Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Legal Workshop

From Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch (and with a tip of the OOTJ hat to my colleague Irene Good!),

Is legal scholarship on its death bed? The current and former editors of several law reviews suggest it is and they believe they have a way to revitalize it. In what they are calling an unprecedented online collaboration, seven of the most influential U.S. law reviews are collaborating to launch The Legal Workshop, an online magazine featuring plain-English articles based on scholarly counterparts published in traditional law journals. Here is how they describe it:

The Legal Workshop features short, plain-English articles about legal issues and ideas, written by an author whose related, full-length work of scholarship is forthcoming in one of the participating law reviews. But The Legal Workshop does not house a collection of abstracts. Instead, it offers an engaging alternative to traditional academic articles that run 30,000 words with footnotes, enabling scholars to present their well-formulated opinions and their research to a wider audience. In addition to making legal ideas understandable, The Legal Workshop seeks to house the best of legal scholarship in one place—making it easier for readers to find the best writing about all areas of law.

The seven participating law reviews are Stanford Law Review, New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review and University of Chicago Law Review.

In announcing their non-profit venture, the editors say that law reviews have been losing influence and readership in recent years. "The problem is that most law reviews make little effort to reach non-academic audiences," said Michael MontaƱo, a Stanford Law Review editor and one of the developers of the new magazine. "And because they still effectively help professors gain tenure -- 'publish or perish' is here to stay -- there is little incentive to innovate. But as a profession we owe it to the public to produce work that is relevant to society as a whole."

The announcement includes praise for the venture from Slate legal columnist Dahlia Lithwick. "It's really the best of both worlds," Lithwick says. "The general public can be better engaged with the latest thinking about the law while knowing that what they’re reading is serious scholarship; not just fad or opinion."
Ambrogi goes on to express skepticism that the site will actually engage the general public, but thinks it may make legal scholarship more palatable to practicing lawyers. To me, it looks like a mash-up of SSRN or the BEPress abstract feeds and traditional law reviews -- linking the online sound-bite come-on with the "read more" link that takes you to the "lite" article with a link to the full article. You get there with baby steps. Probably a good way to do it.

The "baby steps" image is from, and the caption explains it is a photo of a toddler climbing steep steps to his home in Amman, Jordan, and reminds readers of the displaced Iraqi children living there, many malnourished, waiting to return to Iraq.

1 comment:

Terry said...

I agree with Ambrogi. As "editorials, these are way too long. As "essays" they are about right.