Law faculty blogs have been around for much of the new millennium. This article examines these blogs, including their role in the legal scholarship continuum and their growing influence of legal community.
The paper begins with an evolutionary study, noting that law blogging originally began in a state of nature, with few rules governing frequency or content of posts. Increased competition and the emergence of Empire and Captive law blogs, however, has resulted in a growing sense of order on the legal blogosphere.
Perhaps as a result, the influence of law blogs has increased. The paper relies on a list of approximately 130 law faculty blogs and studies the frequency of law review and case citations. The numbers have been undergoing significant growth. The growth is particularly noteworthy given the difficulty in searching for material posted on the Internet.
The paper also studies the impact of law blogging on rankings in the US News. In the short term, blogging can disproportionately benefit law schools and faculty outside the top tier. Blogs can enhance the reputation of the sponsoring faculty member, enable them to route around the biases inherent in the system of law review placements and SSRN downloads, permit a level of participation in the legal debate that might otherwise not be available, and facilitate the dissemination of information important to alumni and other constituencies. Most critically, however, they represent a cost effective mechanism for improving a law school's reputational rankings and, perforce, its overall rankings in the infamous US News and World Report.
Much of the data used in the paper is derived from a list of 130 law faculty blogs, something paired down to the top 50 law faculty blogs. The top 50 was determined based upon a number of ranking metrics. These lists are included as an Appendix to this article.
. . . to Public Reason, with an impressive lineup of members including: Alyssa Bernstein, Samuel Black, Michael Blake, Gillian Brock, Thom Brooks, Allen Buchanan, Eamonn Callan, Andrew Jason Cohen, Steve Daskal, Helena De Bres, Susan Dwyer, Michael Green, Timothy Hall, Nicole Hassoun, Aaron James, Joshua Kassner, Loren King, Wilfrid Laurier, Ari Kohen, Colin Koopman, Mark LeBar, David Lefkowitz, Andrew Lister, Jon Mahoney, Larry May, Simon Cabulea May, Christopher McMahon, Lionel McPherson, Michael Moehler, Colleen Murphy, Chris Naticchia, Blain Neufeld, Thomas Porter, Jonathan Quong, George Rainbolt, David Reidy, Lisa Rivera, Carla Saenz, Andrea Sangiovanni, Micah Schwartzman, Tamsin Shaw, Tommie Shelby, A. John Simmons, Matthew Smith, David Sussman, Robert Talisse, Kok-Chor Tan, Peter Vallentyne, Helga Varden, Steven Wall, Justin Weinberg, Daniel Weinstock, and Matt Zwolinski. Wow!
Here is the transcript from the AALS-National Law Journal Roundtable from last month. Here's a provocative taste from one of my comments:
[L]aw schools are not, anymore, hermetically sealed off from the rest of the university. [P]residents, chancellors and provosts are paying attention to what their law schools are doing. And if I c[ould] be [blunt] in the way that I characterize the way legal scholarship was conducted in the 1960s and '70s, I would say this: "[I]t consisted of . . . good doctrinal analysis that identified a policy problem, or a problem about what's fair, and then crude, shallow, unsupported, undertheorized, empirically embarrassing arguments about what the law should be. That cannot persist. It will not persist; legal scholarship must change. It must become as rigorous as every other academic discipline.
When does a blog become legal scholarship? When it's tedious and full of footnotes, right?
Joking aside, many in the legal world wonder whether bloggers who spend a great deal of time and effort making their sites illuminating and entertaining deserve the same recognition as authors who publish in legal journals. A group of practicing attorneys, academics and a judge -- several of whom are active legal bloggers -- got together earlier this month at Santa Clara University to discuss that question.
Panelist Lawrence Solum, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of the popular Legal Theory blog, said it was like comparing apples to oranges: Blogs and journal articles are simply two different ways to communicate ideas.
"What blogs represent is a change in communications technology," Solum said. "The blog is just an engine; it can create any kind of content."
Nonetheless, professors who put a lot of work into formulating quality blog posts should not be regarded by their universities as less productive at publishing, he said.
"The idea that you wouldn't 'count' publication on the Internet strikes me as ultimately sort of silly," Solum said. "It's inevitable that you've got to give recognition to things that are published online."
One important difference, Solum noted, is that legal blogs often address active law practitioners and reflect or give advice on current events, whereas journal articles tend to pick through matters of legal policy.
The CCJHR Blog is the blog of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University College Cork, Ireland. The Centre was established in 2006 and seeks to contribute to national and international debates on these questions, through the promotion of cutting edge interdisciplinary research, innovative programmes of legal education and training, and key partnerships with Government, statutory bodies, civil society organisations worldwide.
There is another issue raised by presentation blogging. Traditionally, active researchers belong to an ”invisible college” of fellow scholars working on a topic who certifiy what counts as knowledge in an intellecual niche. The purpose of workshops is to vet your papers before they are submitted to the key journals. One benefit is that fellow researchers get a chance to point out flaws, which is what science is all about. Another benefit is strategic: by responding to comments of likely reviewers, or people in the network subscribing to similar views, an author improves their chances in the review process. The process is not full proof, but in areas with well defined boundaries and dense social ties, workshopping a paper in a few key places greatly increases the chance that your paper will appear competent and plausible to the people assigned to judge it.
And from Belle:
This obviously raises issues for "live-blogging" colloquia and workshops. I enjoy and benefit from live-blogging, even if I can't do it myself. But I very much appreciate having a virtual seat in other conferences that I can't attend due to time, money, opportunity. But I do understand what Fabio is saying about how "works-in-progress" conferences are much more delicate to handle. It is one thing to live-blog a conference in which all the papers have been published, or all the panelists know that the session will be podcast, blogged, or otherwise publicly promoted. Indeed, panels on "blogging and scholarship" seem like there should be no expectation of privacy! But for others, particularly research conferences or works-in-progress, I think participants would get nervous about having their drafts discussed in so public a manner.
My rule of thumb is that open conferences (AALS, APSA, APA, Law and Society, etc.) are "open" and live blogging is appropriate. Closed conferences (where attendance is limited to those presenting work-in-progress) are "closed" and live blogging is inappropriate without permission. I've been asked by conference organizers to live blog at closed conferences, but even then I think the participants should all be informed in advance.
There is lots more in the posts by Rojas & Belle. Check it out.