Blogging among legal academics was for a long time virtually unheard of, the province of a few (seemingly oddball) hobbyists. Then, with the remarkably successful efforts of Brian Leiter, Stephen Bainbridge, Prawfsblawg, Concurring Opinions, Moneylaw, and many others, legal-academic blogging became more mainstream. While the extent of blogging’s utility is still debated, and while blogging still remains a gratuitous undertaking rather than a formal faculty duty, blogging’s potential as a medium for serious legal discourse can no longer be doubted. Outside of law, blogging’s success has led some organizations to consider recognizing blogging’s value in an official way: by making it mandatory. Will law schools follow suit? Can and if so under what circumstances should law faculty be expected to blog as part of their formally defined duties?
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind when Dean Kearney (gently) asked me to serve as this month’s featured blogger on the new Marquette law faculty blog. I have blogged in the past as a guest at Ideoblog and as a regular contributor to Truth On The Market. But the Dean’s request makes blogging here different. For while in the past my blogging was a wholly voluntary activity that attracted little internal notice from deans and adminstrators (though at times it attracted substantial notice from students and colleagues), now I feel the sense of obligation that inevitably accompanies a decanal request. And on reflection, in case readers were wondering, I find this a good thing.
Law deans ought to take an interest in and actively encourage the blogging activities of law faculty. Because blogging has proven itself valuable to the legal academy, it is quite natural and sensible for legal academic administrators to value it too. There is always the danger, of course, that time spent blogging could divert a faculty member’s efforts away from other useful pursuits, such as scholarship, teaching, and committee work. But in this respect, blogging is no different from any other academic activity. Excess is always a risk, but seldom a justification for inaction. As with other activities, the right approach to legal academic blogging will for many faculty (including for myself) be to participate in moderation rather than to avoid it entirely. And thus a decanal nudge in favor of blogging is entirely welcome.
With all this in mind, I look forward to the month ahead. I will do my best to blog well, not only because I want to but also because I know that the Dean (and hopefully others) will be watching.