Jordan’s Provocation

We encourage you to take a look at our friend Jordan Furlong’s provocation to his legal publishing colleagues:

Time out. Stop doing what we’ve always been doing. Put aside the deadlines and schedules for a moment. Put down the pen, those of us still using one. Push back from the keyboard, take a deep breath, and close our eyes. Make a mental list of all of our longstanding assumptions about this industry — what we produce, how we sell it, who buys it. Now, throw all these assumptions out, because it’s just about time for us to reinvent this wheel.

Jordan’s three premises should resonate with Slaw readers too.

1. Lawyers’ knowledge demands are changing. Databases and collections of cases are very close to being a full-scale commodity.

2. Lawyers aren’t the dominant market anymore.

3. Blogs point the way to a micro-publishing future.

It’ll be interesting to see who rises to the provocation.


  1. I hope that the publishers pay attention to this message. Librarians are already looking at CanLII, e-laws and the blogosphere. We’re finding quality for free- how will the publishing industry respond?

  2. I’m at my second firm in a row now that doesn’t subscribe to Quicklaw. Between CanLII and the CBA National Section listserve, 95% of their questions get answered.

  3. The world foreseen here is one of the worlds which I have feared for some time. As lawyers’ ability to get access to raw cases increases, the need for thoughtful analyses of the cases also increases. While I admit that blogs and other evanescent forms of publishing provide some instant analysis, by their very nature they are not a substitute for sustained and careful analysis of an area of the law. Those analyses come only from articles and texts.

    The problem we face is how to encourage the writing and publication of those particular forms of legal scholarship. I agree that the advent of the Internet and the major changes it has facilitated force publishers and both the purveyors and consumers of what the publishers produce to re-think how they do what they did before we had the Internet. It would, in my opinion, be little short of a disaster if traditional forms of legal scholarship were to disappear.

  4. Obviously I can’t speak about practitioner-written texts, but I do know that legal scholarship from the academy continues unabated. Law schools are adding online scholarship, or “scholarship lite,” features to the mix, but these are additions and haven’t even dented the flow of journal publications. In fact, I suspect that the number of peer-reviewed journals has grown considerably as a result of the ease of publication on the internet.

  5. Just to play devil’s advocate (pun intended!): why would carefully considered analysis that happens to be broken down and published sequentially in a blog format (rather than initially in a book format) not constitute “sustained and careful analysis of an area of law”? What characteristics of the blog format do not make blogs conducive to analysis?

  6. /second Connie Crosby’s devilish advocacy. There is clearly value in publishing carefully-constructed arguments and analyses, but analysis is not a singular event, and sometimes it is very helpful to get at the possibly faulty assumptions or questionable calculus that (in the case of “finished product” publishing) can end up obscurely set into the foundations, and therefore much harder to unpack.