In 1974, Mike Steenson was a 26-year-old law professor at the former William Mitchell Law School, then a night school for working students, when his pitch to start a law review was agreed to by school leaders. Now in its 50th year, the Mitchell Hamline Law Review continues to contribute to its former editors' and staffers' careers in law and business.

Steenson, the law review's faculty adviser for all of its 50 years, has no plans to stop advising and guiding its student editors anytime soon.

Eye On St. Paul recently chatted with Steenson about his work as adviser and what the decision to start a law review five decades ago has meant to him and generations of students. This story was edited for length.

Q: Why start the law review?

A: When I started teaching at William Mitchell, Doug Heidenreich was then the dean, I had just finished a clerkship with Judge Miles Lord and came to law school when I was 26 and we didn't have any serious publications. One of the difficulties was it was exclusively then an evening law school. Just an amazing group of students, working full time and going to law school in the evening.

It was a good idea to see if we could try to start a law review. A lot of people were skeptical. No law school in the country with an evening program had ever started a law review. The prospect was a little bit daunting. But we had the support of the dean, and we developed enough student interest. And we had a remarkable initial editor in chief by the name of Marcy Wallace, who was absolutely outstanding, and she got us through the very first issue.

Q: Is the editor of a law review a law student?

A: A high-performing law student. Generally, all of the editors are. And it was quite the journey. We initially started publishing, the first year, just one issue. And then we went to two issues. Then a few years later, we ended up publishing four issues a year. And each year our students got more adept at handling the business the law review.

We publish articles of interest by practitioners, lawyers, judges, law professors. One of the significant things the law review did for our law school was to demonstrate to people that our students could compete effectively with students from the other law schools in the country. It opened up doors for a lot of them to do things like judicial clerkships, to positions in the major law firms. I think it had a lot to do to develop the academic credibility of the whole law school.

Q: What is in law reviews?

A: Articles by law professors, judges, practitioners, but also student work. And they could be based on a variety of different things: Supreme court opinions. Theoretical concepts. Case analyses. Law review articles cover an awful lot of territory from the theoretical to the practical. Ideally, law reviews get used by courts in judicial opinions. Practitioners use the law review often to help them develop their cases. They cite the law review in their briefs. So our goal is to put out a law review that actually does get used.

Our very first issue was composed of just student work. The rationale was if we failed, then we'd fail small. There are two major kinds of articles. There are lead articles. These are the ones that would be authored by judges, lawyers, practitioners and law professors. And then we have student work. Then we started soliciting [articles from practitioners] and got a pretty good number. And still do, from people all over the country on a variety of different topics.

Q: You must feel a little like a proud papa.

A: I have been the faculty adviser for Volume 1 through Volume 50. We had a gathering at Black Stack Brewery with former editors in chief. Matt Johnson, who is on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Jonathan Schmidt, who is also on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. John Guthmann, who is a Ramsey County district judge. Other past editors-in-chief are working at major law firms. These people have gone on to have the most incredible [law] careers. And we have presidents and CEOs of corporations.

It's kind of like when you see your kids, I mean, they may be 30, 40, 50 but you see them as they were when they were teenagers. And that's how I see all the law review editors. I'm so proud of what these students have become.

Q: What does your job entail?

A: I always thought a good adviser should speak [only] when spoken to. My typical practice is to meet with the editor-in-chief on a weekly basis. We talk about issues that arise. And I provide assistance if I can, guidance. But I never dictate what they should be doing. I might make suggestions, but it's a student-edited journal. They decide the content. I only try to provide guidance when asked. I never try to force any ideas. I think it's really important for the law review to have autonomy.