Penn Law’s Kendra Sandidge L’16 was recently named Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review for the 2015–2016 academic year. She sat down with Penn Law Communications to discuss the purpose of law reviews, how students become editors, and how the Law Review fits into the Penn Law community.
Penn Law: Can you talk a little bit about the mission of the Law Review?
Kendra Sandidge: The Law Review was founded in 1852, so we have a long history, and our mission dates back to that time. We are the oldest law review in the country. And we actually have two missions: a professional mission and an educational mission.
Our professional mission goes to our service to the legal profession — it involves our selection of approximately 18 articles to publish. We look for forward-thinking pieces on topics that will push legal conversations to the next level. Our Articles office reads thousands of submissions each year — it is no easy task! We also work with faculty to host a yearly symposium.
Our educational mission focuses on our students and the academic experience they have as editors on the journal. Students become better writers by editing the pieces that we have selected for publication. We edit above the line, for content and for structure, and then below the line, to properly cite sources. The second part of the educational mission is that every associate editor (AE) — every second-year student on the journal — writes a comment or a case note. Essentially, an original piece of scholarship that we consider for publication. Through the comments process, students gain expertise in a particular area of law. It’s great because they get to work with a professor here at Penn, and they choose their own topic, so the subject is something that is interesting to the student. We publish about 12 of the comments and several case notes every year.
PL: How did you start getting involved in the Law Review?
KS: I’m a JD/MBA student, and I knew that I wanted to participate in a journal because I want to practice law after graduation.
I sat for the writing competition last May, and I received an offer from the Law Review in July. Getting that call was really exciting! I was actually on my way out of the country, so I only had a few minutes to share the news with my family and friends before boarding my flight.
PL: Can you talk a little bit about what the writing competition is like?
KS: It is very intense — that’s the best way that I can describe it. This year it will be a few hours shorter, but last year we were in a classroom for 10 hours each day, editing by hand with red pens. You are given a large source pack with several hundred pages of sources. The sources correspond to the footnotes in the edit and, thankfully, are in order.
In the edit, everything that you can think of is wrong. So you use editing symbols to make all of the corrections — words being misspelled, extra spaces, the wrong font, wrong quotes, anything that you can think of.
The bulk of the editing is done below the line. The edit tests you on every rule of the Bluebook to see if you know the proper way to cite sources. That skill is something that all associate editors have to know very well, so it’s the reason the edit primarily focuses on below the line corrections.
Then, we write an essay. That part is much more creative, and I had some fun with deciding how to write that piece of the competition. You receive a number of different sources — we had YouTube videos, websites, articles. You have to write an essay on a topic of your choosing. That tests your writing, your ability to work with a thesis, and your use of your imagination. Luckily, you don’t have to Bluebook the essay. There is a special way that you have to cite the sources, but it’s very easy.
Then the final part of the competition is a personal statement about your life experiences and the diversity you bring to a journal community.
PL: Can you talk a little bit about how the Law Review fits into the Penn community?
KS: There are two main ways that the Law Review fits in. The first is that we engage, as an organization, with the Penn Law community. We put on a symposium every year. First, we solicit proposals from the faculty, and then we go through a rigorous selection process to determine which proposal to choose. Next, our symposium editor works closely with that faculty member to figure out who will be invited and what the panel topics will be.
We also engage with the community as Penn Law students, because we are all second and third year students and very active in the Law School community. Six of our members advanced to the Keedy semifinals this year! Several of our members were in the Light Opera Company musical. We don’t just participate in Law Review, we are also an active part of the larger community.
PL: What are your specific plans as editor-in-chief?
KS: Well, this year we introduced the public interest essay competition — just a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to increase our philanthropic arm and also encourage scholarship about public interest and public service issues.
We are using a completely blind grading process, and it is open to every law student in the country. I’m really excited to read our submissions. We will have a committee to review and score them and the winner will be published in Volume 164 and awarded a cash prize. So, ensuring that the competition is run smoothly is my first goal.
The second goal is fostering a strong community within our journal and also with the Law School. This year, I think Volume 163 did a fantastic job of making all of the new AEs feel welcome. I absolutely want to replicate that climate, whether it is through more social events, a fall semester retreat, or paired mentoring.
I’d also like to continue engaging with the Law School by co-hosting events with other groups or journals. This year, we had a live debate that was co-hosted with two other student groups. In conjunction with the event, we published the written debate of the two professors on the Law Review online.
PL: You are the first African-American woman to be the editor of the Law Review. Do you have thoughts about that?
KS: It’s just a tremendous honor. I have been so supported by Volume 163, classmates, friends, and my family. I absolutely didn’t see this position coming, but every day since February 5 has been so exciting. That I have been afforded this opportunity, that I have been encouraged to do well, and that my work has been appreciated is amazing. I plan to make Penn Law and the Law Review proud.