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January 22, 2015

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Anon Anon

I pay way too much for my subscription to the Faculty Lounge to not get exactly the content I want.

Michael Risch

Anon, I know I'm only a guest, but I hereby give you a 50% discount.

anon

Michael:

You’ve addressed the critical comment, but appear to have missed the major point: the “me me me" nature of the first post. Ok, fair enough. I have no real objection to this.

But you suggested that "[S]ome of my own experiences ... may be interesting or useful to others deciding whether to spend time doing it." Was the post an interesting and useful discussion about blogging? As you say, some may have thought so. It certainly didn't provoke any discussion of note.

I comment here only because you have addressed this question directly, and because there seems to me a bigger point here.

Legal academia, in general, has seemed more and more willing to believe that it engages in "knowledge generation" when it engages in self-congratulation and self-indulgence. Look at the outpouring of Twitter addresses here in the FL! So telling. You refer to Stephen Colbert as a member of some sort of reference group.

Moving beyond your post, Michael, we may be seeing, in real time, what is becoming increasingly important to legal academicians. As the public in large measure turns away in droves from failing law schools (lowest level since 1973?), the group that is leading these institutions, in general, appears to be turning inward even more, ever more interested in stoking their egos and pretending to be "rock stars" (i.e., celebrities).

The pull quote you use above doesn’t speak to the type of blogging in which you engaged, and appear to defend. In fact, the pull quote to which you referred had nothing to do with the “me me me” nature of your original post. It had to do the SCHOLARLY ENTERPRISE. That pull quote noted that most of what law professors produce is ignored. Blogs might become a means to air scholarly ideas with a goal of improvement on the merits, but that isn’t what you are defending here. You seem to be into the recognition and star part more (i.e., interest in every aspect of the celebrity life).

Legal academia is defending its divorce from practice on the basis of its scholarship. How telling then are your posts!

Of course, the answer "don't read it if you don’t like it" is always a fair (and easy) point. And of course, there is room for entertaining diversions. And, there is always Facebook to let us know about what is really important!

Michael Risch

Anon: You make good points. Indeed, I plan to write about social media, which can be much more self-promotional (if used that way).

I suppose I thought I was addressing the me, me, me aspect of the last post and in general not by defending it, but by saying that self-promotion as a matter of style may not be a big deal if the content is good. I thought my last post was interesting and useful to some, but also not earthshaking. I don't think that would have changed if I wrote it in a different, more neutral style. But if I meant to defend a "look at me" style wholeheartedly, I would not have taken the prior criticizing comment so seriously -- but I do.

That said, it is unclear to me that I've somehow missed a bigger point that most legal blogging is of a "look at me" rock star quality because I don't think it's true. I read an awful lot of blog posts in a day (too many, really), and most of them are earnest attempts to discuss real issues in the world or in academia.

My experience is that professors who are attempting to be rockstars are attempting to do so in part for ego, but in part because they have a genuine desire to make the world a better place and think that their influence (by being a rockstar) may help achieve that. Maybe that's just Pollyanna of me. I agree with you that best practices probably dictate service over self-aggrandizement. But I can't say that a particular form of writing gets you there more than another one, and I surely can't say that the majority of bloggers fall into the latter category.

anon

Michael

Fair enough, but I don't think my point was that "most legal blogging is of a "look at me" rock star quality." My sense is, however, that the self referential, self aggrandizing blog activity (tweeting, Facebook, etc.) is sort of trending up. As I said, look at the outpouring of Twitter addresses here in the FL.

Honestly, how does the "scholarly enterprise" benefit from all these law profs posting tweets? Or, are they seeking attention? (Some would say, "seeking attention to the detriment of the reality that they are almost all obscure professionals, not celebrities, and missing the point that they are not doing their jobs when they spend so much time seeking attention.")

You say: "My experience is that professors who are attempting to be rockstars are attempting to do so in part for ego, but in part because they have a genuine desire to make the world a better place."

Michael, please. I can almost here "We are the world ..." playing ... Here, for the sake of sanity, can we sort of abandon that sort of spin?

NO professors are "rock stars." Not one single one. YOu might name a few names you thing are "famous" but, no, sorry, not so.

The public has no idea who is who in legal academia, and, even more so, doesn't care to know. And, IMHO, seeking such "status" among the insular law academy defeats the notion that the goal is "to better the world."

The attribution of "altruism" to the efforts by law profs to attain that imaginary goal - by tweeting and posting on Facebook and writing self referential, fluffy self-aggrandizing blog posts - is sort of sad and very detrimental to restoring some semblance of respect for legal academia.

The endless rankings, and faux "stardom," and ridiculously miniature identities claiming supreme status is creating a terrible environment to change legal academia and focus on what is so important. What is important is restoring the true identity of law schools as institutions created and devoted to serving the legal system in our society: i.e., truly "making the world a better place" not by counting hits, or tweet followers, or by ever more obscure and irrelevant scholarly pursuits, but by concentrating on the practice of law and our legal system.

By engaging in the frivolous activities we are debating, in a vain pursuit of "stardom" instead of the "scholarly enterprise," there is a growing number of law profs who are undermining the main justification for their stunning lack of connection to the world of law.

This divorce, is typically defended on the basis that "we are intellectuals engaged in "knowledge generation" to advance the "scholarly enterprise." This claim is made risible by such activities. If law profs give up their ONLY claim to justify their privileged and insulated positions, then there truly will be no way to salvage the "enterprise" and all but those on the highest peaks (with hundreds of years of endowments and reputation behind them) will survive.

Anyway, at least now we are debating the purpose and role of "legal blogging" ... ?

Michael Risch

I hear you, and I agree about the upward trend.

That said, I wonder whether we read the same blogs. Probably so, but we obviously are getting very different takeaways. I agree with you that law professors are not rockstars, but I don't think legal blogging is as insular (or self-referential) as you think.

As I noted, I'll blog separately about social media. But here I'll note that I tweet about a) my blog posts (that's self-promotion) and b) recent legal decisions, many of which are in lower courts that don't make the newspapers (that's service). I suspect a similar mix is true for many twitter users. I could be wrong - I may wind up agreeing with you that twitter on the whole is pretty useless.

As for blog posts, Volokh Conspiracy and Doug Berman's sentencing posts have been cited in many court opinions, as have posts on many other legal blogs. Other posts have been cited in legal scholarship. I know of at least one of my posts that made the rounds on capitol hill. I do (admittedly self-scholarly-promotional) posts at Patently-O because thousands of patent lawyers and even a few judges read that blog every day.

Sure, there are plenty of "rankings" and navel gazing type posts and they may even be upward trending, but they are still the slim minority of law blog posts out there, even if we are commenting at "The Faculty Lounge" - a blog founded on discussing the types of things faculty might discuss at the water cooler.

anon

Michael

We've reached agreement on some points. The blogs that you mention are worthy "legal blogging" precisely because they are devoted to the practice of law and improving our legal system. I hope I have made clear I do not object or oppose such efforts. Indeed, I support these efforts.

Perhaps we might also agree about tweeting. Let's ask: can someone identify a tweet by a law prof that "made the world a better place." If we can agree that this conclusion would be rare indeed, then let's also stipulate that the outpouring of twitter addresses here in the FL was not based on the desire of these profs "to make the world a better place."

Someone might ask: Don't you have anything better to do?

Michael Risch

I'll save discussion of that for my social media post...

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