[A]ccording to Daniel Solove of the George Washington University Law School, professors shoulder much of the blame for the plodding prose of many law review articles. "We academics," he recently blogged, "like to dress up our ideas to make them sound more elaborate, complex, and obtuse." When it comes to article length, tenure committees often don't help matters, says a junior professor at a law school in California. "It's a self-perpetuating process," he explains. "Senior faculty had to produce massive articles in their own bids for tenure, so now we're expected to do the same thing."Yeah, I wrote a law review article saying this -- "Who's to Blame for Law Reviews?" That was over 10 years ago. I really thought we could switch over to a livelier essay form, but somehow that didn't happen. The damned things just got more bloated. Law reviews let lawprofs get away with writing what are (essentially) unpublishable books. Law reviews are our own vast vanity press!
The focus of much current scholarship -- theoretical work with no real application for judges, practitioners, or policymakers -- has reduced the audience for it outside the legal academy.Even in the academy, lawprofs rarely read these things, unless they're trying to help out a colleague. And even then, I think they skim.
But I think blogging is a powerful force that can change things, certainly more that my old, heartfelt essay. We blogging lawprofs have a demonstrable readership, and we interact with each other and with the mainstream press about legal issues. This is all in plain view. That has to provide some motivation to the lawrevs to adapt.
Twenty years ago, little outside of the occasional book or magazine article deflected attention from law reviews. Today, legal blogs are siphoning away the attention of law professors and lawyers on issues of the day. Blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy, Opinio Juris, and SCOTUSBlog attract tens of thousands of readers and feature informed discussion on everything from constitutional theory to law-related television shows. Blogs now occupy so many professors, in fact, that at the American Association of Law Schools annual conference, a panel was held to debate the influence of blogs in the legal academic community.Oh my! Imagine something so important that there was a panel on it at the AALS meeting! The mind boggles!