Thursday, March 01, 2007

Alternative Legal Publishing via Blog

Joe Hodnicki at Law Blog Metrics notes:

Race to the Bottom is probably the first effort by law faculty and students to collaborate on a topic in the blogosphere. The topic is corporate governance and the impact SOX has on governance practices. The blog, launched on Feb. 9, 2007, is run by Denver law prof J. Robert Brown and seven of his students. The blog has a companion website, Corporate Governance, which contains primary materials on important matters relating to corporate governance. The blog also contains an excellent selection of pertinent resources.

Race to the Bottom demonstrates how technology can be used by law faculty and students who want to pursue intellectual interests unhindered by law school administrative barriers. This use of web communications for student-faculty collaboration that produces "short form" scholarly analysis and commentary exemplifies the spirit of innovation seen in some of our law schools. One can only hope that more law professors and students follow the example set by Race to the Bottom.

This is pointing very much in the direction of the sort of publishing initiative I called for in Redefining Open Access for the Legal Information Market, 98 Law Libr. J. 619-637 (2006):

¶58 When these niche programs, or brands, develop a critical mass of students, they often generate specialized subject area law journals. Almost every law school now boasts at least one specialized journal in addition to its main journal, and at many schools a handful of specialized journals are supported. Suppose some of these resources—intellectual capital, reputation, and student labor—were to be redirected to publishing legal information for practitioners rather than for legal scholars?

¶59 Law schools, using readily available distribution technologies such as RSS, blogs, wikis, and other collaborative authoring tools, could easily compete with the commercial publishers of many of the legal newsletters and loose-leaf services currently available. One reason for a law school to do this would be to answer the frequently repeated complaint of lawyers and judges that the scholarship published in law journals is of little value to the practicing bar. Law journals once served the function of analyzing and synthesizing developments in the law, as well as commenting on current cases. To the extent that this function is still met by law journals, it is largely relegated to student-authored case comments. Blogs, especially in combination with RSS feeds, make electronic publication and distribution of analysis and commentary quite easy. It has been suggested that legal blogs are already making law journal case comments obsolete. Comments published on blogs are distributed as soon as they are written, without the year-long delay typical of law journals. Certainly such immediate, undigested commentary is of limited value, but it is of some value nonetheless. If journalism is the first draft of history, case comments are the first draft of jurisprudence. [Footnotes omitted.]
In many ways, the appeal of this sort of academic/scholarly/practitioner partnership seems obvious. Will the quality of this particular project prove sufficiently valuable to both the practitioners who would use it, and the students and professors who develop it, to become sustainable? Time and the legal community will tell. The open question is not whether, but when, such alternatives to expensive commercial publications will become widely accepted.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

I suspect that practitioners would cheer most for handy links to relevant primary material through these blogs. They might like the explanatory material, but I think it would take a while for practitioners to feel a level of confidence in that function. That's one reason I keep putting lots of links in blog entries here, though it's far from the sort of legal publishing Jim and Joe are thinking about here. I see a surprising amount of reading by government agencies and law firms. They may be coming for the wit and entertainment value of OOTJ, but suspect they are coming for those links!