Monday, February 27, 2006

NLJ Article on Law Professors Blogging

Here.  (Thanks to Paul Caron for the pointer.)  An excerpt:

As more law professors are tapping away at their computers on blogs that cover everything from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to the death penalty, they also may be chipping away at the ivory tower.

An increasing number of law professors are using blogs-online journals or newsletters-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.

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.

I am inclined to agree with my colleague Kate, with the caveat that blogs sometimes help get actual scholarship into circulation (as any glance at the most downloaded SSRN authors quickly shows).  Similarly, Law Emperor Caron's blog (like others in the network) helps call attention to articles and developments of scholarly interest.  So to these modest extents they have "something" to do with scholarship!

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The article creates an unfortunate impression that I am among those who “raise concerns” about the role of blogs in “dumbing down of the profession.” I surely didn’t raise any such concerns. I simply said that blogs had nothing to do with scholarship (Brian’s point about the role of blogs in dissemination of scholarship is well taken). Not every non-scholarly endeavor dumbs down the profession – or I would have to give up bicycling.

What dumbs down the profession is not blogs, but the faculty’s lack of serious academic training (formal or informal), the dominance of student-edited journals, and the residual pressure to “be relevant” to practitioners. Somehow, nobody pressures physicists to “be relevant” to electricians...

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Feb 27, 2006 10:19:50 AM

In the event that someone wanted to go to the Harvard blogger conference referenced in the article, does anyone know if "outsiders" (non-invitee law profs) are even welcome in the audience? Or will it be one of those deals where you receive an "invitation" about three days before the actual event, when it would be incredibly expensive if not logistically impossible to attend? Or is it simply closed?

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Feb 28, 2006 6:28:02 AM

Having been invited to speak at this by Paul Caron, I would assume that Paul is the person to contact.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Feb 28, 2006 7:43:20 AM

Perhaps I was too subtle in my previous comment: What exactly is the point of highlighting a conference about law blogging in academia (as the NLJ article did) without providing any information about how one might attend, if not to draw fairly sharp and obvious lines between insiders and outsiders? And yet I have little doubt that without any apparent irony, some conference speakers will highlight the democratizing effects of blogging.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Feb 28, 2006 8:54:59 AM

That’s an interesting relationship, or apparent lack of it, that Prof. Litvak sees between the work of legal scholars and legal practitioners. I did not realize that research physicists are in the business of teaching and training electricians the way law professors do lawyers.

Posted by: Brooks | Feb 28, 2006 10:31:40 AM

A collection of blog posts and articles on the topic of Academic Blogging is here:

This compendium includes the following previous posts from Prof. Leiter (who I hope will not mind my posting this):

1. Is the Internet Hurting Scholarship?, Brian Leiter (Apr. 20, 2005):

2. Posner on blogs, Brian Leiter (Dec. 6, 2004):

3. More on Academic Credit for Blogging, Brian Leiter (Jan. 9, 2004):

4. Academic Credit for Law Blogging?, Brian Leiter (Jan. 9, 2004):

Posted by: Ian Best | Feb 28, 2006 1:24:47 PM

The upsurge of interest in blogging might say more about the formalistic and often unaccountable constraints imposed through the traditional journal format (particularly for early career academics). In the attractiveness of blogging lies a lesson for law journal editors and publishers. It also should send a message to press and audio/visual journalists that academic commentators are tired of having their views intervened by sub-editors and producers with agendas outside the intention of the original commentary. We want to be able to reclaim our thoughts and ensure that they are immediately relevant

Posted by: Mark Findlay | Mar 1, 2006 2:06:36 PM

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