Law professors are mindful of where their scholarship lands, particularly when it’s in a court decision. Douglas A. Berman, who focuses on criminal sentencing law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, is no exception. He considers citation counts the “currency of a law professor’s work.”
While Berman has penned more than 50 law review articles and commentaries, he estimates that only about a half-dozen of those traditional forms of published scholarship have been cited in judicial opinions.
His popular Sentencing Law & Policy Blog, on the other hand, has been cited in more than a dozen cases, including a dissenting opinion in a 2005 landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Booker).
“My blog is my most-cited work, by far. Certainly, it is more widely read than any of my scholarship,” said Berman, who has been blogging about advancements in federal sentencing since 2004. “It’s all part of the power of the blog.”
Berman is among a growing number of law professors, law students, lawyers, and even judges who have gravitated to the world of blogs, the interactive online medium that allows people worldwide to publish their ideas, and others to comment on them — all with an ease and immediacy that many legal professionals have come to embrace.
“Blogs help make the legal world move a lot faster. Within a matter of minutes, I can take a new legal development, make it available to the world, and comment on it quickly,” Berman said. “It’s kind of a self-controlled punditry.” Blogging in droves Law-related blogs, also known as “blawgs,” made their debut around 2000.
Denise Howell, a Southern California appellate and intellectual property lawyer who is credited with having coined the phrase “blawg,” said she has seen first-hand how the phenomenon has taken off since she started her Bag and Baggage blog in 2001.
“It was so fun to watch the exponential growth. I started to stay on top of every new legal blog I could possibly find and I would mention it on my site,” Howell said. “The weekly posts would’ve had to turn into daily posts, and several-times daily posts. Lawyers started blogging in droves.”
While estimates vary, Howell speculates that there are now several thousand blogs maintained by legal professionals and law students worldwide.
Technorati, a search engine that tracks blogging activity in general, in July estimated the number of blogs of all kinds at 47.1 million.
The Web site Blawg.org, which categorizes and announces new law-related blogs, in July listed 1,304 blog links in its database.
The content and personalities of law-related blogs run the gamut, from serious analysis of Supreme Court opinions by renowned legal scholars, to the musings of law students preparing for the bar exam.
Ian Best, a recent graduate of Moritz School of Law, is touted as being the first law student in the country to receive academic credit for maintaining his own blog, 3L Epiphany, an ongoing project that has culminated with a taxonomy of hundreds of American and Canadian legal blogs.
Best said he set out to study the growing phenomenon of legal blogs by blogging on the topic after working as a research assistant for Berman.
“I observed that his blog had a readership of judges and lawyers, and the non-lawyer public,” Best said. “Blogs are a way where professors can reach beyond their academic enclave.”