Kim Krawiec at The Faculty Lounge asks "Why doesn't everyone blog?" The post focused on research conducted by folks at the World Bank on the impact of economic blogs. The study concluded first that blogging leads to an increase in the downloads of academic papers. Their conclusion: " Blogging about a paper causes a large increase in the number of abstract views and downloads in the same month". What about law papers? Blogging about a paper increases the number of downloads. See Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings, p. 20.
The World Bank then asks whether blogging improves faculty reputation. Again, the answer is yes. As the World Bank study notes: "This evidence is thus consistent with the view that blogging helps build prestige and recognition in the profession, with bloggers being more likely to be admired or respected than other academics of similar (or in many cases better) publication records." Finally, does blogging affect institutional reputation? The study indicated that there are "positive spillover effects for the bloggers’ institutions".
These advantages extend beyond economics and apply with equal authority to law blogs. I chronicled much of this influence several years ago when I examined the growing influence of law blog. See Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings. The data in the paper examined such sources of inluence as the number of law review citations for blog posts and the number of court citations. Conclurring Opinions put up a post back in 2010 that took a fresh look at law review and court citations for blogs from 2006 to 2010 (although it missed the court citation for this blog) and found, for example, that such sites as FindLaw (618 cites) and The Volokh Conspiracy (402 cites). The numbers have only continued to increase. The Race to the Bottom has a far more humble number of citations, somewhere around 30.
As for influence on policy makers, the benefits of blogging are difficult to prove. Nonetheless, the dynamics of decision making suggest that in fact they are influential. Law reviews as a source of influence remain important but if an area is dynamic and undergoing rapid evolution, they will often be too slow to influence the outcome. Decision makers, therefore, can benefit from quicker but in depth analysis. Blogs often provide that service. Moreover, in the realm of legal influence, it is in fact the case that clerks working for judges, including the Supreme Court, read blogs, something litigators already know and use as a mechanism for "back-door, post-argument supplemental briefing."
Moreover, the reality is that the mechanisms for identifying experts among law faculty have changed. While policy makers can still rely on law school rankings and notoriety from law review articles placed in top journals, the Internet has provided additional mechanisms for identifying those with the requisite expertise or who have written useful papers. Google searches are one mechanism. SSRN downloads are another. Both are influenced by blogging.
Given these advantages, Kim Krawiec rightfully asks why more faculty do not blog. There are any number of reasons. The work load is one. The lack of credit at law schools (despite the considerable potential for increased institutional notoriety) is another. There is often some hesitancy about operating on the Internet which is still very much a Hobbesian state of nature, with both high and low quality side by side. Comments can also provoke unsavory responses, sometimes requiring a thick skin. But in fact one would assume that with the benefits, blogging would increase. In fact, the data suggests otherwise.
Individual law blogs continue to disappear. Larry Ribstein stopped writing for Ideablog after six years (his last post was in 2010) and moved to Truth on the Market. Law faculty blogs were the rage for awhile but are on the whole suffering from neglect. For purposes of law school notoriety, few institutions seem to get behind blogging. The most obvious evidence is the lack of blogs that carry a URL from a law school. The Harvard Blog on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation is one exception but also operates on a different model than most blogs.
One can generally conclude, therefore, that as a matter of opportunity cost, law blogging for most has not overcome the benefits of all other alternatives. Some of this is the lack of institutional recognition for the activity. Some, however, arises from the failure to appreciate the benefits that come from blogging and the impact of the Internet on influence. Finally, even for those aware of the benefits, not everyone wants to actively participate in legal reform or otherwise develop/enhance a nationwide reputation.