The Road to 100 Years: Virginia Law Review's Early History Had Its Uncertainties

An image of the first article published by the Virginia Law Review

An image of the first article published by the Virginia Law Review, titled "The Jurisprudence of Latin America."

March 26, 2014

With the Virginia Law Review Centennial Symposium this weekend, the law review will cap off a year of celebratory events in honor of the publication's 100th anniversary at the University of Virginia School of Law. And while the review enjoys an enduring reputation for publishing top legal scholarship, early editorial doubts, a nearly insurmountable debt and criticisms about the value of law reviews created uncertainties during the review's early history.

Planning for the review began with an informal meeting of 10 students and four faculty members on March 5, 1913. In attendance was a powerful advocate, William Minor Lile, who was the Law School's first dean, founder of the state legal journal the Virginia Law Register, and an enthusiastic supporter of law reviews in general.

On April 23, an editorial board was elected and an incorporated Virginia Law Review Association endeavored to publish its first issue, which appeared that October.

Concer​ns Over the First Issue

In the foreword to the first issue, the editorial board acknowledged the relative inexperience involved in the student-run effort.

"The editorial work is entirely in the hands of ... students, not one of whom has had previous experience with work of this character," the editors write. "It is hoped that the crudities of this first effort in the line of published comment on the work of the courts may be less glaring in the future numbers when the editors have become more experienced."

But the first article, titled "The Jurisprudence of Latin America," was far from crude. Authored by Hannis Taylor, an attorney and constitutional history scholar who also served as U.S. minister to Madrid, the piece helped set the ambitious tone of the issue.

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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