Article Title

Blog As a Bugged Water Cooler

Publication Title

Washington University Law Review


Legal academics like to think that everything they write is scholarly. There is no surer way to offend a colleague than to suggest that some of his public musings are—gasp!—not scholarship. These comments do not seek to debate whether someone’s remarks on the Enron trial, or “gotcha” comments on the quality of the New York Times reporting, or critique of a recent Michelle Malkin book, or teaching notes thinly disguised as encyclopedic entries qualify as “scholarship.” For the purpose of these remarks, “scholarship” is anything that satisfies your budget committee.

A safer (and more productive) inquiry is what we mean when we say that blogs are “transforming” something. If we define “transforming” very broadly (“Does blogging have some—however infinitesimal, speculative, indirect, removed in time—impact on legal scholarship?”), the answer is surely yes. But trivial and speculative impacts are not good excuses for a conference. The interesting question is whether blogging has a meaningful (or, as an empirical type might put it, a substantively and statistically significant) impact on legal scholarship. The answer should start with “as compared to what?” To keep a sense of proportion, this paper examines the things that have had real impact on legal scholarship in recent years.