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« Part Two: Connecting Laypeople with the Law Through Blogs | Main

Legal Scholarship in the Internet Age: An Introduction

This post begins a five-part series examining legal scholarship in the electronic world.  Parts II-V will appear during the next two weeks.

This series marks the formal launching of the Denver University Law Review’s online supplement, DULR Online. The DU Law Review is not the first to test the utility of an online counterpart to a law journal; several other journals have already established online forums.  Despite this growing trend, many questions about the role of electronic resources in legal scholarship remain unanswered.

This series aims to expand upon a few of the issues surrounding online legal scholarship. Dave Kopel begins the discussion by examining how online resources enable the direct and relatively unfiltered dissemination of ideas to students, scholars, and laypeople.  Mr. Kopel compares this to the use and later abandonment of “law French” during the thirteenth century.

Professor Sam Kamin follows with a discussion of how blogs and online supplements can aid in the development of “traditional” legal scholarship.  Professor Kamin discusses two useful ways in which blogs and the like can aid in a traditional law journal article: first, by serving as a preliminary research tool, and second, by vetting poor and preempted ideas early in the writing stage.

Professor Alan Chen then discusses the uncertain role blogs and online supplements play in academic retention and recruitment decisions.  Professor Chen, who serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, argues academic institutions should judge scholarship less by the forum in which it appears and more by the quality of thought and presentation.

Finally, third year law student Joe Aguilar notes the vastly under-explored benefits that blogs and supplements can provide to law students.  Mr. Aguilar serves as Editor in Chief of The Race to the Bottom, the first student–faculty collaborative law blog.  Mr. Aguilar argues that blogs afford an underutilized opportunity for student editors to hone research and writing skills—much like traditional law journals.  Mr. Aguilar concludes by suggesting more law schools should develop collaborative faculty–student blogs to capitalize on this cost-effective resource.

On this occasion it is worth recognizing the uncertain role that blogs and online supplements might play in scholarship’s evolutionary timeline.  In an essay written for a symposium on the topic, prolific scholar and blogger Orin Kerr noted that commentators (and commenters) should not blindly exalt blogs as the end solution to all that ails legal scholarship.  Professor Kerr appropriately reminds his audience that “technology is a moving target,” and warned not to forget the rise and fall of the last “transformative technology” widely predicted to revolutionize legal dialogue—the listserv.

Of course, Professor Kerr is right to suggest that a yet-undiscovered medium (or media) might someday supplant blogs and online supplements, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss non-traditional means of disseminating ideas as impermanent.  If anything, Professor Kerr’s example undermines the importance of electronic scholarship: the listserv, after all, was an early attempt to rapidly disseminate ideas to a targeted audience while encouraging dialogue.  Technology seems particularly apt at achieving these aims, and blogs appear, at the very least, to be an important step in that direction.

So while blogs too might someday be relegated to a dusty shelf in history’s attic (joining the wagon wheel, the typewriter, and the suitcase-sized cell phone), it is fair to assume that whatever new medium takes hold will likely only improve the mousetrap.  Technology, while transient, tends to ratchet; as legal scholarship increasingly takes place online, it’s hard to imagine it coming back off.


References (4)

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