In 1972, a student-faculty committee at William Mitchell College of Law recommended starting a law review. Surprisingly, the idea was controversial. The College was still a part-time night school and law reviews, many believed, were “the province of the intellectual elite,” far beyond the students of William Mitchell. They were purportedly more interested in the “nuts and bolts" of lawyering. Even staunch supporters viewed the so-called "Law Review Project" as an experiment.
The William Mitchell Law Review published its first volume in 1974. Volume 1 was a single issue with six student comments and no lead articles—all the better for disowning the experiment should it fail. Instead of failing, however, the publication was a success. Lead articles appeared the next year in Volume 2. The Law Review expanded to two issues in 1978 and three in 1980, by which time the College offered daytime classes and full-time enrollment. In 1984, the Law Review moved to four issues per volume. Now, with the inaugural issue of the Journal of the National Security Forum in 2007, the Law Review publishes four issues and one special issue each year. Professor Michael Steenson, the creative force behind the Law Review, remains its Faculty Advisor thirty-four years later.
The Law Review's original aim was to serve as an effective tool for Minnesota lawyers and judges, and it accomplished that goal from the very beginning. The first citation to the William Mitchell Law Review appeared in a Minnesota Supreme Court decision from 1975. Since then, Minnesota state and federal courts have turned to the Law Review hundreds of times, citing work from local practitioners, professors, and fellow judges. Just as its popularity grew with the bench and bar, so too did its reputation in legal academia. By 1985, other law reviews from Minnesota were citing the Law Review in their own publications.
Today, the Law Review still ably serves the local legal community. However, it has also acquired national prominence. The Law Review has been privileged to publish work by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, as well as Justices Blackmun, O'Connor, Powell, and White; other distinguished contributors from the bench include Judges Richard S. Arnold, Heaney, Lay, Loken, Luttig, Oakes, and Wollman. The Law Review is equally privileged to have featured leading professors such as Stephen Carter, Lawrence Fox, James Henderson, Jr., Deborah Rhode, Nadine Strossen, Aaron Twerski, and Charles Alan Wright. Even government officials, including Vice President Walter Mondale and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, have contributed to the Law Review.
The Law Review and its audience have grown substantially, but its mission remains the same: to publish legal scholarship not only for its value in ongoing academic debate, but also for its practical usefulness to the legal profession.