Jotwell is an online law journal titled Jotwell (The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) which is the brainchild of Professor A. Michael Froomkin. Its aim is to help lawyers and legal academics figure out what to read, not only in their own area of specialization, but also outside it.
Jotwell will “identify, celebrate and discuss” the best new legal scholarship in a variety of fields, as selected by a distinguished board of legal editors. It is a rare attempt by legal scholars to praise—rather than criticize—others’ work. “We will not be afraid to be laudatory,” declares the Jotwell Mission Statement.
Because the site is licensed under Creative Commons, I hope it won’t mind if I stretch the limits of fair use / fair dealing to give you a flavour of what the enterprise is about.
As the website itself says:
Welcome to Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots). Here you will find leading academics and practitioners providing short reviews of recent scholarship related to the law that the reviewer likes and thinks deserves a wide audience.
Jotwell is a special type of law review housed on a set of inter-linked blogs. As a law review, Jotwell has only one mission: to bring to readers’ attention great recent scholarship related to the law. As a blog we invite your comments, and hope that some of our reviews will spark a conversation.
On the Jotwell main page you should expect new content once or twice a week, although as we add more sections contributions may become more frequent. Each of the subject-specific sections will have something new at least once a month. In any case, every time a new review appears in any of the subject-specific sections, an excerpt with a link to the full text will also appear here on our front page at http://jotwell.com.
We have an amazing team of superb contributors, whose names are listed in the sections:
- Administrative Law
- Constitutional Law
- Corporate Law
- Criminal Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- Legal Profession
- Tax Law
On the Jotwell main page you should
expect new content once or twice a week, although as we add more
The Editors of each section have chosen a team of “Contributing Editors” who are known as leaders in their fields. Each of these editors will write at least one essay of 500-1000 words per year in which they identify and explain the significance of one or more significant recent works.
Current section editors include: ” Administrative Law (A. Michael Froomkin, Paul Verkuil) ” Constitutional Law (Patrick Gudridge) ” Corporate Law (Caroline Bradley, William Wilson Bratton) ” Criminal Law (Donna Coker, Jonathan Simon) ” Cyberlaw (A. Michael Froomkin, James Grimmelmann) ” Intellectual Property (Pam Samuelson, Christopher Sprigman) ” Legal Profession (John Flood, Tanina Rostain) ” Tax Law (Allison Christians, George Mundstock) .”
The Mission Statement is a refreshing break from traditional law school approaches:
The Journal of Things We Like (Lots)–JOTWELL–invites you to join us in filling a telling gap in legal scholarship by creating a space where legal academics will go to identify, celebrate, and discuss the best new legal scholarship. Currently there are about 350 law reviews in North America, not to mention relevant journals in related disciplines, foreign publications, and new online pre-print services such as SSRN and BePress. Never in legal publishing have so many written so much, and never has it been harder to figure out what to read, both inside and especially outside one’s own specialization. Perhaps if legal academics were more given to writing (and valuing) review essays, this problem would be less serious. But that is not, in the main, our style.
We in the legal academy value originality. We celebrate the new. And, whether we admit it or not, we also value incisiveness. An essay deconstructing, distinguishing, or even dismembering another’s theory is much more likely to be published, not to mention valued, than one which focuses mainly on praising the work of others. Books may be reviewed, but articles are responded to; and any writer of a response understands that his job is to do more than simply agree.
Most of us are able to keep abreast of our fields, but it is increasingly hard to know what we should be reading in related areas. It is nearly impossible to situate oneself in other fields that may be of interest but cannot be the major focus of our attention.
A small number of major law journals once served as the gatekeepers of legitimacy and, in so doing, signaled what was important. To be published in Harvard or Yale or other comparable journals was to enjoy an imprimatur that commanded attention; to read, or at least scan, those journals was due diligence that one was keeping up with developments in legal thinking and theory. The elite journals still have importance – something in Harvard is likely to get it and its author noticed. However, a focus on those few most-cited journals alone was never enough, and it certainly is not adequate today. Great articles appear in relatively obscure places. (And odd things sometimes find their way into major journals.) Plus, legal publishing has been both fragmented and democratized: specialty journals, faculty peer reviewed journals, interdisciplinary journals, all now play important roles in the intellectual ecology.
The Michigan Law Review publishes a useful annual review of new law books, but there’s nothing comparable for legal articles, some of which are almost as long as books (or are future books). Today, new intermediaries, notably subject-oriented legal blogs, provide useful if sometimes erratic notices and observations regarding the very latest scholarship. But there’s still a gap: other than asking the right person, there’s no easy and obvious way to find out what’s new, important, and interesting in most areas of the law.
Jotwell will help fill that gap. We will not be afraid to be laudatory, nor will we give points for scoring them. Rather, we will challenge ourselves and our colleagues to share their wisdom and be generous with their praise. We will be positive without apology.
There are three ways to read Jotwell.
- You can visit this page, the main Jotwell site, which aggregates all the sections; or you can sample just the sections you like, choosing from the list in the right column.
- If you use a newsreader, you can sign up for the RSS feed for the main Jotwell section, or select among the feeds for the subject sections by choosing the link to the RSS feed found in each section.
- Or, if you prefer to get your updates by e-mail, you can click here to request a message every time we have new article, or click on the email link found in every subject section for a more tailored, and less frequent, reminder.
Please send your comments and suggestions, and do feel free to comment on the articles as well. We hope you will make Jotwell part of your regular reading and that you will find things you like (lots).