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Why Blogs Will Not Replace Law Reviews:
I enjoyed reading the very interesting responses to my post on blogs and legal scholarship, including this post by David Zaring. I wanted to offer a quick follow-up on why legal blogs will not replace or seriously challenge traditional law reviews. Two major reasons:
  1) Blogs and law reviews are two totally different birds, with different time horizons and different purposes. The difference between blog posts and law review articles is kind of like the difference between short term and long term memory. Blog posts are about what happened today, yesterday, maybe last week. They are quick reactions to current events and current issues, and for the most part are forgotten a few days after they have been posted. In contrast, law review articles take the long view. They are meant to last. A good article should be just as relevant five or ten years after it is published than the day it is published. Blog posts may support and influence traditional scholarship, just as short term memory can work its way into long term memory, but the two are very different entities.

  2) The very long time it takes for traditional articles to be published is a scholarly asset; the insta-publish nature of blog posts is a scholarly liability. Law review articles provide the opportunity to refine and debate an argument over months if not years before publication, and that opportunity is a critical part of creating lasting scholarship with real depth. A typical law professor might start an article in the summer; work on it through the fall; share drafts with other colleagues in the winter; rework it in response to comments in February; send it out in March; present it at conferences or workshops in April; have it accepted at a journal in May; rework it in response to comments in June and July; start the editing proces in August; present it at another scholarly workshop in September; rework it and refine it several times during the editing process; and then finish up the final version in January. From start to finish, the process might take a year and a half. During that time, the author has many opportunities to test various approaches and settle on the best one, weeding out ideas that seemed good at first but didn't last. In contrast, a blog post is one person's idea at one particular time, with all the limitations that implies.
  How might blogs change law reviews, given that they won't replace them? Here are some preliminay thoughts. First, I expect that blogs will become the preferred format for short-term scholarship, and law reviews will begin to focus more exclusively on the long term picture. For law reviews, that means fewer case comments, and possibly fewer rushed-into-print articles on hot topics or recent cases that are in the news. Second, blogs will be a key way of advertising new law review scholarship, such as we see today with Legal Theory Blog. Third, and more speculatively, I wonder if the quick and punchy writing style that works for blogs will begin to find its way into more law review articles.
ken (mail) (www):
Blogs are good for short timely comments; law reviews for more depth. I think you are correct in that statement. I rarely look toward law reviews for anything in my practice but when I do I'm not looking for a student comment, I'm looking for a professor's article which has a nationwide scope, depth, and lot's of cited cases I can use.

So far I only know of one Law Review which has gone away because of the internet. The Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse has decided to stop publishing and instead put itself online. It's a bad choice; it's a particularly bad choice as they've announced that they intend to limit access. I wonder if other non-primary journals might follow suit?
7.6.2005 4:53pm
jawesome:
I'm still a law student, but I'll say this:

As to Reason 1, there are a few good blog posts which are passed around. Indeed, a short, well-written blog entry can remain as relevant ten years later as it can be the day it was posted.

As to Reason 2, it is a benefit to the public, however, that the exact debate that takes place behind the scenes of a law review article will be made public, as well, and recorded for future readers.

As such, it isn't so much that blogs will replace law review articles, as they will acheieve some sort of symbiosis.
7.6.2005 5:42pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail):
I don't agree. Blogs, or as we call them now "online magazines", come in many flavors and formats. If a blog chooses to have a format of four updates per year, a minumum of 100 footnotes per post, preference to posts by professors and other academics, careful cite-checking by student editors before posting, and so forth, it starts to look a lot like a traditional law journal. Most blogs aren't like this, but there's no inherent reason they can't be.
7.6.2005 6:14pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
This is an unrelated post (because the post to which it's related doesn't have comments, and the original poster doesn't post his email), but...

Would someone please tell Mr. Lindgren the Chief's name is spelled "Rehnquist", not "Rhenquist"?

Sheesh...
7.6.2005 11:53pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
This is an unrelated post (because the post to which it's related doesn't have comments, and the original poster doesn't post his email), but...

Would someone please tell Mr. Lindgren the Chief's name is spelled "Rehnquist", not "Rhenquist"?

Sheesh...
7.6.2005 11:53pm