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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Blogging in Higher Education, The Invisible College

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Bradford DeLong has a great article, The Invisible College, in the Chronicle for Higher Education.

The hope of all of us who blog is that we will become smarter, do more useful work, be happier and more productive, and will also impress our deans so they will raise our salaries. The first three hopes are clearly true: Academics who blog think more profound thoughts, have a bigger influence on the world — both the academic and the broader worlds — and are happier for it. Are we more productive in an academic sense? Maybe. We will see when things settle down.

Are our deans impressed? Not so far, but they should be. A lot of a university’s long-run success depends on attracting good undergraduates. Undergraduates and their parents are profoundly influenced by the public face of the university. And these days, a thoughtful, intelligent, well-informed Web logger like Juan Cole or Dan Drezner is an important part of a university’s public face. Michigan gains in reputation and mindshare from having a Cole on its faculty. Yale loses from not having an equivalent.

Are deans in general impressed? I doubt it too. Why not? I worry that the weird name – DeLong calls it ‘web logging’ in places, shades of ‘series of tubes’ there – doesn’t properly serve the simple proposition it represents, namely, making the flow of ideas that circulates in an institution publicly available. An outwardly focused institution allows professors to reach an immediate and interactive audience, it allows students to maintain interest and participation in the discussion beyond the single semester in which they have a given class, it allows alumni to keep tabs on the flow of ideas beyond their matriculation, it allows incoming students an opportunity to get the lay of the land intellectually, it allows communities to form, ideas to cross-pollinate, names to be made.

I have hope though. U of H has an interim Dean who himself blogs. That has to bode well.

UPDATE: Maria Kantzavelos has an excellent article in Chicago Lawyer LAW-RELATED BLOGGING STARTING TO SEE A COMING OF AGE which cites the interesting case of Douglas Berman:

Law professors are mindful of where their scholarship lands, particularly when it’s in a court decision. Douglas A. Berman, who focuses on criminal sentencing law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, is no exception. He considers citation counts the “currency of a law professor’s work.”

While Berman has penned more than 50 law review articles and commentaries, he estimates that only about a half-dozen of those traditional forms of published scholarship have been cited in judicial opinions.

His popular Sentencing Law & Policy Blog, on the other hand, has been cited in more than a dozen cases, including a dissenting opinion in a 2005 landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Booker).

“My blog is my most-cited work, by far. Certainly, it is more widely read than any of my scholarship,” said Berman, who has been blogging about advancements in federal sentencing since 2004. “It’s all part of the power of the blog.”

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