A note is a publishable-quality writing you must do for your law journal. Different journals require different criteria. Most individuals who choose to be on a journal (yes, it is a choice) know they must write a note and will generally use their note to be certified by a professor to meet the graduation requirement. One of the graduation requirements is an Upper Writing Requirement. If you do not wish to use your journal note to certify, you can choose to certify through a class paper or an independent process. Not all classes that require a research paper will permit you to use the paper to certify, so you will have to check with the Registrar’s office and the professor.
It is highly recommended you try or at least start the process to certify your second year – whether you choose journal note or the class route. Some of the reasons are you want to create enough buffer before graduation in case there are any issues that may arise during the process, and you really do not want to stress in your third (and final) year of law school over a paper’s certification sufficiency.
If you choose to join a journal and use the journal note to meet you certification requirement, you must finish your note by the end of your second year. Do not confuse the journal’s note requirements with the upper writing requirement. You must separately meet the criteria for your journal’s note and the upper writing requirement. Upperclassmen will generally discuss it as interchangeable, but while they overlap, there are differences. Your journal will usually have a note editor (who gives feedback), require several drafts, and impose deadlines throughout the year.
If you’re using your note to certify, you must pick a professor and talk to that professor about being your faculty advisor for your certification. You will want to pick someone who is either interested in your topic or at least has some experience in your topic. If you have no idea who to ask, your journal and note editor can provide some guidance usually. The professor may or may not require draft submissions. Some professors generally will become involved once you have a substantive draft and others may want to be more involved and require an outline and see each draft. You will also need to submit paperwork to Registrar indicating how you intend to fulfill the writing requirement and who the professor is.
However you choose to fulfill your Upper Writing Requirement, keep in mind the balance you’ll want to maintain in your second year and third year.