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The Web site Technorati reports that the world now has 52.1 million blogs — 75,000 new ones each day. But few of them are as brainy as the one recently created by a group of professors at the Georgetown University Law Center. The Georgetown Law Faculty blog is “a way to communicate with the public, the press, and current and former students about our legal research and activities,” says professor Rebecca Tushnet. Twelve Georgetown law professors are currently listed as contributors to the blog. They can post their thoughts, links to other work, and even, in the case of the currently celebrated, such as Hamdan v. Rumsfeld lead counsel Neal Katyal, a video of an appearance on “The Colbert Report.” Tushnet, who launched the Georgetown blog this summer, talked with Debra Bruno, Legal Times ‘ special reports editor, about how the blog got started and where it’s going. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.
Why did you set up this faculty blog? I have a blog of my own that I run on false-advertising law, and I became a real fan of the medium as a way of putting together thoughts about recent legal developments that wouldn’t have an outlet elsewhere. I know that Pittsburgh just started [a group faculty blog], and this may or may not be a trend. I think that, one way or another, law professors are going to move into blogging, because it’s a great way for an academic to reach a nontraditional audience. We modeled [the Georgetown blog] on the University of Chicago blog. . . . There are a number of good group blogs, from the Volokh Conspiracy to music and political blogs. They all fit into the pattern we’re trying to follow.
Aren’t many law professors already blogging? What’s the advantage of the group faculty blog? [The rate of blogging] varies a lot, both by school and by field. There’s a Web site called 3L Epiphany that tracks law-related blogs, showing a variety of categories. The advantages of a group blog are, first, that not everyone needs to post very often to have a good conversation going. Second, students, grads, and others can get a sense of the intellectual activity of the law school. And third, interesting trends and juxtapositions can emerge when people are talking about the topics closest to their hearts.
How many professors post on the new faculty blog? That varies a lot. We’re trying not to pressure anyone to contribute. We hope they’ll contribute when they have something to say. It’s one of the strengths of a group blog — you can sit out until you have something to say. My own feeling about that is that I use RSS feeds; that’s the only thing I use these days. I don’t use bookmarks, and I don’t care if somebody is gone for two weeks. But I know that not everyone feels that way, that there can be a sense of pressure [to post]. Eventually, we’ll all be using RSS feeds; they’re just so convenient. No more fiddling with bookmarks.
Did you imagine that the professors would be posting only in their areas or that they would be branching out to other areas? Law professors have a tradition of expanding to new legal topics over time, so I expected that people would write about legal issues that aren’t necessarily part of their other scholarship or teaching. So far, international law has been a big focus of the blog, and I’m hoping we’ll get more of health law.
Why the focus on international and health law? Georgetown’s faculty includes a number of professors with expertise in international law and health law, which is why I hope we can get a critical mass fostering discussion on those topics in particular. But anything legal is fair game. Sometimes legal analysis of current events should be more in-depth than is available in op-ed pages, so the blog is an opportunity to do that, as [visiting professor] Marty Lederman has been doing with the wiretap cases.
Can anyone post? The posts are limited to people who are professors at Georgetown.
Can anyone comment? Yes, though there is a spam filter. From the comments I’ve seen — they don’t have to identify themselves — they sometimes have pseudonyms that say something about their self-concept.
Who do you think is the audience? I think it can be multiple audiences. Sometimes it’s fellow lawyers; sometimes it’s people you might be trying to convince in a more editorial way. For example, [professor] Rosa Brooks had an editorial in the L.A. Times, and she then reposted it and used the blog to expand the discussion. I expect most of the readers to be law students, lawyers, and law professors. For me personally, it’s been practitioners — now I talk much more to them on my own blog.
What is your day-to-day role? Do you edit the postings or comments? I am in charge of the administrative side, but I do not vet posts or comments unless I made the post.
Have the law students expressed an interest in having a role? I think we’ll know more when they come back, but I’ve already heard from students that they’re happy to know that a professor they’re trying to reach is there.
Should students be required to read their professors’ postings on the blog? I think it can definitely be helpful, but it shouldn’t be mandatory. They should be able to use it to get a better sense of the professor. Ideally they don’t have to read all their [professors'] published articles, after all.
How will you distinguish this blog from all the other ones out there? I envision us as being part of a scholarly community in the same way many law reviews publish many things. So I hope the quality of the work is what distinguishes it, but it’s not going to be a blog that everybody reads. And I think that’s fine. We’re not trying to be The New York Times, and we’re not trying to be InstaPundit. We’re trying to make it easier for people to find the stuff that we’re doing.
Does writing for a blog take the place of other legal scholarship? I think that’s a really important question, and it’s why I haven’t proselytized my junior colleagues to blog. I found that for me, I was getting more done and just writing more, but it came at the expense of other nonwriting activities. It made me incredibly productive, too. The last AALS [ Association of American Law Schools] had a panel on blogging and whether juniors should do it. I agree that a junior would have to think quite carefully about his or her personal style. It’s like any opportunity — it can compete with scholarly writing, or it can be a part of it.
Will professors be linking to more scholarly articles they have published elsewhere? My explicit aim was to make a way to keep in touch with law school scholarship, so I encourage people if they have [written] an editorial to post the link, especially for students or alumni to see what’s available. My aim and hope is that I can encourage people over time to post announcements of their work.
Couldn’t people get in trouble with too-personal postings, like the stories we hear about what kids post on Facebook? I would distinguish between colloquial and personal. A blog can definitely be colloquial, and you can write more loosely. For example, I use “I” a lot in saying what I think, but I don’t put stuff in that’s not about my topic. I may talk about an ad I saw on the subway, and so you would know something about me, that I take the subway, but I don’t believe that necessarily leads to inappropriate revelations. And that’s something that everyone on the Georgetown blog has shown good judgment on. After that, the author of the post has control over comments, so they can control it if something bizarre happens. I hope we’re not vulnerable to that. Our aim is not to go off into politics. If you have a personal blog, that’s different; but the idea here is to stay on the scholarly level.
Are you tracking how many hits the blog has received so far? Not yet; we want to wait. It’s still early on. The iron law of blogs is that the older it is, the more popular it is.

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