A Look Back in Time with JLPP’s First Editor-in-Chief

The Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy was founded just over two decades ago in 1991 by Karen Kemble, who devoted considerable time and effort to bring another print journal to Cornell’s campus.  At that time, only a small minority of Cornell students participated in journals— less than 80 students to be exact.  She recognized journal associates got to develop crucial legal research, editing and writing skills by participating in the journal experience, and Ms. Kemble thought that more students should have the opportunity.  She chose public policy as the new journal’s slant, because she thought “perhaps naively,” as she says, that it would result in a less formal format and in a more diverse authorship and audience.  The Cornell Law administration was skeptical, especially since Ms. Kemble’s attempt to launch JLPP followed hot on the heels of a failed attempt to start an environmental law journal, but she was undeterred.  With the help of some her friends, Ms. Kemble got to work.

Cornell didn’t provide the funding for JLPP, so the budding editors and associates allied themselves with the “computer guys in the tower.”  They learned to do their own typesetting and used nonconventional methods of raising money, like the bake sale in the atrium.  Ms. Kemble and her friends basically begged their other friends and acquaintances to join them as associates and editors, and they eventually found enough support to go forward.  So, they were all set to publish a journal…except they had nothing to publish!  Who would want to spend a lot of time and effort writing a timely article only to publish it in a fledgling journal that no one would read?

In order to solve this problem, the early associates and editors decided to host a symposium, and, cleverly, the invitation to speak at the symposium was accompanied by an explanation that the papers presented would be published in the flagship issue of the journal.  The faculty advisor at the time, Professor Robert B. Kent, as well as Professors Kevin Clermont, Theodore Eisenberg, and Charles W. Wolfram, encouraged and aided their endeavor, and the first issue was published.  There were some pitfalls along the way; for example, Ms. Kemble wanted to invite Rudy Giuliani, then working in private practice, to speak at their symposium.  He politely declined, but the JLPP associates and editors had better luck with Senator Joe Biden who came to talk about the Civil Justice Reform Act.  Ms. Kemble described him as an “absolute pleasure to have on campus.”  The other articles published in the first issue can be found here, and topics included maternal leave, gang rape laws, criminal defense of the indigent, community health & medical malpractice, and foreign investment in U.S. airlines.

Ms. Kemble said the hardest part about founding and running the startup JLPP was figuring out how to do everything from scratch, but she felt a great sense of satisfaction in creating something from nothing.  She regrets never having had the time to write a student note, due to being too busy working out the nuts and bolts of the journal.  After graduation, she was given a lifetime subscription to JLPP, and she is very proud of how far the journal has come.  She thinks this blog is a creative and innovative idea, and Ms. Kemble reminisced about how, at the founding of JLPP, one of the “computer guys” had actually suggested that they publish the journal in online format.  Ms. Kemble admitted that she didn’t think anyone would read an online journal at the time and joked about not being a visionary.  Today, Ms. Kemble works as the Director of Equal Opportunity at the University of Maine, after a rewarding career of clerking and litigation.  She credits JLPP with helping her “think outside the box” in terms of career choices, and she is very proud of what she and the many associates and editors who have followed her have accomplished.

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