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If you are looking for the future of legal scholarship, chances are that you may find it not in a treatise or the traditional law review, but in a different form, profoundly influenced by the blogosphere. Law-related blogs are proliferating on the Internet — more than 80 are listed on the blogroll of one popular law-related blog, Concurring Opinions. A significant number of the blogs — sometimes called “blawgs” — are hosted by law professors. What do these blogs look like? There’s a wide variety, from the weighty to the conversational, or, in the jargon, the more “bloggy.” On the Becker-Posner Blog, Judge Richard Posner and economist Gary Becker debate issues such as crime and economic development, health care reform, and whether higher education is a good investment. Ann Althouse, professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, blogs ( althouse.blogspot.com) in a more personal, less self-consciously scholarly mode, addressing subjects from Rudy Guiliani’s campaign to the auto show to Mother’s Day. [See "I Am in Love With Blogging."] Somewhere in the middle are blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy, where Eugene Volokh fosters dialogue among 17 scholars on law and public issues, and the Law Professor Blogs, a collection of 50 different subject-related blogs, such as the ImmigrationProf Blog. THEY HAVE TENURE Who are the bloggers? The uninitiated might think they would be young professors, those who have grown up with the Internet and are comfortable with self-publication in that format. While there are some of those, the legal blogosphere tends to be populated by midcareer professors who have tenure, are intimately familiar with traditional legal scholarship, and see the Internet as a way to reach more readers in a less ritualized format. Younger scholars, in contrast, debate whether blogging is worth the time taken away from traditional legal scholarship, still necessary for achieving tenure. Tung Yin and Christine Hurt, in an article called “Blogging While Untenured and Other Extreme Sports,” write, “Conventional wisdom seems to warn that blogging may be a risky venture for those academic bloggers who have not been awarded tenure and the liberating academic freedom that comes with that award.” You may inadvertently offend someone important, you may be (gasp!) wrong, or you may simply be lured into spending too much time blogging and not enough time creating scholarship and knowledge in the more traditional forms. Blogging, in short, can be addictive. Regular posting to maintain the dialogue and interchange that leads to readership drains time from other pursuits. Why, then, spend the time? One answer is that a blog reaches far more readers than traditional scholarship. Eugene Volokh said in 2006 that his blog gets about 20,000 unique visitors a day. Readers of traditional law review articles are not counted, but, he says, he’s pretty sure that number is very far from 20,000. Immediate feedback is another reason. In days of yore, a law review article would be written, published, and perhaps presented at a symposium. Scholars would reply with another article, perhaps followed by a response from the initial author. With a law review publication schedule of six to 18 months, scholarly dialogue proceeded at a snail’s pace. Bloggers explore issues as they happen, knowing that others will critique their opinions within days, if not hours or minutes. Supreme Court opinions are announced, and bloggers post within hours. Longer, more thoughtful pieces will eventually be published about an important case, but the initial assessment is over in a week or less. Scholars want to be part of that conversation. There also may be a reputational bonus. Blogging gets you recognition among your peers earlier in your career, resulting in more readers for the articles you do publish. Law review editors may view your next submission more favorably because they’re familiar with your online presence. You may get more invitations to appear at symposia or consulted by lawyers for assistance in their cases. The key word here, though, is “may.” Volokh, Hurt, and Yin cite anecdotal evidence, but the jury is still out. Does blogging contribute to the scholarship, teaching, and service asked of legal academics? It’s easy to see how blogging could contribute to the dissemination of knowledge. Can blogging also be a part of the process of discovering knowledge? If knowledge is discovered by the assertion and exploration of ideas, issues, and opinions, through an iterative process of dialogue, critique, and reformulation, blogging is making that contribution. The form may be different and the pace accelerated, but it still looks and feels like scholarly activity. For an example, take Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin’s Balkinization blog. He posted four extensive responses during May to an article published by Bruce Ackerman in the May 2007 Harvard Law Review on the “living Constitution.” Stephen Griffin of Tulane University Law School chimed in on June 5, with a post highlighting areas of agreement and disagreement with both Ackerman and Balkin. This is scholarly dialogue at a very fast pace. Blogging also readily lends itself to teaching; indeed, it can be viewed as the classroom listserv discussion at large. University of Chicago law professor Randy Picker hosts a class blog as a medium for online discussion of class-related issues for his legal infrastructure of business course. Distance education relies heavily on online discussion groups; blogs are the public version of those groups. A NEW KIND OF SERVICE Can blogging be viewed as service? What is meant by “service,” anyway? In days of yore (again), law professors fulfilled their service by writing a treatise describing the state of the law, cited by practitioners and judges. Professors also contributed to public discussion of legal issues by writing op-eds or speaking at bar association meetings. In recent decades, the practicing bar has complained of a lack of service from the legal academy. Judge Harry Edwards, in a much-quoted speech in 1992, said, “Because too few law professors are producing articles or treatises that have direct utility for judges, administrators, legislators, and practitioners, too many important social issues are resolved without the needed input from academic lawyers.” He decried the “growing disjunction” between the academy and the practicing bar. It seems to me that this is an area where blogs have real benefits to offer. Instead of scholars focusing inward, writing for, and expecting to be read only by other academics, legal academics blog with the desire and the expectation that they will be read by the public. Law-related blogs such as the University of Chicago Faculty Blog bring the perspective of the academy to the attention of anyone interested in the issue under discussion, educating both sides of the dialogue. The Internet functions as a public square, where Main Street, Wall Street, and the ivory tower meet. Bloggers haven’t abandoned law review articles and other scholarship, but even there, blogging has its effect. Law reviews may be the tortoise to the blogging hare, secure in the prestige that tenure requirements confer on the traditional law review article, but they are not immune to the siren call for more casual prose, shorter paragraphs, and fewer footnotes. No one thinks the law review article is going away, but it is undergoing its own more or less painful transformations. Emblematic of these changes is the announcement of several major law reviews that preference will be given to articles of fewer than 50-60 pages. The days of the more-than-100-page articles are over. Larry Solum of the Legal Theory Blog calls this the transition from the long form to the short form of legal scholarship. The short form provides a forum for ideas that are not complex or multifaceted enough to sustain a long law review article. Writing even a comparatively short essay for a law review requires an idea of some heft and depth. Yet many smaller ideas and insights are nonetheless worth expressing; many see the light of publication for the first time in blog entries. Law reviews have seen the light and are capitalizing on the short form. Yale’s prestigious law journal recently created The Pocket Part, calling it “an online companion to The Yale Law Journal.” In May, The Pocket Part published an article by third-year Yale law student Jose Coleman Tio advocating representation in Congress for Puerto Rico. In the same issue, John Fortier, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, responded that Tio’s proposal was unconstitutional, and his response was followed by an article from Christine Duffy Burnett of Columbia Law School asserting that, constitutional or not, it was a bad idea. All three pieces consumed only 17 pages, far shorter than the average 30-60 page law review article. Blogging contributes to the shortened life cycle of a theory or idea, reflected in what is called the open access movement. Law review articles no longer meet their readers first in published and printed form. Good articles start their lives as idea papers, posted on the Social Science Research Network’s Legal Scholarship Network or another electronic repository. Repositories such as the SSRN provide a place for scholars to post their work, either in abstract or in full. These papers are available to the public generally for reading and comment. Bloggers post links to them with short descriptions (“Highly recommended!” “Download this while it’s hot!”) and respond in blog posts. By the time the prestigious law review accepts the submission and publishes the article, the scholarly community has built upon the insights in the article and moved on. It’s possible that the days of the student-edited law review may be numbered, though. One important function a published law review can provide is quality control. Quality control in the blogosphere resides in the occasionally naive assumption that good ideas will rise to the surface and less fully theorized ones will eventually disappear. The relentless pace of blogging assists with the disappearance aspect; flawed or uninteresting ideas will be exposed and then ignored while the blogosphere moves on. The theory is that good ideas will survive and be strengthened by the immediate feedback. The process is not infallible, though, and the people making the judgments are not all scholars. The law review could offer peer review by professional scholars, rather than second- and third-year law students, enhancing the recognition and reputational value of print publication. Anyone can post on a blog; only peer-reviewed scholarship would achieve publication in a law review. Even if blogging will never replace traditional legal scholarship, blogs are where the scholarly dialogue increasingly takes place. Where and how will that dialogue be preserved? At the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting in New Orleans on July 14-17, Larry Solum, professor of law at the University of Illinois School of Law, and Gordon Russell, director of the law library at the Charleston School of Law, combine for a presentation: “Blogs, Working Papers, Electronic Publishing: Will Changes in Legal Scholarship Affect the Future Development of Library Collections?” Law libraries, extending their role as stewards of the printed record, grapple with responsibility for preserving “born digital” materials as blogs become an essential part of the present and future of legal scholarship.
Margaret A. Schilt is faculty services librarian at the D’Angelo Law Library for the University of Chicago.

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