*This article has been updated to reflect the most current information.
Law reviews at three T-14 law schools, Columbia (#8), Northwestern (#10), and Stanford (#1), are engaging in underhanded discrimination against conservative students. And at the University of Chicago Law School (#3), journal acceptances have been unexpectedly delayed for reasons that are not yet clear.
Law reviews play a key role in the status-driven world of legal academia. Students on law reviews select and edit legal scholarship, determining which law professors get tenure and which legal and policy ideas enter circulation. As part of this, student editors complete a grueling battery of writing and editing tasks throughout the year, sharpening their writing skills and making them attractive candidates for the true crown jewel of a young lawyer’s career: a one-year clerkship, or apprenticeship, with a federal judge.
Because law review student editors have a lot of power and responsibility, their selection is traditionally rigorously meritocratic. Most law reviews select students based on a blind-graded writing assignment, a blind-graded editing assignment, and a student’s first-year grades, weighted according to a predetermined formula. Current law review students, university administrators, and alumni may all play roles in the selection process, and the precise breakdown is not clear to outsiders.
Recently, many law reviews have added diversity statements to their battery of tests. These statements are completely open-ended, but they are still generally assigned a number grade—as if “diversity” were somehow quantifiable. The vagueness and unquantifiable nature of “diversity” in real life, however, creates opportunities for abuse. For instance, the managers of the Columbia Law Review allegedly use applicants’ diversity statements to ferret out students who are members of the Federalist Society (FedSoc), a conservative legal organization widely hated by liberals for, among other things, its role in overturning Roe v. Wade.
A right-leaning law student at Columbia told the Thinker that Columbia Law Review discrimination against FedSoc members is widely known at the school, and that many top Columbia Law FedSoc students are not members of the Law Review, including some students with nearly impeccable grades and prestigious federal clerkships.
Indeed, of the nine students on the Columbia FedSoc Chapter’s executive board, none are on the masthead of the Law Review—even though four of those nine have clerkships with federal Court of Appeals judges.
In addition to political discrimination, the managing staff of the Columbia Law Review appears to have actively practiced racial discrimination. Columbia University administrators recently sent an email to students stating that “[i]n light of the Supreme Court decision on Thursday [Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard] . . . journal acceptances will be delayed . . . to ensure that our decision processes are consistent with the law.” In other words, the Law Review was engaging in now-illegal demographic discrimination and is now trying to deal with the repercussions.
The managers of the Northwestern University Law Review, like their colleagues at Columbia, allegedly discriminate against FedSoc members, according to a student with knowledge of the process who spoke to the Thinker. Out of the 17 students listed on the Northwestern Law FedSoc Executive Board from 2022–2023, five of them were listed on the Law Review’s masthead that year. Two were in junior editor positions and none in senior editor positions.
The student who spoke with the Thinker noted that, in the past couple of years, administrators at Northwestern Law have encouraged the school’s second most prestigious journal, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, to place more right-leaning students into leadership positions in response to student complaints about political discrimination. Two of that journal’s top staff, deputy editor-in-chief Paul Piazza and managing articles editor Jesse Albrecht, have held FedSoc leadership positions in the past.
Administrators at Northwestern Law also green-lighted a bogus law journal in 2022, the Northwestern Law Journal des Refusés, ostensibly a journal for “legal rejects and the legal avant-garde.” The real purpose of the journal is to placate a vociferous transgender student activist at the school, who goes by @badgeltranny on Twitter and published an article about her sexual escapades in the Northwestern Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology that appeared to not contain any substantive legal analysis.
A similar pattern of discrimination has emerged at Stanford Law, currently the top-ranked law school in the country according to U.S. News. “They use the diversity statement to find out who we are and keep us off,” a Stanford FedSoc member told a friend of the Thinker. Two of Stanford’s nine current FedSoc board members are listed on the current masthead of the Stanford Law Review, both in entry-level positions as member editors.
In March, the national media turned its eyes to Stanford Law when a mob of students there—with help from the school’s associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—shouted down a visiting Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judge. That event prompted both the law school dean and the university president to formally apologize.
Stanford Law’s associate dean for DEI is now on leave, and many judges who once only boycotted Yale Law as a source of clerks have started boycotting Stanford Law as well.
The Thinker reached out to the editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review, the senior development editor and president of the Stanford Law Review, the editor-in-chief of the Northwestern Law Review, and the editor-in-chief of the Northwestern Law Journal des Refuses for comment. None of them responded to emails.
UChicago Law allegedly has a blind grading system for selecting law review staff, but an early copy of the University of Chicago Law Review’s masthead contained no new black students, despite the law review’s use of a diversity statement during the selection process. Members of UChicago’s Black Law Student Association have expressed concern about this, according to a student with inside knowledge of the process who spoke with the Thinker.
Like Columbia Law, UChicago Law has delayed the release of journal acceptances and rejections. Unlike Columbia Law, UChicago Law has left students hanging instead of sending out an official email announcing the delay. Students were initially told acceptances would be communicated via phone call starting July 7, with an accept/decline deadline by July 14. At the time of this writing (July 18), final acceptances and rejections have not yet been communicated to students. Presumably, the managers of UChicago Law’s journals are evaluating their compliance with Students for Fair Admissions and/or deciding what the appropriate racial breakdown of the soon-to-be-released journal mastheads should be.
By delaying the release of journal acceptance and rejection announcements, UChicago Law also unintentionally shot many of its students in the foot right before their on-campus interviews with visiting law firms. On-campus interviews (OCI) are an annual ritual where law firms from all over the U.S. descend on a given law school, interviewing many students at once and extending offers for second-year summer internships, which almost always mature into post-graduation job offers. The deadline for submitting resumes to interviewers was July 17: normally, students would have had the opportunity to include whether they are members of a journal on their resumes, but the delay in releasing acceptances prevents them from doing so. (Update: UChicago’s OCI program will be virtual for first rounds this year; the name has also been changed from OCI to the Chicago Law Interview Program, or CLIP.)
Top law schools like UChicago design their grading scales to intentionally confuse employers: UChicago Law’s grades range from the totally arbitrary numbers 155 to 186. Partially because of this, the most ultracompetitive law firms rely on journal participation as an indicator of which students are serious and which are not. UChicago Law students applying to firms this cycle are at a disadvantage, as they will not be able to list their journal participation on their initial on-campus interview resume, missing a crucial opportunity to make a good first impression.
In response to law schools’ use of diversity statements during the law review selection process and their discrimination against conservatives, some federal judges—especially those appointed by Republican presidents—no longer use law review participation as a criterion for selecting clerks. Federal appellate judge Elizabeth Branch of the Eleventh Circuit, for instance, told students at a UChicago FedSoc event last year that she no longer sees law review participation as a reliable indicator of a student’s merit. Along with Judge James Ho, she was one of the first judges to boycott recruiting clerks from Yale Law due to its failure to protect free speech.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.