In order to promote the echo chamber effect, and insure lots of folks join us, I want to reiterate Dan Markel's post and remind everyone of the law prof happy hour - hosted by Prawfs, Co-op, and the Faculty Lounge - tomorrow night, January 5, 2012, from 9pm on. It'll be at Lillie's - 2915 Connecticut Ave. - a short walk north of the Marriott Wardman Park. Drexel Law is sponsoring the event (for the first while, at least) in celebration of receiving full ABA accreditation and possibly (if the vote goes well earlier tomorrow evening) membership in the AALS.
Welcome to The National Law Journal's Law School Review, which is an online forum examining the current state and future of legal education. We want to address the question, "Are law schools in crisis?" If the answer is yes, what are the most pressing problems and how should educators and regulators address them? If the answer is no, what is it that law schools are doing right? Is this enough to ensure their future viability? We have assembled a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the subject (see the roll call of contributors on the right), and we hope to create a robust dialogue and exchange of ideas.
The list of contributors includes William Henderson, Brian Tamanaha, Michael Olivas, and others.
That would be a great course! Dr. Michael Eric Dyson offers "Sociology of Hip-Hop — Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z” to Georgetown undergrads. (See the WaPo story here). Seems to me that there would be huge interest in a related course in a law school. For inspiration, peruse HipHopLaw.com for a few minutes. The blogging team there posts regularly about the intersections of hip hop and intellectual property, contracts, and political theory, among other topics.
Paul Caron runs all the numbers to determine which blogs get the most traffic. The Faculty Lounge continues its upward trend, garnering a 34% increase in the number of visitors this year as compared to the prior year. By the way, we're about to hit 3 million page views in the next couple of weeks. It's time to get a new coffeemaker in the Lounge!
Most of us are able to keep abreast of our fields, but it is increasingly hard to know what we should be reading in related areas. It is nearly impossible to situate oneself in other fields that may be of interest but cannot be the major focus of our attention.
A small number of major law journals once served as the gatekeepers of legitimacy and, in so doing, signaled what was important * * * * Great articles [now] appear in relatively obscure places. (And odd things sometimes find their way into major journals.) Plus, legal publishing has been both fragmented and democratized: specialty journals, faculty peer reviewed journals, interdisciplinary journals, all now play important roles in the intellectual ecology. * * * *
Jotwell will help fill that gap. We will not be afraid to be laudatory, nor will we give points for scoring them. Rather, we will challenge ourselves and our colleagues to share their wisdom and be generous with their praise. We will be positive without apology.
I wanted to follow up on the very clever study by David McKenzie and Berk Ozler about blogging impact that I mentioned yesterday. The authors also employ several methods to gauge the impact of blogging on the academic reputation of the blogger and of her institution, and on attitudes of readers. The authors conclude:
Using a variety of data sources and empirical techniques, we feel we have provided quantitative evidence that economic blogs are doing more than just providing a new source of procrastination for writers and readers. To our knowledge, these findings are the first quantitative evidence to show that blogs are having some impacts. There are large impacts on dissemination of research; significant benefits in terms of the bloggers becoming better known and more respected within the profession; positive spillover effects for the bloggers’ institutions; and some evidence from our experiment that they may influence attitudes and knowledge among their readers. Blogs potentially have many impacts, and we are only measuring some of them, but the evidence we have suggests economics blogs are playing an important role in the profession.
Let’s assume for now that these results are generalizable, not only beyond the specific blogs studied, but to blogs in other disciplines, such as . . . oh, I don’t know . . . let’s say law, for example. The question is: if blogging is so great for one’s academic reputation, influence, and institution, why doesn’t everyone blog? Why don’t schools provide incentives for blogging?
Believe it or not, I have already done an informal poll of academics from both law and other disciplines on this question. Okay, it’s not particularly representative, since they’re just friends with whom I have dinner and substantial quantities of wine with some regularity. Usually, the discussion runs something like this:
Me (slurred and excited): Blogging is GREAT! Why doesn’t EVERYONE blog??
They (with eye roll and mumble): Some people are serious and don’t have time for Internet nonsense.
What explains this disconnect between bloggers, nearly all of whom are convinced that their “nonsense” provides substantial professional benefits for themselves, their institutions, and the profession as a whole, and regular academics? There are a few possibilities. Maybe Lounge readers can come up with more.
(1) Bloggers are delusional.
Bloggers convince themselves that their blogging is something more than a self-indulgent waste of time, so that they can continue to do it without feeling guilty. My spouse would certainly opt for this one. But the McKenzie and Ozler study gives me hope that this is not fully the case, though I still suspect that many bloggers – such as, oh I don’t know, me – overestimate the benefits of blogging so as to feel justified in the large amounts of time they dedicate to it.
If David’s numbers reflect the reality, and I believe they do, why do not more economists blog? I believe it is because they can’t, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists. It’s simply a different set of skills.
That one makes sense too. We all know good scholars who are terrible bloggers and great bloggers who are mediocre scholars.
But, wouldn’t Al say that few bloggers have the self-awareness to know whether they’re making themselves look like fools? The “not everyone is good at it” explanation assumes a fair amount of honest self-assessment that many of us seem to lack in other contexts (and might bloggers – who, by definition, assume that everyone must be interested in their random thoughts – be especially prone to such mistakes?)
(3) Blogging needs a CBA.
Perhaps blogging does provide academic benefits, in the form of enhanced reputation, influence, and the like, but there are other more cost-effective methods for generating such benefits. Some people, I am told, actually talk to others with similar subject matter interests face-to-face. Or even by telephone if they don’t live in the same vicinity.
And I guess that still leaves a lot of open questions. Does it matter what type of blogging you do? Some folks blog solely on substance. Others are interested in jokes, academic gossip, job advice, and all sorts of stuff. Does it matter whether you’re on one of the big popular blogs, like Volokh, versus a smaller blog read only by legal academics (or even only by legal academics with a particular subject-matter interest)? And do special benefits accrue only to regular bloggers? Some people guest blog only when they have something particular to say (or are infrequent perma-bloggers). Do frequency and/or longevity matter?
Okay, I’ve wasted enough time on professional reputation enhancement for one day. Presumably all of these supposed benefits from blogging only flow to those also doing real work.
The impact of a Freakonomics blog post about a paper, as measured by abstract views and download statistics from Research Papers in Economics (RePEc):
Nearly as impactful as a Faculty Lounge mention.
The authors build a database of 94 papers linked to on 6 blogs: Aid Watch (before it ended), Chris Blattman, Economix (New York Times), Marginal Revolution, Freakonomics, and Paul Krugman. The results?
Blogging about a paper causes a large increase in the number of abstract views and downloads in the same month . . .
These increases are massive compared to the typical abstract views and downloads these papers get- one blog post in Freakonomics is equivalent to 3 years of abstract views! However, only a minority of readers click through – we estimate 1-2% of readers of the more popular blogs click on the links to view the abstracts . . .
A blogger identifying himself only as “a tenured mid-career faculty member at a Tier One school” has taken his insider’s view of the “law school scam” on-line. Complaints include that law professors are:
The typical professor teaches the same classes year after year. Not only that -- he uses the same materials year after year. I’m not going to bother to count -- this is law school after all, and we don’t do empirical research -- but I bet that more than half the cases I teach in my required first-year course were cases I first read as a 1L 25 years ago. After all I use the same casebook my professor used. I even repeat some of his better jokes (thanks Bill).
Some professors who have taught exactly the same classes for a decade or two do essentially no preparation any more. They are like the most burnt out teachers at your high school, if you went, as I did, to a middling-quality public school. But with this difference: the most burnt-out teachers at your high school still had to stick around at work for seven or eight hours a day. Also, they didn't get paid $200,000 (or even quite a bit more) per year. And needless to say you didn't have pay $50,000 a year for the privilege of being exposed to their talents.
Yes there are so many excuses -- I hear them every day (or would if I ever saw my co-workers in the office in the summer. Oh yes they're "working at home." More on that soon . . .
And more. This Inside Higher Ed piece on the matter is accompanied by a comments section in which lawyers lambast law profs as useless to the legal profession and other academics argue our uselessness to the academe.
Luckily my excessively high salary and “job” of leisure are sufficient to mostly insulate me from feelings of insecurity or self-doubt.
This comes from a friend with whom I had some correspondence last week. In response to my statement that I'm drowning, she said there must be an emoticon for this. If there isn't, there should be one. How about --Y-- (as in person with head and arms above the waves); then when the tsunami of work hits, lo' about three or four weeks from now: WyW (as in person below the waves), or maybe ---.--- (as in person barely visible below the water) or --- (person not visible below the water). Or maybe --°-- (as in a bubble coming up through the water, indicating that there's a person down there somewhere)?
Anyway, --Y-- for the time being. Arms still flailing in the air. So far so good.
Though I see there's also an image you can use of a smiley face who's now drowning , available here. And another creative one is here -- which makes me think that perhaps drowning in work should be:
--\I/-- Still, there's something elegant and simple about --Y--
Thanks to Dan and crew for inviting me to guest blog this month. As Dan mentioned, I have just finished my second year of teaching. I spent my first year at Pace and now am at Buffalo. Because of my move, I think I feel like even more of a newbie than most folks do at the end of their second year. I am also relatively new to the blogging world (as a reader and a participant). Given this background, I was a bit hesitant when Dan asked me to guest blog. I wondered what I would talk about. Bridget Crawford has given excellent advice on blogging on Feminist Law Profs, and I found her words helpful. I was also intrigued by Dan’s description: “the kind of thing people would talk about in a faculty lounge (i.e., anything).”
As open ended as Dan’s description was, it actually gave me a moment’s pause. Frankly, no one talks in our faculty lounge. Although an inviting room with comfy chairs and free coffee, our faculty lounge is mostly a place where people pick up their mail. Now, this is not a Buffalo-only phenomenon. I have spoken to other people at other law schools and in other disciplines who say the same thing. No one hangs out in the faculty longue. At Pace, I was impressed that faculty members (usually including the dean) ate lunch together in the lounge. This is, of course, wonderful for new faculty trying to get to know colleagues. At Buffalo, the junior faculty eat lunch together once a week (though admittedly not in the faculty lounge).
My question for you all is “what, if anything, have we lost?” Would vibrant faculty lounges make for a more collegial work environment (or perhaps they would just be distractions from scholarship)? Are other venues replacing the benefits once provided by the vibrant faculty lounge (faculty colloquia, happy hours, blogs)? I’d be interested in hearing what happens at other schools. What activities do you have that foster collegiality? What things do you do to make the faculty lounge an attractive place?
It's that time of year when new law profs are making book selections, pondering recitation and attendance policies, looking forward (with a range of emotions) to the first day of class in August, etc. We posted some friendly advice for new colleagues last summer. Here's the link. And we've touted a primer on law school teaching, which might be quite useful to recent hires.
One of my new entry-level Campbell colleagues asks this question (I'm paraphrasing): what lawprof listservs are available for the subjects that I'll be teaching?
If you've got suggestions, please drop them in the comments! Thanks!
Over at Prawfs, a commenter sparked quite a conversation about authors that promote their own scholarship in their blog posts. Specifically, AnonProf responded to post by Eric Johnson by writing: "I would appreciate it if Prawfs didn't invite guest commentators who use this blog to pimp their work."
In his own comments to the conversation, Orin Kerr points us to this page for deeper insights about stuff. And there is generally little sympathy for the critical reader's position. I will say this: blogging can be a pleasure, but it is most certainly work. To that degree, it seems to me that an author is entitled to some payback for his or her efforts. Entirely independently, I think that self-promotion is pretty much self-regulating. How many articles can a blogger write each year? (One could, I suppose, promote the back catalog. BTW, feel free to email me if you'd like hard-copy reprints of my work.)
I suspect that people are just excited that a boring old law prof could be accused of pimping anything.
It is my pleasure to introduce my colleague, Sharona Hoffman, who will be guest blogging with us in February. Sharona's work focuses on health law (and most recently electronic health records), employment discrimination, civil procedure, and law and religion. Prior to joining our faculty, she worked at the EEOC in Houston for a number of years. She Co-Directs the Law-Medicine Center at CWRU and served for three years as Senior Associate Dean at the law school. With so much of the news focusing on health care reform these days, I'm sure her posts are going to spark a lot of enthusiastic discussion. Welcome to the Lounge and have fun!