistant for Vice Chancellor Roederick White, Sr.