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February 21, 2008

Examining state of the law professor blogosphere

As noted here on The Race to the Bottom blog, Professor J. Robert Brown has just posted a paper on law faculty blogs, Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Law faculty blogs have been around for much of the new millennium. This article examines these blogs, including their role in the legal scholarship continuum and their growing influence of legal community.

The paper begins with an evolutionary study, noting that law blogging originally began in a state of nature, with few rules governing frequency or content of posts. Increased competition and the emergence of Empire and Captive law blogs, however, has resulted in a growing sense of order on the legal blogosphere.  Perhaps as a result, the influence of law blogs has increased.

The paper relies on a list of approximately 130 law faculty blogs and studies the frequency of law review and case citations. The numbers have been undergoing significant growth. The growth is particularly noteworthy given the difficulty in searching for material posted on the Internet.

The paper also studies the impact of law blogging on rankings in the US News. In the short term, blogging can disproportionately benefit law schools and faculty outside the top tier. Blogs can enhance the reputation of the sponsoring faculty member, enable them to route around the biases inherent in the system of law review placements and SSRN downloads, permit a level of participation in the legal debate that might otherwise not be available, and facilitate the dissemination of information important to alumni and other constituencies.  Most critically, however, they represent a cost effective mechanism for improving a law school's reputational rankings and, perforce, its overall rankings in the infamous US News and World Report.

Much of the data used in the paper is derived from a list of 130 law faculty blogs, something paired down to the top 50 law faculty blogs. The top 50 was determined based upon a number of ranking metrics. These lists are included as an Appendix to this article.

The paper makes for a very interesting read, and it provides an especially thorough and thoughtful (pro-blogging) descriptive review of the current state and apparent impact of law professor blogs.  Still, I must admit that I crave more law prof blogging navel-gazing.  Specifically, I hope that Professor Brown, or perhaps others, will build on this work to provide a more critical meta-analysis of law professor blogging, especially as it relates to broader law school innovation issues and the role of law professors in the broader legal and political community.

Posted by DAB

February 21, 2008 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors | Permalink

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