How Law Blogs are changing legal discussion and legal education: Interview with Jack Balkin

This is a bit dated, but recent posts and discussions on this blog have reminded me of the relevance of some of the ideas mentioned by Jack Balkin, who teaches at Yale Law School, and has been an early advocate of law blogs and the use of technology to advance legal knowledge and discussions. Though commenting on the phenomenon as it exists in the U.S., some of his thoughts are applicable to a broader context. I am including some of his quotes from an interview with the Yale Law Report here, but the entire interview makes for interesting reading.

“YLR: How is legal blogging changing legal discussion and legal education?

Balkin: Blogging changes the relationship between law professors and their audiences because professors can reach more people. It changes the relationship between law professors and journalists because law professors don’t need journalists to get their ideas out to the broader public; conversely, blogging makes it easier for journalists to find the right experts to interview. It changes the timing and pace of legal scholarship because law professors can talk about cases the day they come down, driving the discussion forward in a very short time rather than through a series of law review articles that may take years to appear. Just as the Internet collapses the news cycle, it also collapses the publication and discussion cycle. It produces a type of legal writing that is more journalistic, more personal, and more driven by current events.

Compared with traditional legal scholarship, blogging produces a different combination of analysis and opinion. The conversation is more informal, and it progresses very quickly. People also use sources differently: they cite to supporting information or authorities by linking to them, so that you can see the evidence for yourself.

… … … This is the first generation of law students who are going to law school after the rise of the blogosphere. If you went to law school a few years ago, you were totally immersed in the experience of a single law school, and your professors (and the law library) were the main sources of expertise. Now law students can hear legal opinions from law professors and their fellow students around the country– and around the world– on almost any topic they desire. The blogosphere becomes part of your legal education. That didn’t really exist before.

… Blogging is both a way of participating in the Internet and a way of learning about it. I have learned more about how the Internet affects public discourse from being a blogger than I would ever have learned from reading what other people had to say about it. There’s no substitute for participating in the medium if you want to understand what the medium does: how it affects your relationships with other people; how it affects the work and the status of law academics; how it affects the dissemination of legal ideas throughout society; how it changes the law professor’s calling; how it changes the nature of legal education. It’s much easier to see what’s happening from a blogger’s perspective.

… The blogosphere not only routes around the traditional mass media, it also gloms onto it, commenting on it and criticizing it. Conversely, the traditional mass media increasingly turn to the blogosphere for fresh content, and it’s no accident that newspapers and magazines are becoming more interactive in their online versions and even starting their own blogs. The shape and structure of the public sphere is being transformed by the blogosphere.”

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