Educational Technology and the Social Web

March 1, 2006

Blogs in Legal Scholarship

Filed under: Education and Technology,Social Software — Ken @ 4:31 am

I recently attended a conference called “Bloggership: How Blogs are Transforming Legal Scholarship” hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. The conference addressed how blogs are affecting the legal academy and featured 20 or so leading law professor bloggers.

The first session of the day focused on whether law blogs are a form of legal scholarship and featured three law professors with three different views that helped shape the debate. Professor Doug Berman from Ohio State University opened the session. He argued that the traditional medium of legal scholarship, namely, law review articles, while still important are an antiquated medium. Most people, in fact, most law professors and students rarely read them in their entirety. There shear length is overwhelming and he cited examples from the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s to demonstrate how the average law review article in length and in the number of citations has doubled with each succesive generation. Prof. Berman takes the position that blogs should be a part of legal scholarship. They enable law professors to reach a wide(r) audience and break down the barriers to access inherent in more traditional forms of legal scholarship.

Professor Lawrence Solum from University of Illinois had in my opinion the most compelling position of the session. He began with the premise that blogs certainly have plenty to do with legal scholarship but that blogs themselves aren’t the driver of transformation. Other forces such as the emergence of the short form, the obsolesce of exclusive rights, and the trend towards the disintermediation of legal scholarship are acting to reshape legal scholarship. Each of these forces reduces search and access costs to legal scholarhsip. The blog facilitates these forces but is not in and of itself the only form these forces can take.

Professor Kate Litvak from the University of Texas took an opposing position. She argues that blogs have no affect on legal scholarship, that a blog lacks privacy and well-specified rules, two properties necessary for the fostering of early ideas, and that blogs are more akin to a water cooler conversation that has been bugged than to any form of scholarship.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this session happened during the introduction of the session. Professor Paul Caron from the University of Cincinnatti and the Editor-in-Chief of the Law Professor Blogs Network


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