State Bar Convention Session Generates Discussion on Blogs as Legal Scholarship

Last week I had the honor of presenting at the State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Convention here in Madison. I spoke at a Litigation Section program entitled “This Blog’s for You” along with Mark Herrmann of Drug & Device Law and Anne Reed of Deliberations.
In my part of the presentation, I discussed blogs generally – what are blogs, how are they being used by legal professionals, how do you find legal blogs, and how do you read them. I developed this quick handout which is available at Scribd.
Anne Reed offered some insights on why litigators, especially, should be aware of blogs. She stressed that because juries are blogging, it’s important for lawyers to understand blogs. Mark Herrmann spoke on the whys and hows of writing a blog as a legal professional.
One thing that was mentioned by all three of us was the relationship between blogs and law reviews. Jack Zemlicka has expanded on that in a recent Wisconsin Law Journal article. Here are some highlights from the article:

Attorney Anne W. Reed suggests that attorneys today are interested in obtaining relevant information in minutes, rather than weeks, and reputable legal bloggers provide that service…
It can take months to get an article published in a law review, but mere minutes for a blog post to go up on a Web site.
“Because blogs are so freely available, information can flow around the blogosphere very quickly, allowing lots of people to add to the conversation,” Shucha said in an interview.
“Law reviews, on the other hand, are print-based and expensive — two detriments to the easy flow of information.”…
“The idea that I can put something about a recent case in a law review and have people read it 8 to 10 months from now? Those days are gone,” said Herrmann during the panel discussion.

The article also offers the perspective from Eric J. Weiss, editor-in-chief of Wisconsin Law Review, who believes that law reviews still have plenty to offer.

During an interview, he conceded that blogs can instantly offer brief insights into current legal issues, but readers still seek out law reviews for fleshed-out perspectives, and that will never change.
“Blogs are short and quick,” said Weiss. “They can present analysis during oral argument, but they are not thoroughly researched like law review submissions.”…

He also picked up on something I said in defense of law reviews:

One potential pitfall of legal blogs is the credibility of the writer, something which is generally not an issue with law reviews.
“Unlike a law review article where the reader can be fairly certain that the author is knowledgeable and the information is accurate, blogs have no such assumption of authority,” said Shucha.

The article concludes with some wise words by Weiss:

Regardless of an attorney’s motivation for reading a blog rather than a law review, Weiss said the two information outlets can be more collaborative than competitive.
“Even though they may be serving different purposes, at the end of day, both expose more readers to more legal info,” said Weiss, who added that the law review may integrate components of a blog in the future.