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Law Blogs: Where the Guts Are?

I suspect Dahlia Lithwick has earned her perpetual shrine in the law bloggers hall of fame with her essay in the current issue of The American Lawyer, Blawgs on a Roll. Of contemporary writing about the subject of law, she says:

"[I]t's clear that the real bones and guts and sinew of the national conversation is happening online, and not in print."

She continues:

"The most compelling, cutting-edge, honest legal writing being produced in this country today is happening on the Internet, and the crop improves daily."

To be absolutely sure we have not missed her point, she continues still, describing the legal blogosphere as "the most fertile ground for cutting-edge law talk."

Lithwick never mentioned my humble blogs, but I am blushing nonetheless, proud just to play my small part. Regrettably, however, what drove her outpouring of praise for blogs was what she calls "the gaping chasm" in traditional legal writing, with "endless" law reviews on one side and "compacted news stories" on the other. This chasm, she suggests, has created a hunger for legal writing that is more "accessible and opinionated." Feeding that hunger are blogs -- in particular, law professors' blogs:

"[L]aw professors, who can be exceedingly cautious in print, sometimes become slightly drunk on the Internet's thin air. Whereas legal thinkers once limited their most serious scholarship to law review articles, occasionally nipping out into the dangerous world to write an op-ed, now many of them offer off-the-cuff observations about everything from partial birth abortion bans to their favorite CDs, several times daily. The blogosphere thrives precisely because it exists at the interstices of the ivory tower and pop culture."

Lithwick, a lawyer who writes about law for Slate, is Exhibit No. 1 in the case for compelling writing among traditional legal journalists. And while her point about blogs is candy to the ears of those who write them, she sidesteps something important -- the audience. As important as blogs are to other bloggers, academics and journalists, they have yet to become important or even routine sources of information for most rank-and-file lawyers and legal professionals. No question, blogs drive important conversations. But these conversations are outside the earshot of most practicing lawyers. For them, traditional forms of legal writing remain their main sources of information. Perhaps the only sure way to open the conversation as broadly as possible is through the convergence of new media with old.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 1, 2006 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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