Every once in a while, I come across a c.v. boasting that the author published the "lead article" in a particular law review. I've also had young colleagues ask me whether they should publish in a higher-ranked law review, or a slightly lower-ranked one that offered them "lead article" status.
My own view is that "lead article" status is completely irrelevant. First, no one actually sits down and reads an entire issue of a law review, but instead read either reprints, Hein-online printouts, or Westlaw or Lexis versions. So what's the difference if the article is the "lead" or not? No one's ever going to see it in that format, which is why no one (should) care. Second, the best law reviews seem to have a policy of publishing multiple articles in one issue alphabetically by author. I've had the "lead article" several times in major law reviews simply because my last name begins with "B." To me, at least, bragging about one's "lead article" smacks of an attempt to upgrade the status of a mediocre placement, or bespeaks a naivete about the law review market (one law review editors take advantage of, in my experience, when trying to get articles from junior faculty).
In short, in my opinion, never turn down a better placement for lead article status. And, if you want to look savvy to other law professors, never put (lead article) next to a publication on your c.v.
If others have a different opinion, or I'm missing some great insight about lead articles, feel free to comment.
UPDATE: Geoff Manne posted similar thoughts at The Conglomerate last November.