In October 2013, Adam Liptak—The New York Times’ Supreme Court correspondent—dismissed law reviews as repositories of irrelevant and un(der)-read legal scholarship that merely bolster the curriculum vitae of published authors and, presumably, the student editors.
Disagreement with Liptak’s bold assertion ran the gamut from the observation that students run law reviews for lack of an alternative to the rebuke that Liptak’s criticism overreached to taint law reviews with less problematic publication structures. Others focused on Liptak’s brief praise for legal blogging; Kevin O’Keefe celebrated the article for heralding law blogs as better sources of “valuable legal insight” than law reviews.
My interest in this debate centers on this relationship—or competition—between the law blog and the law review article. O’Keefe’s contrast of the two forms of legal writing insinuates that the sprightly law blog has laid the static law review article to rest. Certainly legal blogging takes a competitive advantage. Law blogs offer numerous permutations of audience, writing style, and subject matter. This high degree of customization enables legal bloggers to respond quickly and creatively to criticisms levelled at the law review and other forms of legal writing.
Karolina Fit identifies two problems troubling current legal scholarship:
- an overload of information given our immediate access to a plethora of online and print sources; and
- a heavy reliance on lengthy forms of writing despite the appropriateness of something shorter.
Fit presents legal blogging—“online legal short form”—as a solution to these challenges. The use of legal blogging in an academic sphere raises questions of legitimacy. Fit, however, suggests that posting under a full name risks the author’s professional reputation and therefore promotes quality content. This quality and the associated legitimacy will be enhanced by increasing acceptance of legal blogs as credible sources of legal commentary.
This suggestion returns us to my interest in the relationship between the law blog and the law review article. If, as Fit posits, the law blog can grow in response to the criticisms of the law review, what constitutes the relationship between the two mediums? Can both the law blog and the law review co-exist as valid sites of legal commentary, or will the ever-adapting law blog supplant the slowly-changing law review?
In Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin theorize that new virtual media derive their cultural import through a remediation of older media (remediation, in this sense, connotes a refashioning of the older medium into the new medium.) The relationship between the two forms of legal writing, therefore, may be that the law blog remediates the law review article by transforming criticisms of the older medium into the newer, more responsive medium. The act of remediation allows traces of the law review article to subsidize the law blog’s credibility; what the reader recognizes from the older medium lends credence to the new medium.
This understanding, however, proposes a limited family history for the law blog. Earlier this week, O’Keefe cautioned the legal profession to remember that the roots of blogging lie in the art of digital conversation. This caution hints at a loss if we accept a scholarly-oriented law blog as simply a response to the law review article. While the law blog may build on—or, perhaps, remediate—aspects of the law review article, legal blogging also emerges out of a tradition of conversation.
Dialogue, accordingly, may present a better lens to view the relationship between the law blog and the law review article. Both forms of legal writing have contributions to make, and lessons to learn, in the ensuing communication.