Law Faculty Blogs and Disruptive Innovation: Law Reviews Fight Back (The Fading Promise of Online Companions)

Part of the evidence of the influence of faculty law blogs comes from the response of law reviews.  They have sought to address the concerns with timliness and relevancy by developing online companions. 

The contents of online law reviews range from full length articles to op ed pieces and blog style commentary.  Most online supplements seek “intermediate” scholarship that discusses current issues or responds to articles in the hard copy journal.  The pieces are expected to be “lightly footnoted” and shorter than traditional articles. Some specifically seek “op ed” or blog length pieces written in a “highly readable style.”  

Online companions have a number of advantages.  They are published more quickly than traditional reviews and offer some intermediation, including cite checking and editing by students, albeit at a reduced level.  Online publication can also benefit from the “good name” of the law school and the inclusion in legal data bases. 

They have not, however, succeeded in stemming the influence of faculty law blogs.  With respect to shorter, op ed or blog style pieces, the advantages of online companions in comparison to widely cited faculty law blogs is unclear.  The “good name” of the law school has some value, but for online publications, the value is subject to a significant discount.  Moreover, the value of the “good name” arises at least in part from the rigorous selection, editing and cite checking process that precedes publication.  For shorter, op ed and blog like pieces, these services will be less important.  

Moreover, the online companions have struggled to find sufficient current and topical issues.  Many online companions have largely abandoned this approach and mostly published responses to hard copy articles.  These are less time sensitive and often can be arranged with the assistance of the author of the hard copy piece.  In addition, attracting and publishing intermediate scholarship on a regular basis will tax the resources of many law reviews.   

For all of these reasons, online companions have not succeeded in replacing faculty law blogs as a source of timely scholarship on current developments. 

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

J Robert Brown Jr.