Submissions to the Review are subject to independent, anonymous peer review prior to acceptance for publication. The Review is published three times a year and is managed by an Editorial Board comprising students of the Melbourne Law School at The University of Melbourne.
The Review publishes articles on all areas of law, as well as case notes, book reviews and review essays. The Review also publishes shorter comment-style pieces in the Critique and Comment section. Occasionally, the Review produces a symposium edition devoted to a particular aspect of law. Past symposium editions of the Review have focused on the centenary of federation, contemporary human rights in Australia, and tort law.
The history of the Review spans over a century.
The first periodical published within the Law School at The University of Melbourne was The Summons. It appeared with the subtitle 'A Magazine of Legal and General Literature', and was published by the Articled Law Clerks' Society of Victoria between 1891 and 1903. The Summons was a yellow covered 16-page journal depicting an angel with a trumpet and served as more of a current affairs magazine than an academic journal. It published reports of moots and discussed topical issues, which at the time included the fusion of the two branches of the Victorian legal profession and the admission of women.
In 1935, the students of the Faculty of Law embarked on another foray into the world of academic publishing with Res Judicatae —roughly translated as 'things that have been judicially adjudicated on' — which was intended to provide a forum for discussion and debate among students of the law. Published by the Law Students' Society of Victoria, Res Judicatae's editorial board focused on legal journalism, eventually establishing itself as the leader in student-run legal publishing in Australia, which provided a sound footing for what would become the modern-day Review .
In 1957, Professor Zelman Cowen (then Dean of the Faculty and later Governor-General of Australia) re-established the journal along the model of the Harvard Law Review (which had been run by law students since it commenced publication in 1887) and renamed it the Melbourne University Law Review. This move coincided with a period of expansion both in reputation and size at the Melbourne Law School and marked a number of staff and student exchanges to prominent American law schools. Given this environment, the move to a more formally academic publication was made in order to enhance and stimulate enlightened legal discussion. In line with prevailing American practice, the top ranking law students were invited to become members of the Editorial Board.
The Review has undergone a number of stylistic changes both in image, layout and referencing. In 1973, the cover of the Review changed from its original fawn colour to orange and white and reincorporated the image of the angel seen earlier in The Summons. The Review was typeset outside the Law School until 1994, when it was produced in-house for the first time. In 1995, the Review adopted the motto and colours synonymous with the University of Melbourne — royal blue and white — and added to the existing angel crest the University's motto 'Postera Crescam Laude', translated as 'I shall grow in the esteem of future generations'. From 1998, the number of editions published each year was increased from two to three.
In 1998, the Melbourne University Law Review Association published the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, which provides Australia with a uniform system of legal citation, akin to the Bluebook in the United States and the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation in Canada. The Australian Guide to Legal Citation is now in its third edition; its updates meeting demand for greater guidance and access to citation practices across a broader range of legal material and jurisdictions. The AGLC is now relied upon by over 30 universities and journals in Australia, as well as internationally, as a basis for uniform legal citation.
The history of the Review boasts the involvement of many individuals who later became prominent in the legal profession, academia, government and the wider society. The establishment of an Alumni Association in 2001 identified over 500 past members, including the Hon Justice Kenneth Hayne AC (Justice of the High Court of Australia), the Hon Justice Susan Kenny (Justice of the Federal Court of Australia), Professor Hilary Charlesworth (Director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice, Australian National University), and the Hon Gareth Evans (former Member of Parliament (Holt, Victoria) and Minister for Foreign Affairs).
The Editorial Board of the Review comprises students of the Melbourne Law School at The University of Melbourne. Any law student at The University of Melbourne who has completed at least one semester of law is eligible to apply for membership of the Editorial Board.
Applications for membership are sought in the first weeks of each semester. All applicants are required to complete a substantial practical exercise which involves proofreading an extract of text and verifying the sources cited within it. All prospective applicants are encouraged to attend an information session which is usually held early in each academic semester. This information session provides additional information concerning membership of the Review and the application process.
Applicants are assessed on the basis of their performance in a practical exercise, academic aptitude, proofreading skills, editing skills and enthusiasm. Students with skills in information technology, business management and marketing are also encouraged to apply. Short-listed applicants are then invited to attend a brief interview with the Editors, who make the final decision regarding appointment to the Review's Editorial Board.