Difference Between Law Review Article And Essay

Secondary sources are a great place to begin your research. Although the primary sources of law--case law, statutes, and regulations--establish the law on a given topic, it is often difficult to quickly locate answers in them. Secondary sources often explain legal principles more thoroughly than a single case or statute, so using them can help you save time. Secondary sources also help you avoid unnecessary research, since you're tapping into work that someone else has already done on an issue.

Secondary sources include:

  • Legal encyclopedias
  • Treatises
  • American Law Reports (ALR)
  • Law review articles
  • Restatements

Secondary sources are particularly useful for:

  • Learning the basics of a particular area of law
  • Understanding key terms of art in an area
  • Identifying essential cases and statutes

This guide provides a basic overview of each source, including their strengths and why you might use them, as well as tips on finding, using, and citing them.

This guide is based on material written by Deanna Barmakian.

 What is the difference between an Article and an Essay?  The distinction is fine.  Both have solid arguments, researched premises, and most importantly, footnotes.  Each are posted on Lexis and Westlaw, and come out in printed form.  However, they often have different editors.  So what continues to drive this distinction? Length.

Harvard Law Review surveyed 800 faculty in 2004 to assess their opinions on legal scholarship.  Ninety percent of the participants expressed that articles in law reviews were simply too long.   As a result, eleven journals signed a joint statement to announce an ideal article length of 40-70 pages.

A number of these journals have instituted submission guidelines for essays: scholarly pieces from 10,000-25,000 words.  This is separate from the very short electronic publications or newer publications that supplement larger journals, such as Yale Pocket Parts or the PENNnumbra.  Rather, essays are published in the main section of print law reviews, and the only difference from articles is the length. 

UVA's definition: The Law Review typically treats any submission of 15,000 or fewer words (including footnotes) as an Essay, but this is only a general rule of thumb. Length is not necessarily the defining characteristic of an Essay. Essays often are "thought pieces" that advance something approximating an idea rather than an argument, or they involve more offbeat topics than Articles. Responses to previous articles are treated as Essays, as well. The Law Review's annual Ola B. Smith Lecture also is published as an Essay.

I have started a list of law journals that accept Essay submissions.  This post may also benefit from reader opinions on Essays.  Do they merit the same attention as Articles?  Would they "count" the same as an Article for promotion and tenure?  This dialogue focuses on essays only. Thanks.

Law reviews that specifically accept and separately acknowledge Essay submissions: (Please add to the list in the comments section)

Columbia Law Review

UC Davis Law Review

Yale Law Journal

Michigan Law Review

NYU Law Review

Virginia Law Review

Northwestern Law Review

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