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Investing a lot of time into article selection will pay off tenfold during the research and writing process. So where to get started?

Getting started: choosing a law journal topic

If you made it onto the staff of a law review or journal, the next step is choosing a topic on which to write an article. In my experience, topic selection is the most important (and labor-intensive) aspect of the article-writing process. Investing a lot of time into article selection will pay off tenfold during the research and writing process.

So where to get started?

1. Blogs: Bloggers are often the first to cover breaking legal news, and there are at least a few good ones for almost every area of law. There is even a blog that covers splits in the federal courts of appeals, which are fertile ground for article topics.

2. Law libraries: Law libraries offer a wealth of resources for every stage of the research and writing process, especially the beginning. Although it is usually a good idea to actually visit the library at some point in the process, most academic law libraries have online resources that are specifically designed to assist students with topic selection.

3. Professors: Professors are an underutilized source for fleshing out article topics. They should be familiar with current scholarship in their area, and they likely have a lot of experience with academic writing. Be respectful of your professors’ time by doing your homework and coming up with at least a general few ideas before requesting an in-person meeting.

Before you start writing, you should also pick up a copy of Professor Eugene Volokh’s excellent book, Academic Legal Writing. And remember: Even if you aren’t on the staff of a journal, you can (and should) take a shot at writing an article for publication.

About Michael Goodwin

Michael Goodwin is a litigation attorney at Jardine, Logan & O'Brien in the Twin Cities. Michael has experience in a range of practice areas, including government liability, insurance coverage, products liability, and employment law. Michael is an active member of a number of professional organizations, including the Federal Bar Association, the Minnesota State Bar Association, and the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association. He earned first place in the 2010 Levit Essay Contest, a national writing contest sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability and Long & Levit, LLP. Michael graduated from Hamline University School of Law in 2009. During law school he was a board member of the Hamline Law Review and he completed a judicial externship in United States District Court. A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Michael was a newspaper reporter prior to enrolling in law school.

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