Journal Notes 101: How to Find a Topic and Things to Consider
Earlier this week we talked about what types of legal issues make for great, publication worthy note topics. Today, we'll discuss how to find note topics, and important factors to consider when deciding on a note topic.
How to Find a Note Topic
Though finding a great note topic is difficult and time consuming, there are lots of great resources out there to help you find a note worth devoting a year of your life to.
Bloomberg BNA United States Law Week
Bloomberg BNA's United States Law Week is a publication that highlights "significant cases and key legislative, regulatory, and pre-decisional developments" -- all excellent potential note topics. It's a subscription service, but you could sign up for a free trial, or in the alternative, your law school may already have a subscription.
Full disclosure, FindLaw is part of the WestLaw family, but that doesn't that mean we can't toot our own horn, does it? Westlaw has a Guide to Law Review Research specifically tailored to help students find a journal note topic. It's free to view online and can help you not only find a topic, but help you do all your research for your note once you've decided on a topic.
Clearly, we are ok with shameless self-promotion. If you haven't seen them yet, FindLaw has blogs devoted to every U.S. circuit and we often write about decisions that involve circuit splits. Try searching "circuit splits" on the FindLaw blog -- finding your topic may be that easy.
If you know you want to write about a particular piece of legislation, case or area of the law, set up a Google Alert and maybe current news sources will help you find a topic.
Talk to Professors
Professors know the drill about publishing -- to them it's a matter of life or death (sort of). Since they are always on the lookout for publication worthy topics, they may have a few leftovers that they haven't gotten to, or are out of their particular area of expertise.
Local legal newspapers and the ABA Journal all cover legal news -- you have to keep your ears to the street to find out cutting edge legal topics.
Considerations in Choosing a Note Topic
When honing in on a note topic, before you finalize your decision consider two things: timing and saturation.
Writing a note is at a minimum a one-and-a-half-year process from beginning to publication. You'll want to choose a topic that will be as relevant (and an issue) at least two years from now.
Do a quick search to see what kind, and how many publications already exist about your specific topic. If it's been written about ad nauseam, skip it. This is your chance to showcase your legal analysis and creativity -- you want to add something new to the discussion. Select a topic that doesn't have a lot of coverage and your note will rise to the top.
Researching and writing a note can be one of the most exciting, and rewarding law school experiences. If you put your time in to select a publication worthy note topic, all the work you do leading up to publication will be that much easier.
- Writing for & Publishing in Law Reviews: Finding & Developing Topics (University of Washington School of Law Gallagher Law Library)
- Finding a Note Topic (Western New England College School of Law)
- I Got 99 Problems But a Law Review Article Ain't One (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
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