Leading the Law Review in its 100th Year: Q&A with Sarah Buckley

Sarah Buckley

Third-year law student Sarah Buckley said learning about the Virginia Law Review's past made her experience as editor-in-chief during the review's 100th year a unique one.

March 26, 2014

Sarah Buckley, the 2013-14 editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review, led the University of Virginia School of Law’s flagship academic journal during the publication’s centennial year. The third-year law student shared her thoughts on her tenure and the future of law reviews.

What was your experience like serving as editor-in-chief in the Virginia Law Review’s 100th year?

The 100th anniversary made my experience as editor-in-chief totally unique. The centennial gave us an impetus to really reflect on the history, impact and direction of the review in ways we might not have otherwise. It gave us a reason to renew VLR’s connection to its alumni by reviving our alumni newsletter, Nota Bene, launching alumni receptions in four cities (New York, D.C., Atlanta and San Francisco) over the summer, and bringing alumni back for our centennial banquet.

What did you enjoy or appreciate most about your tenure?

One of the things that I appreciated most about my tenure was finding fun tidbits about VLR’s past. Because I quoted the foreword from our 50th volume in our Winter Nota Bene, the editor-in-chief from that volume, Albert Ritchie, wrote a letter sharing his board’s experience in publishing the 50th — or “The Golden Egg” as he called it — giving us a glimpse at the history and culture that we were continuing with the 100th. We had extra reason to dig through our archives in the office and find letters from Robert Bork on the eve of his appointment to the D.C. Circuit, from Janet Napolitano when she was a student here and upset about the journal tryout process, and from Dean Richard Merrill, asking for the law review’s help in publicizing a new class by then-Judge Antonin Scalia.

Did you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish?

Many of the goals we had for the year related to celebrating and reconnecting with our long tradition, which is why we focused on alumni outreach through the newsletter and through receptions. Reaching back was also instrumental in our forward-looking goals: After a couple years of planning, our board launched a capital campaign that called on the support of alumni to establish an endowment that could, in five or 10 years, guarantee the costs of the review should the business model become unsustainable. It was important to us and to the boards before us to make the centennial about the future as much as about reflecting on the past.

What are your thoughts on being a female in the editor-in-chiefs role?

As far as being a female editor-in-chief, I believe I am the ninth woman to lead the Virginia Law Review in its 100-year history. Women have served on the review for a fairly large part of its history. During World War II, women made up the majority of the active editorial board because all but one of the men were on leave from the review to support the war effort.

Despite the long history, women have not been proportionally represented in law review membership or leadership (compared to the makeup of the law school class as a whole). As a forward-looking goal, we made a point to reach out beyond VLR by co-sponsoring a panel on 1L success for women with Virginia Law Women and to cultivate leaders internally among our 2L class by having a gathering of our new women members and female faculty members in the fall. These events were a part of a broader outreach agenda that included events with the Black Law Students Association and a greater effort to communicate with affinity groups about publication and membership opportunities through our notes pooling process.

What do you see as the future of law reviews?

Adam Liptak published a piece in the New York Times that was sharply critical of law reviews and skeptical of their relevance. Similar sentiments have been expressed by members of the Supreme Court, other judges, professors and practitioners. There's no doubt that the content, readership and in some ways the purpose of law reviews has changed in the last 100 years and VLR, like many of our peer journals, is working to adapt to an increasingly open and online world. It was heartening, however, with the perspective of the centennial and this opportunity for reflection to know that many of the criticisms being leveled now were leveled in 1936 and 1964 (the years in which Fred Rodell wrote “Goodbye to Law Reviews” and a follow-up on the same topic, respectively), and the VLR has not only weathered it but has prospered. I am confident that our successors will adapt to the changing marketplace for legal scholarship and will continue to make VLR a great success.

This article is part of a series honoring the Virginia Law Reviews 100th anniversary.


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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