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Students found UNC's first undergraduate law review to 'level the playing field'

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Executive Board Members of the Undergraduate Law Association pose for a portrait in front of the Bell Tower on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Pictured are UNC sophomores Virginia Llewelyn, Unai Cuervo Agirre, Joshua Alexander, and UNC juniors Linday Lopez and Yubin Kim. Chandrashekar Jayendra, the final member of the board, is not pictured

When pre-law undergraduate students Josh Alexander and Shekar Jayendra wrote a research paper together, they realized there was no place for them to publish it.

Even though UNC houses the student-operated North Carolina Law Review, the journal does not accept writing from students unless they are enrolled in the UNC School of Law.

“It’s the equivalent of going to major in journalism, but there’s no student newspaper,” Alexander said. “You need that sort of outlet.”

Other undergraduate law reviews exist across the country at schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and Stanford University. However, Alexander said these publications don’t commonly accept papers from other undergraduate students outside the Northeast and the West Coast.

In May 2023, Alexander and Jayendra decided to create their own undergraduate law review at UNC. The Undergraduate Law Association at Carolina became a registered student organization in November 2023.

Because law schools value writing experience, undergraduate law journals can be a useful tool for prospective law students to use as leverage when applying to law school, Alexander said. 

"We want to level the playing field for students,” Alexander said.

William Goldsmith, ULAC’s faculty adviser, said creating something like this — a platform for undergraduates, by undergraduates — is an ambitious project. He said most law journals are run by current law students featuring articles by professors and other law students.

“Law school and legal writing are very much gatekept for the undergraduate level,” Virginia Llewellyn, marketing director for ULAC and sophomore at UNC, said. “It’s really hard to learn those skills if you have no one to teach you.”

Alexander said ULAC’s goal is to make the legal field as accessible as possible for pre-law students. 

According to the American Bar Association’s 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession, 86 percent of all lawyers are white.

“We want to make sure that anyone, from any background, can get in,” Alexander said.

He said part of the organization’s ethos is removing all barriers to entry. For this reason, the club requires no legal experience and there are no dues or fees.

While the club won’t collect money from its members, ULAC still requires funding. Alexander said the production and publication of a single journal issue could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 and that the club is planning fundraising activities to cover these costs. He said they contacted the Undergraduate Senate for funding. 

The team plans to begin working on its first journal issue and start a blog as soon as the organization recruits enough staff. ULAC also plans to begin competing in moot court, an undergraduate legal competition which simulates appellate court hearings, next semester. 

Alexander said that in the future, ULAC would like to collaborate with other undergraduate legal journals and eventually host a symposium in which writers who were published in the journal could present their research.

Eventually, the team hopes to work with the UNC School of Law and register as a nonprofit organization. 

“We’re trying to work within our abilities to make something really large, but it’s definitely a work in progress,” Llewellyn said.

ULAC is currently hiring for the spring 2024 semester. Applications are due by Jan. 28.

@aidan__lockhart

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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