Wall Street Journal on Blogs and Law Reviews
Brandt Goldstein at the Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today addressing the current debate in the legal academy regarding the relative merits and demerits of law reviews and academic blogs. But in an interesting twist, he challenges the legitimacy of law reviews as much as engaging the current debate about the role of academic blogging. Here is an excerpt:
The focus of much current scholarship -- theoretical work with no real application for judges, practitioners, or policymakers -- has reduced the audience for it outside the legal academy. Hard statistics on law review readership are hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence suggests that practitioners simply don't pay much attention to them these days...
Twenty years ago, little outside of the occasional book or magazine article deflected attention from law reviews. Today, legal blogs are siphoning away the attention of law professors and lawyers on issues of the day. Blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy, Opinio Juris, and SCOTUSBlog attract tens of thousands of readers and feature informed discussion on everything from constitutional theory to law-related television shows. Blogs now occupy so many professors, in fact, that at the American Association of Law Schools annual conference, a panel was held to debate the influence of blogs in the legal academic community....The debate about law reviews isn't simply academic. Rather, the issue puts into question the role of what professors should do when they're not teaching. "Legal scholarship is at a crossroads," says Ethan Lieb, a young professor aiming for tenure at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. "The question we're asking is: Is our job to advance knowledge through contributions to academic journals, or is it to contribute to the public conversation about law?"
I find this article quite helpful. My impression is that in an ideal world law professors should participate in both academic and public conversations. I would hazard that most law professors hope to make a measurable difference in their chosen field, and to fulfill that objective requires determined engagement at multiple levels in multiple conversations. Amici briefs, op-eds, television commentary, blogs, teaching, conferences, public-oriented books, and formal scholarship are all part of a vibrant conversation about the contours of law and policy. For example, the current conversation about the role of foreign authority in constitutional interpretation is occurring at every level one can imagine, from Supreme Court confirmation hearings, to academic symposia, to friendly dinner conversation among informed lay people. There is no inherent reason why law professors should not engage that discussion at every level. And the luxury of academic life is that there is sufficient time to join in that conversation at multiple levels. Blogging is simply a particularly efficient manifestation of the public side of the conversation.
The article concludes by noting that Rosa Brooks at LawCulture has chosen to abandon law reviews for blogging and books. But I for one am more than happy to continue the conversation through the media of blogging, books, ... and law reviews.