Law Faculty Blogs and Disruptive Innovation: Blog Posts and Introduction of Intermediation on the Blogosphere

Faculty law blogs represent an almost classic case of disruptive innovation.  Disruptive innovation usually connotes the introduction of a new technology that eventually destabilizes an existing market.  Often, the technology, when introduced, is inferior and not perceived as a threat.  Over time, however, the technology improves and migrates from a market niche and becomes the reigning standard.

In legal education, faculty law blogs arose in a state of nature and were often perceived as inferior technology used by faculty to convey random, often personal, views.  Early criticism was that blogging allowed second rate scholars to elucidate second rate opinions to a mass audience.  The criticism was always overbroad.  The fact that there was second rate analysis ignored the fact that there was also first rate analysis.  Moreover, other forms of scholarship, whether law review articles or papers posted on SSRN, suffered from similar problems.

Nonetheless, the criticism did reflect one unquestionable reality.  Blogging by law faculty began in an undifferentiated state.  There was no structural method of separating the good from bad.  Anyone could start a blog and post.  The blogosphere lacked a system of content intermediation, a function provided by students on law reviews.    

That, however, has changed.  A class of widely recognized and often cited law faculty blogs has emerged.  They are regularly cited in court opinions and law review articles. At least nine have been cited by courts more than once (with one having been cited 45 times).  There are 18 faculty law blogs that have been cited by legal periodicals more than 100 times.  The full data is here.

These blogs have an incentive to maintain their reputation by ensuring quality.  Blogs in Empires (Law Prof Blog and Jurisdynamics) and Captives (those supported by a law school), quality can be promoted through uniform standards imposed as a condition of participation. 

With respect to Independent Blogs (those neither supported by a specific law school or part of an Empire), posts are mostly derived from a group of regular, although often shifting, commentators.  The members of the group have an incentive to ensure that their reputation is not harmed by substandard posts.   This can be most readily accomplished by avoiding contributions from faculty who do not meet minimum standards of quality.  Indeed, blogs often provide contributors with the right to post as a guest, giving permanent members an opportunity to assess quality. 

All of this suggests that law faculty blogs are no longer undifferentiated or devoid of intermediation.  While anyone can start a blog and post, not all law faculty can access the most widely recognized and cited law faculty blogs.  Moreover, content has evolved.  The most widely read for the most part eschew personal information in favor of substantive legal analysis, typically in a specific area of law. 

The full paper, Essay:  Law Faculty Blogs and Disruptive Innovation is here; the underlying data is posted here.

J Robert Brown Jr.