Blogs are Liberating the Profession from Dull Writing
Prof. Doug Berman has a new article in the National Law Journal entitled Blogs are Liberating the Profession from Dull Writing. It provides an excellent overview of why lawyers and law professors are turning to blogs as an alternative means of publishing and communication. The article mentions the collections on 3L Epiphany of cases citing legal blogs and law review articles citing legal blogs. The article also includes quotations from these two interviews I conducted with judges:
Here is an excerpt:
The growing respect for blogging among legal professionals stems in part from the medium's tendency to resist the worst excesses of the traditional forms of legal writing and publication. Many legal documents and most traditional law review articles can be ponderous, with assertions over-wrought, arguments over-made, principles over-cited and everything over-written. The blog medium fosters and rewards succinct expression. For legal writers and legal readers, it is liberating and refreshing to have thought-provoking ideas about the law expressed in only a few paragraphs or even a few sentences.
The blog medium also mitigates against encumbering legal points with endless footnotes and citations. Bloggers can provide references through hyperlinks to original sources or other blogs, but this reality highlights another technological virtue of the medium for developing and expressing legal ideas. Through links, blogs can facilitate a more direct and immediate engagement with original legal materials-whether cases, statutes, briefs, reports or articles-for the blogger and the blog-reader. Through linking, blogs also can foster a more direct and immediate engagement with other lawyers and law professors working on related issues.
Valuably, blogs enable lawyers and law professors to reach an extensive and extraordinarily diverse audience, and to interact with many new people as "cyber-peers." Blogs facilitate exposure to, and scrutiny by, a national and international readership. A blog's audience can include not only judges and practitioners at all levels and in many jurisdictions, but also policymakers, academics from many disciplines and journalists of all stripes. In addition, blogs are accessible to non-lawyers interested in legal issues and, perhaps most valuably, the real people whose lives are affected by the legal policies and doctrines that a blog may discuss. Through comments, links and other means, blogs foster continuous interactions with sophisticated (and unsophisticated) readers that can provide for a distinct and valuable form of peer review.
National Law Journal Article on Cases Citing Legal Blogs
My recent post on cases citing legal blogs has led to a National Law Journal article, now available online, entitled Judges Cite More Blogs in Rulings. I have inserted several hyperlinks within the two excerpts below (one of the benefits of blogging):
The ability to burrow deeply into a specialized area of the law with continuous updates has an undeniable appeal to practitioners. This phenomenon was not lost on Ian Best, a 36-year-old law school graduate who began a blog, "3L Epiphany," as an independent study project for academic credit at Ohio State University's Michael E. Moritz College of Law. It is a taxonomy of legal blogs. Best counted them, classified them and tracked their development.
"The most significant development is judges citing blogs," said Best, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, and is awaiting his bar exam results.
Best has found 32 citations of legal blogs in 27 different cases dating back to 2004. Perhaps the most noted was by Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent in an important sentencing decision, United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).
Many judges may remain reticent to cite something as potentially changeable as a blog, which may cease to exist or be taken over by someone new.
Best said those are legitimate concerns.
He pointed to a case that cited a blog for a song parody-but the online reference page no longer exists. Suboh v. Borgioli, 298 F. Supp. 2d 192 (D. Mass. 2004).
"One way of solving that is with hard copy publication," he said. "If citation becomes more prevalent there needs to be some hard copy that can be collected and official," he said. Blog authors should also keep a cited post unchanged for future researchers he said.
American Lawyer: Blawgs on a Roll
Dahlia Lithwick has a great article entitled Blawgs on a Roll in the June issue of The American Lawyer on the Web. It mentions 3L Epiphany along with several other legal blogs. Here is an extensive quote:
“Blawgs”-for the uninitiated-are legal blogs, and if you haven't incorporated them into your daily reading, you are missing out. The most compelling, cutting-edge, honest legal writing being produced in this country today is happening on the Internet, and the crop improves daily. From the fistful of judges (including Richard Posner) who maintain regular blogs, to the vast and growing number of law professors and law students who find the time to post daily, it's clear that the real bones and guts and sinew of the national conversation is happening online, and not in print.
As I write this column, the major newspapers are consumed with two or three big legal stories. And that's fine. But, today in the blogosphere, the debate ranges from free speech on college campuses (at The Volokh Conspiracy) to Yale's decision to admit a Taliban student (at Glenn Reynolds's Instapundit). Douglas Berman-whose blog, Sentencing Law and Policy, has now been cited in 21 judicial opinions-is tracking the fallout from the Supreme Court's sentencing guidelines cases. Lawrence Solum is unpacking the “nuclear option” on his Legal Theory Blog, while Rick Garnett engages PrawfsBlawg readers in a discussion of free speech constraints on religious ministers. Meanwhile, Howard Bashman offers a clearinghouse of all the legal news of the day at his über-blawg, How Appealing. [Bashman's blog, which can be found at howappealing.law.com, is an affiliate of ALM's Law.com network.]
And that's not even the tip of the iceberg. Ian Best, a third-year law student at Moritz College of Law, is creating an online taxonomy of blogs by attorneys, judges, and law professors-and he's still counting at 643. Best's site, which calls itself 3L Epiphany, offers ample proof that the Internet is poised to accommodate an entire universe of lawyers and legal thinkers. Why? Because it promotes dialogue, offers instant access to primary texts, and imposes no space or time constraints.
I fully agree with Ms. Lithwick that “[t]he most compelling, cutting-edge, honest legal writing being produced in this country today is happening on the Internet.” In particular, legal blogs have allowed new types of “short-form” scholarship to develop. This topic was discussed in detail at the Harvard Bloggership Conference. Similar discussions, concerning the advantages of legal blogs over traditional law reviews, are collected in this index.
The article states that the number of legal blogs in my Taxonomy is 643. This is correct. My original count of legal blogs before I began categorizing them was 686. In creating my taxonomy I removed many blogs that were inactive or insufficiently legal. I simultaneously discovered and added more legal blogs that were not on my original list. So 643 is the accurate current number. I have since collected more legal blogs, but have not had adequate time to include them in my taxonomy. I plan to add these blogs throughout the summer.
The article also mentions that Prof. Doug Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy Blog has been cited 21 times in judicial opinions. Those opinions are included in this collection: Cases Citing Legal Blogs. [One minor correction to the article: the 21 citations occurred in 17 different cases, not 21.]
60 Sites in 60 Minutes
My Taxonomy of Legal Blogs was included in the recent ABA Techshow’s “60 Sites in 60 Minutes.” To see a complete list of all 60 sites, go here. For an archived “Hall of Fame” containing sites from previous years, go here.
- “Spectacular” – Prof. Paul Caron, TaxProf Blog
- “Amazing” – Prof. Doug Berman, Sentencing Law and Policy
- “Fantastic” – Andrea Weckerle, New Millenium PR
- “A tremendous piece of scholarly work” – Prof. David Tufte, VoluntaryXchange
- “Wow!” – Ray Dowd, Small Firm Life
- “The most comprehensive index of legal blogs that I have ever seen” – Prof. Gerry Beyer, Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog
- “Wonderfully useful” – Prof. Mark Grimsley, Blog Them Out of the Stone Age
- “An excellent legal blog meta-page” – Amy Wright, Heafey Headnotes
- “3L Epiphany takes the tracking of legal blogs to a whole new level” - Rob Truman, BoleyBlogs!
- “3LE has received a tremendous amount of kudos, press and hoopla lately - all well-deserved” - Dan Hull, What About Clients?
- “Unique, useful, and most impressive” – Prof. James Maule, Mauled Again
- “Congratulations…on a job well done” – Diane Levin, Online Guide to Mediation
- “A great resource to see what is happening in and around the legal blogging world” – Bob Coffield, Health Care Law Blog
- “Impressive” – Howard Bashman, How Appealing
- “Esta interesante clasificación de blogs jurídicos” – José Luis Orihuela, eCuaderno
- “Un travail remarquable” – Stéphane Cottin, ServiceDoc Info
Blogging for Credit
My work on 3L Epiphany was recently profiled by my school’s online newsletter, the Moritz e-Record. The article is entitled Ian Best: Blogging for Credit. Here are a couple of personal quotations from the article:
“The potential with legal blogs is overwhelming, but very few people see it yet. We are at an initial stage in what will become a tremendously significant method of publishing and communication.”
“Eventually more law students will blog, and receive credit for it. There are so many possibilities, but the potential is unrealized. Students can create a blog about whatever legal topic they want, such as a case, a trial, or a statute. They can write about their favorite legal specialty, and make themselves more marketable to employers. If a student gets a poor grade, say in Civil Procedure or Criminal Law, he can start a blog-for-credit on Erie or Miranda and undo the damage. Some day there will probably be specialty blogs in law school, just like there are specialty law journals.”
3L Epiphany Appears in Its First News Article
3L Epiphany has now appeared in its first online news article. The article is entitled "Hobby Turns Into Project To Track Lawyers' Blogs And Their Impact," and is written by John Tompkins of the Daily Court Review.
I have provided a few excerpts from the article below:
Writing a web log (commonly known as a blog) is usually seen as a personal journal that everyone can read.
But a recent trend among lawyers who write blogs (or blawgs) has caught the interest of a law student at Ohio State’s Moritz School of Law. Ian Best loved the idea of blogs so much that he started his own – and is now getting credit for it in an independent study course.
“I’m researching all of the legal blogs out there,” Best said. “I’m creating a taxonomy of blog. I’m trying to get an overview of what the legal blogosphere looks like.”
Best says the best feature of the multitude of legal blogs is how research is presented. Legal journals, he said, tend to be more static while the legal blogs are more interactive, making it easier to learn from. He discovered, for instance, that not only attorneys and judges were reading [Prof. Doug Berman’s] blog about sentencing guidelines. “Criminal defendants and victims were reading his blog,” Best said. “They’re not going to pick up a law journal. But they can read this and learn how this applies to their situation. This moves away from the ivory tower.”
Though the notoriety blogging has received is recent, Best said what it could achieve for the legal profession and mass communication is a broader audience and a more educated public.
“It’s all online and it’s a superior way of doing it,” he said. “That’ll be an outreach to the public. Legal blogs have a real potential that can be transformed.”
As a byproduct to his research, Best said he hopes to find out more about what the public and lawyers are using the blog for.
I am sincerely grateful to Mr. Tompkins and the Daily Court Review for writing about 3L Epiphany. I wanted to point out two minor corrections to the excerpts above. “I’m creating a taxonomy of blog” should read “…blogs.” And “blogs have a real potential that can be transformed” should read “…transformational.”