Student RA's for Blogging Professors
I suggested here (and followed up here) that law students should consider working as a research assistant for a law professor who blogs. I corresponded with a number of such law professors. Below I am listing a few who liked this idea, some of whom already employ an RA for this purpose. I quote them with their permission. I would like to thank them and all of the other law professors who responded to my inquiries.
Prof. Gerry W. Beyer (Texas Tech), Wills Trusts and Estates Prof Blog:
“I think research assistants can be a tremendous help to professors who run blogs. So far, I have used my RA to research some postings and to make postings when I am beyond the reach of computers. (I pre-write the postings and then she posts them at the appropriate times.) So, I would definitely encourage students to approach blogging professors!”
Prof. Eric Goldman (Marquette), Technology & Marketing Law Blog:
“I have already done this. See here, here, and here. [URL’s changed to “here.”] I would probably not work with any random student, but I plan to ask for student contributions and research help from time to time. I also have an ongoing relationship with a student who helps me with blog administration.”
Prof. Adam Kolber (San Diego), Neuroethics Blog:
“As a general matter, I think that student RAs can absolutely help with blogging. My blog, however, lends itself to this a bit less because I don't post a whole lot of commentary, and I've been able to handle it myself pretty well. But someday in the future, I might want to have a student help with the blog.”
Prof. Tom Mayo (SMU), Health Law Prof Blog:
“I would definitely pay a research assistant to help with my blog. I already pay for one to help with a weekly listserve message to the state bar Health Law Section, and I've paid for research help on my web pages, which have a couple thousand links. First preference would be for an SMU student to help (and get paid with SMU funds), of course . . .”
Prof. Eben Moglen (Columbia), Freedom Now Blog:
“It's an interesting idea. As people shift away from law reviews, as they must, other forms of ‘clerkship to scholarship’ will have to evolve, and this is one.” [Prof. Moglen also indicated that he himself is not in need of such an RA.]
Prof. Susan Smith (Willamette), Environmental Law Prof Blog:
“I think that is a great idea. I'd love to have an RA available for this purpose.”
Futuristic Summer Job Update
I am adding an update to my earlier post on a Futuristic Summer Job, where I recommended that law students who do not yet have a summer job consider working as an RA for a professor who blogs. Because that post was a typically long one, I’m putting the update here as a brand new post.
If any law student follows through with my advice, and gets an RA job for a professor-blogger this summer, please let me know. Right now I don’t think it will be that hard to find such a job, although even some professor-bloggers might be skeptical of its value. I predict that eventually, perhaps years from now, such jobs will actually become competitive. Incidentally, if your current semester has a lighter load, you might see if you can start working as a blog-RA now and do something more traditional over the summer.
Also, if any law professor reads this and thinks it's a great idea (or a lousy one), please feel free to make your opinions known.
Update (to the update): I also believe that this can be a model for other disciplines, and expect that eventually students in graduate, business, and medical schools will seek out work with academic bloggers for the sake of learning the skills involved. The benefit to law students is distinctive, however, because such work will also prepare them to “shape” the law of blogging.
Futuristic Summer Job
This will be a long post. “So what else is new?” you reply. If you don’t want to read a lot, just skip down to the bold sentence below.
I would like to make a suggestion to law students who are in their first or second year. No doubt you are concerned about summer employment, unless you already have a job. One of the peculiarities of law school is that you have to invest so much time in seeking a future position while in the midst of an academic workload that is already unbearable. But there is a better way...
Last summer, the one between my 2L and 3L years, I worked as a research assistant (RA) for Prof. Doug Berman. He has referred to my work for him here (third paragraph). This is not a typical thing to do during your second summer of law school. Most students seek something that is more marketable than being an RA for a professor, especially since many law firms and government agencies hire directly from their own pools of summer clerks for post-graduation employment.
My situation was somewhat unique, in that I already knew I had a solid part-time job for my first semester of my 3L year, working at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. This was a competitive enough position that I wasn’t completely worried about explaining my lack of a more typical second-summer job to a future potential employer. (As an aside, I am fairly certain that one of the reasons I got the job in the US Attorney’s office was because I was very familiar with sentencing law, after becoming a constant reader of Prof. Berman’s blog.)
Before that summer, during the second semester of my 2L year (and especially towards the end), I studied like a madman to get a solid GPA. But that didn’t allow enough time to do sufficient job seeking. So once my exams were over, I had done well but was still unemployed. I received a few interviews, but they either didn’t lead to a job, or the interviewing firm became preoccupied and kept me waiting because they weren’t yet able to fill the position.
I knew that I could work for Prof. Berman, because I had worked for him as an RA before, considered him a truly excellent mentor, and had mentioned to him ahead of time the possibility of being his summer RA.
My decision not to spend more time looking for a "real job," but instead to work as an RA that summer, was a gamble. But I knew the work I was doing as an RA would have value in the long run, because it consisted of mainly two things:
1. Transferring the content of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog to a more permanent collection on the Moritz Law (OSU) website. For specific examples of my work, see here, here, and here. If you don’t know Blakely and Booker, I’ll explain later.
2. Drafting a proposal for a new Sentencing Website which would utilize all the various forms of Internet communication, including web-forums, online resource collections, static websites, and blogs of all kinds. (I will make this proposal available for downloading shortly.)
Although I expected this work to have significance, the process of carrying out these projects made me recognize the astonishing untapped potential of blogs as a transformative resource within the legal profession. And it also allowed me to recognize that some lawyers and law firms could see something on the horizon. Namely, that blogs are going to be a major vehicle in the next century for legal research, writing, networking, and marketing. In fact, they already are.
It is my opinion that any law student who learns how to blog will have a distinctive advantage over those who haven’t yet learned. I believe that this advantage is similar to, but greater than, the knowledge of a foreign language. And it’s easier to learn.
This post is long enough in explanation. So law students, here is my suggestion. And please don’t do this in an impulsive or whimsical way, but think about it for awhile. Talk to your professors and career service counselors about whether this works for you.
Here is a list of law professors who blog, along with their locations. [Update: My original post linked to an older list. This one is a new list and includes more professors.]
My suggestion is this: If you attend a law school with one of these professors, ask them if you can spend your next summer helping them with their blog. Take advantage of an opportunity to work with a professor who already knows what’s involved. You will begin to pick up a taste for how blogs allow communication beyond traditional limitations, including of the “ivory tower” variety.
The professor may have plenty of ideas about how you can help with his* blog. It may be writing brief case summaries for posting, on which the professor can provide further analysis. It may be reading other legal blogs and selecting worthwhile content, to which the professor can add his own perspective. Perhaps you will learn as I did the unexpected difficulties, both stylistically and structurally, of transferring blog material into a more permanent collection. Your professor may even ask you to learn the skills of blogging so that his own blog can be improved.
Needless to say, you won't get paid the same amount as if you were working at a law firm. But the skills you learn, and the experiences you have with the medium, will generate their own reward. And the law firm that you didn’t apply to for summer employment will one day be looking for a lawyer who knows how to blog.
If you attend one of the surprisingly many law schools without a professor who blogs, choose a favorite professor, go to his office, and say kindly, “I have an idea that will help you enter into the 21st century.” You can describe what you know about blogs, and how they can benefit the professor. And now you can add, “By the way, I was also thinking of an Independent Study project next year.”
* PC readers, please change “his” to “his/her” in your own mind. It just doesn’t read as well. As Winston Churchill said, “In English, the male embraces the female.”