24 Dec 2007

Legal blogs versus legal scholarship: The ongoing debate

Just came across an interesting article on Lawyers Weekly which mulls over the possibility of looking upon legal blogs as legal scholarship. [click here for the full article] This article raise important issues relating to authenticity, substance, merit and contribution to the illuminated legal knowledge vis-a-vis blogs carrying law-related content. It evensjuxtaposes law blogs to legal articles in peer-reviewed law journals and ponders over the thought if law blogs are the new era of legal scholarship. But then the article ends without a conclusion. Having started a law blog myself, I seem inclined to pen my thoughts on the issue.

To start with, I find the comparison meaningless. Having be a vivid contributor on both sides of the legal scholarship as this article suggests, I can surely say that there is no vital nexus between the two. While legal article are meant to anlayze or criticize the advancement of law in terms of legislations or judicial decision-making, legal blogs serve a totally different purpose; they put the views of the author, definitely not as deeply researched as a legal article would require, across the legal or non-legal community for no specific reason of its own.

While a legal article requires avid research and cross-citation of other views, opinions and like, this is just to add weight, credibility and dimensions to the scope of work which the author contemplates. On the other hand, a blog is not one with more footnotes than the number of paragraphs in the main text. In fact it hardly carries any footnote. Its just a discussion of author's thoughts on a particular issue or something which is not an issue, on which he carries an opinion and wishes to put this opinion across to solicit views and comments or just for his wish to publicize his ideas.

Blogs and articles should not be compared for the very reason that they are not meant to be; both for the reason of placement-sought and the subject-matter dealt with in them. Where a blogger would never his piece to be placed in a thick-hard bound paper-book form almanac which carries a volume number and the cover page replete with experts carrying more degrees and credentials one can weight in kilos, a legal article is meant to be such; the later being designed to be understood as a participant in the theorization of legal advancement.

As regards the subject-matter, if may not be true in all cases but then most often than not, a blogger would take up issues which are purely contemporary, meant for provoking responses and opinions and seek to weigh the public opinion on the thought he penned for the blog. Whereas a legal researcher is somewhat indifferent with the public-opinion the issue he seeks to research on and is more concerned with the enunciation upon it by courts, other lumunaries, or even the scholarly content in other social sciences.

And finally, the biggest reason which I find for not comparing is the reach of the two mediums. Articles sent for submissions in heavy paper-backs like Harvard Law Journal, Yale Law Journal or even Modern Law Review and other law journals are meant to be read by legal scholars who have an interest and expertise in the issue dealt with in the article, such that the scholarly community would be able to take a stand on the issue. Blogs on the other hand are meant to be read by the common people, those connected to the net and looking at it as another medium of expression, such that issues can be discussed and opinions flouted on a much informal level and people are informed of the ongoing glitches in law, politics or even the social life.

To conclude, I would just illustrate a few blogs which I know and acknowledge to carrying good content on legal and non-legal issues, and informing the masses rather than the already well-read legal experts of the ongoing developments.

1. http://lawandotherthings.blogspot.com/

2. http://spicyipindia.blogspot.com/

3. http://indianeconomy.org/

4. http://techlawindia.com/

5. http://www.chinalawblog.com/

6. http://visalawcanada.blogspot.com/


Atul said...

most importantly u need not spend ur time on formating nor u r required to follow "the blue book"

Amir Kafshdaran said...

I am of the opinion that legal blogs do not have the same value and credibility as legal articles as we currently stand but I am also of the view that with the appropriate logistics, blogs may also be used on the same level as legal articles. Consider for a moment hypothetical blog, although viewed publicly, only accessible to experts in the field who can discuss their latest research or publish their latest legal articles (which includes all their sources and references). Can this hypothetical blog be distinguised from the ordinary blogs used by the public having more credibility. In my view, the answer is yes.


Tarun Jain said...

Well Amir, firstly, a nice opinion indeed. I certainly was not of the opinion of using blogs as credible legal information.
But for that matter even legal articles do not carry too much of a role in influencing judicial decision making, as much as precedents do.
To add to the post, in my view blogs are more versatile in terms of the various topics they cover and also indicators of the upcoming areas facing the legal arena.