Write First, Research Second?:
Over at The Glom, Gordon Smith has a post on how he writes law review articles:
I usually start writing before have done the research. (True confessions.) This is the method Richard Epstein taught me while I was at Chicago. I sketch out my thoughts on a subject, then use the research to refine or develop those thoughts. It sounds terribly inefficient, but it prevents me from being overly influenced by what others have written. Anyway, using this method means that most of my notes are put right into the draft of the paper, which I edit mercilessly as I get closer to publication.
  I do the same thing. I usually come up with an idea and sketch out the introduction of the article, which ends up being a 3-4 page summary of what the article will say. I usually don't do very much specific research into the literature until that sample introduction is done. Then, once the intro is sketched out, I make sure I know all the literature and know what others have said.

  Assuming no one has written on the topic in a way that either preempts my idea or that dramatically changes what I want to say, I then put the literature away and write the article I wanted to write, usually without any footnotes. When I'm done, I go back and add the footnotes so it looks presentable and that I have cited or discussed the most important literature.

  There are pros and cons to this method, I think. It doesn't work if you don't already know the field pretty well. It also doesn't work if you're responding to a body of scholarship or writing in areas that have been covered to death by a lot of other people. There's also a risk that you'll end up having to give up and throw the intro away if it turns out you're not saying anything new. But I write that way largely for the reason Gordon suggests he does: It seems to me that the best way to make sure you're saying something original is to come up with the basic idea on your own (or as much "on your own" as you can). That's the idea, anyway.

  I'm curious, for other law profs and law prof wannabes -- how do you write your articles? In the same way, or in a very different way?