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June 1, 2006

Kind blog words from an insightful commentator

While meeting so many nice folks at the terrific Miami FSG conference, I am reminded how the blog creates an immediate connection with a diverse array of persons interested in sentencing topics.  Writing on related themes, the always insightful (and cutting-edge) Dahlia Lithwick has this great essay in the latest issue of The American Lawyer entitled, "Blawgs on a Roll: Legal reporting is sometimes decried as boring and inaccurate; But a band of savvy law professors have changed all that."  Here's a sample (at some length because it's so kind):

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.

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....

[L]egal blogging is wonderfully technical and detailed, but also largely accessible and opinionated. In the blogosphere, the taboo on opinionated legal writing has been lifted. Even better, law professors, who can be exceedingly cautious in print, sometimes become slightly drunk on the Internet's thin air.  Whereas legal thinkers once limited their most serious scholarship to law review articles, occasionally nipping out into the dangerous world to write an op-ed, now many of them offer off-the-cuff observations about everything from partial birth abortion bans to their favorite CDs, several times daily.  The blogosphere thrives precisely because it exists at the interstices of the ivory tower and pop culture.  As a result, it's the most fertile ground for cutting-edge law talk.

To be sure, legal bloggers are still working through their growing pains. Debate rages among them about whether law review articles are relevant anymore, whether blogging counts as real scholarship, whether junior faculty should avoid blogging until they gain tenure, why women tend to eschew legal blogs, what counts as a legal blog, and so on. Opinions are all over the map.  But the conversation is almost always precise, thoughtful, respectful, and responsive: a respite from the screaming and fist-shaking that goes on in the rest of the blogosphere.  And no one is charging a dime for it.

June 1, 2006 at 05:45 PM | Permalink


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