Writing for a Student Law Review WLR by Dr. Lisa Webley

Writing for Law Reviews
Professor Lisa Webley
January 2013
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Law Reviews
– What are they?
– Academic journals similar to the ones in which
academics publish their work.
– Peer reviewed (meaning your work will be reviewed for
quality before a decision is taken whether to allow you to
make amendments or whether it will not be possible to
publish it).
– They demand high standards, hence why it is prestigious
to publish in them.
– They required in-depth, evidenced based original
– Your arguments must be fully referenced and evidenced.
Law Reviews
– What they are not:
– Newspapers or magazines.
– Practitioner journals.
– Places to publish your coursework in the form
you produced it for your assessment.
– Places to publish an explanation of the law.
– Places to publish what you have learned
through doing research, if what you have
learned is already widely known by those who
know the field.
Initial Considerations
– What question do you want to answer?
– How will you go about answering the question?
– Who will be interested in your answer and what
will they already know?
– Why is this question of interest to you and why
would it interest/be of use to others?
– More fundamental questions still:
– How much time do you want to spend on it?
– What is your purpose in writing something for
Who, What?
Who …
– … is your primary audience? Students,
academics, practitioners, lay audience, others?
Domestic or international? Research your
audience and the types of things they read.
What …
– … things do you want your audience to know and
take away having read your article? You can
probably only communicate three to five main
points/arguments in a standard journal article.
Why, How?
Why …
– … is it important that the audience knows these
things? What have you to say that is new to this
audience (not just something you have learned)?
This will define your purpose.
– … do you want to communicate your findings?
Through a journal article, an article in a
practitioner journal, an article in the law section of
a quality newspaper, a legal blog, or another
mechanism? Or a variety of these methods to
bring your findings to a wide audience?
The Structure of Academic Journal Articles
– A typical 8,000 word law article will be made up of:
– an introduction of between 500-800 words;
– three to five middle sections of between 1,2002,500 words;
– a conclusion of between 500-1,000 words.
– The Westminster Law Review usually takes
articles of 6,000-8,000 words in length but there is
some flexibility about this.
The Introduction
– The introduction may contain:
– a basic discussion of the previous academic research in
the area as well as an introduction to the issues to be
discussed later; or
– it may simply explain the background to the author’s
article and provide the anatomy to the rest of the article.
– It should set out the author’s purpose and act as a
signpost to what will come next.
– The introduction will need to be redrafted once you
know the answer to your question and the final
structure of your piece.
The Main Body
– The middle sections may include a discussion of
the research method (if it involved any form of
research other than standard library based
research) but will usually be split up so as to
address a different theme in each section.
– In the end, each paragraph should make an
original point, each section should address a
theme or a separate research sub-question and
the journal article should contain a complete
answer to the entire research question as defined
in the introduction
The Conclusion
– The conclusion will usually pull together the
conclusions from each of the middle sections, and
provide a full answer to the question that the
author set her/himself as a vehicle for undertaking
the research and writing the article.
– It should not be a total surprise to the reader as
the article should be drafted so as to appear as if
you knew the answer right at the start of the
– Writing is iterative and redrafting is the key.
The Research and Writing Process
– Writing is easier when one is able to distinguish
between evidence and analysis.
– Evidence is either something that one is quoting
(statistics, someone’s words etc.) or something that one
is paraphrasing (someone else’s ideas, the legislation
– Analysis is the ‘bit’ that you add yourself, the new bit.
– Many of us need to start writing in order to be able
to develop our analysis. The process is usually:
describe what one has found through research
(the evidence), then work out what it means or
why it is important (the analysis).
– Redrafting is the key.
– We write to work out what we understand.
– We then need to redraft to reflect what we now
understand and the links between our different
elements of analysis.
– We then need to redraft again as new links
develop and we understand to a greater degree.
– It is essential that the whole article is redrafted
numerous times.
Law Review Process
– You should write knowing the journal that you are aiming
– You need to know what the journal requires: OSCOLA or
Harvard, footnotes/endnotes, length inclusive or exclusive
of references, sub-headings or none. Please comply with
all style guidelines. The journal will not edit your work and
it may not consider it if it does not meet the style
– Never submit anything other than a completed, polished
draft (it is disrespectful and you will be rejected).
Law Review Process
– Be prepared for detailed and critical feedback.
– Expect to have to make major changes.
– Expect to spend months and months on the
article, and to then have to spend months on
rewriting it!
– If you are rejected outright, look around for
another journal, rework to its audience and then
submit. Do not give up.