Why do (should) legal academics blog?

Following on from the self-referential legal blogging conference and why do I blog? posts in the last few weeks, here’s some more navel gazing: why do (and/or should) legal academics blog? This one’s provoked by a thoughful interview by Jack Balkin which he reproduced on his blog Balkinization. He has been thinking about these issues for a while now, and this post has predicatably provoked many equally thoughtful replies, such as those here, here and here (and a good resource on the issue in general is here). Some of the comments in these posts resonated with me. Balkin mused:

Blogging changes the relationship between law professors and their audiences because professors can reach more people. It changes the relationship between law professors and journalists because law professors don’t need journalists to get their ideas out to the broader public; conversely, blogging makes it easier for journalists to find the right experts to interview. It changes the timing and pace of legal scholarship because law professors can talk about cases the day they come down, driving the discussion forward in a very short time rather than through a series of law review articles that may take years to appear. Just as the Internet collapses the news cycle, it also collapses the publication and discussion cycle. It produces a type of legal writing that is more journalistic, more personal, and more driven by current events.

Compared with traditional legal scholarship, blogging produces a different combination of analysis and opinion. The conversation is more informal, and it progresses very quickly. People also use sources differently: they cite to supporting information or authorities by linking to them, so that you can see the evidence for yourself.

I would agree with all of that, except that in Ireland it’s very difficult to blog about decisions on the day they come out, as it often takes a long time for judgments to appear on the Courts Service judgments website, bailii, or irlii, to say nothing of the subscription services like Firstlaw and Westlaw.ie.

In a glimpse into the future, he predicted:

In the legal academy, you will get an increasing integration between blogs and legal scholarship, between blogs and what you read in law reviews. As I mentioned, law reviews are already experimenting with blogs as adjuncts to their online presence. There will be more connections between blogs and SSRN and other online publications. More and more legal scholarship will occur in blog formats, or link to blogs, or cite to blogs, and the distinctions between blogging and other forms of legal scholarship will begin to blur, even if some important differences remain. … All this will take time. … But don’t expect all this to happen overnight. The culture of legal institutions changes slowly.

Similarly, Douglas Berman on Law School Innovation said:

If blogging continues to be an especially valuable medium for an especially large percentage of law professors, I predict it is only a matter of time before every law professor is expected to have (or contribute to) a legal blog of one sort or another.

That may be true of the direction in the US, but I suspect that it will be a long time before Irish (or even UK) law schools can foresee this as a proximate destination. It will therefore be an even slower process here than there. But cearta is meant as a start; there are good Irish law blogs in the blogroll on the right taskbar; and I hope that others will follow and overtake.

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