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Guide for Law Journal Students

What is a Note or Comment?

A Note or Comment is a work of legal scholarship written by a law journal student, generally during his or her 2L year and the first year he or she is a member of a law journal. Notes or Comments may be selected for publication in the law journal. Articles, in contrast, typically are written by non-students, such as law professors or experts in certain subject areas.

Law schools differ in what they consider to be a Note versus a Comment. For instance, the Yale Law Journal defines a Note as a work of legal scholarship that "should advance a particular area of legal  scholarship beyond its current state, make a detailed argument, and provide persuasive evidence for each of its conclusions," whereas the Yale Law Journal defines a Comment as a piece of legal scholarship that "should present a concise yet still original argument and have minimal literature review. Comments often (but need not necessarily) respond to a recent development in the law, such as cases, legislation, law review articles, lawsuits, administrative rulings, and executive orders." In contrast, other law journals, such as those at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, view Notes as works of legal scholarship that primarily analyze recent court decisions, whereas they define Comments as works of legal scholarship that "more broadly consider an issue of law."

Your Note or Comment must follow your law journal's formatting specifications regarding margins, spacing, font, font size, and number of required pages.

Topic Selection

The topic of your Note or Comment should really interest you because you will be spending an entire year writing it. Most Notes or Comments focus on recent cases or developments in the law. You may encounter possible topics during your summer jobs, externships, or by talking to your professors.

Blog posts are often good sources to "spark" topic ideas because blog posts often cover interesting, current legal news. For guidance on how to find blogs relevant to your interests, please refer to the following guide:
A few selected popular law-related blogs include:
For more detailed advice and tips on formulating your topic and keeping up with current news in the legal world, please see the following research guides:

Preemption Check

Before you begin writing your Note or Comment, you should run a thorough preemption check to ensure you are presenting an original, novel claim. A preemption check requires reviewing relevant literature to determine whether anyone else has already written an article on the same topic with the same thesis and arguments.

You do not want to spend the entire year writing a Note or Comment that is nearly identical to previously published legal scholarship.

Conducting a comprehensive preemption check will alert you to relevant sources for your research and might provide you with better insight into how you want to frame your arguments. By the time you complete the preemption check, a significant amount of your research for your Note or Comment will be done!

To conduct a thorough preemption check, you should search for articles related to your topic on each of the following databases:
If you encounter other legal scholarship that is very similar to what you had planned to write in your Note or Comment, you can differentiate your topic and thesis by developing different arguments or updating the previously published scholarship. For more on preemption checking, please see the following research guide:

Other Publication Possibilities

If your Note or Comment is not selected for publication by your law journal, you can still pursue publication elsewhere, though you should be aware that many law journals do not accept submissions by current law students at other schools.

The following research guides can assist you with pursuing outside publication opportunities:

In addition to publishing in another journal outside of your law school, you may also wish to consider posting your legal scholarship on SSRN yourself. SSRN is dedicated to timely dissemination of social science research. Many law professors and other authors post drafts of both pre-publication and post-publication articles on SSRN in the Legal Scholarship Network to obtain exposure and widen their audience.