An increasing number of law professors are using blogs... to break free from traditional modes of legal scholarship. With an immediacy and ability to reach millions of readers, blogs are proving an attractive vehicle among legal scholars for spouting and sharing ideas.Wow! Why feature that quote at the beginning and then have nothing to back it up? I'm sure Litvak must have made a more detailed statement, but here she is just hung out to dry with the absolutism of the word "nothing." And she's supposedly accusing us of "dumbing down... the profession"? Though Litvak pops up again later in the article, she's never given a chance to explain that overwrought pronouncement. She does slam law reviews as "fundamentally corrupt," however. That's interesting. She's not given a chance to explain that either.
But they are also raising concerns that they may lead to a dumbing down of the profession.
"They have nothing to do with scholarship," said Katherine Litvak, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
Anyway, if you bother to keep reading after that offputting beginning, there's material on the upcoming conference "Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship," which will take place at Harvard this spring. I'll be at that conference, and I'm quoted in the article too, complaining about law reviews. The fact is, whatever you want to say about blogs, law reviews are a big problem:
Not only does the slow publishing cycle of law reviews trouble Althouse and others, but critics also point to the lengthy and heavily footnoted format of the articles, which make them difficult to read -- if in fact anyone actually is reading them.Blogs at least offer an alternative to traditional legal scholarship, which everyone seems to agree has big problems. Of course, blogs have their own set of problems. Neither form is ideal. Blogging is much more fun, of course, and that alone has got to piss off the folks who are working in the traditional, ponderously long and pretentious mode. Instead of lashing out at us, though, why not take a lesson from us and write better, faster, pithier law review articles?
"I don't need a think tank, I need advocacy," said Stanley Bernstein, senior partner with 45-attorney Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz, a securities litigation firm in New York.
Bernstein, who himself was an editor of the Journal of International Law and Politics at New York University School of Law, said that in his 25 years of practice, he has rarely used law review articles.
"By the time you need to use them, they are generally a year or two out of date," he said.
A prevailing concern about law reviews is that law students who have just two years of course work compose the editorial staff of typical law review journals and, so goes the criticism, often make selection decisions based upon the status of the professor's school, not the value of the work.
Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, called the law review industry "incestuous." He added, "It's the marketplace of prestige. It's what you have to do to show off to law students."
ADDED: Stephen Bainbridge is blogging the same NLJ article, which contains the factoid: "Among the top 20 schools, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, there are 59 bloggers."
It's interesting that top 20 schools seem to dominate the blogosphere. Does that credential give the potential blogger a leg up? Or is it just that the kind of people who land jobs at top 20 schools are also the kind who would find blogging attractive? I don't know, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's both.Shouldn't we first count the numbers of lawprof bloggers in the second 20 and the third 20 before we make assumptions about who's doing the most blogging? Also, just counting the numbers of bloggers is not very accurate. For example, Chicago has a high blogger count because it runs a group blog with a long list of faculty names. I'd like to see a weighted count -- if you're going to get into counting -- that reflects the actual amount of blogging that is going on. But then if you did that, you'd probably want to count the blogging that is specifically about law, as opposed to, say, "American Idol."
And speaking of U.S. News, wouldn't it be funny if it used faculty blogging as a factor? There would be all these blogs by lawprofs trying to move their school up the rankings. Oh, but maybe it already is a factor, affecting the "repuation" scores that are based on surveys of academics, lawyers, and judges. The question is which way blogs affect the school's reputation. That too would not be based on the sheer number of blogging lawprofs. Wisconsin, that's that school where they watch "American Idol" all the time.
UPDATE: Jim Lindgren expands on my point about how to count the significance of blogging at different school. He concludes that Chicago's significance "does not yet reach the influence in the blogosphere of UCLA, Tennessee, San Diego, GW, George Mason, or Wisconsin, among others."