When you compare blogs with law reviews, they seem to be polar opposites. Blogs are online and, with the exception of a few pioneers, law reviews are still largely paper-based. Law review articles reflect months of careful research and writing. They are carefully vetted and meticulously proofread. There is generally some level of competition to even get published. A blogger can do a blog post in minutes, without any sort of oversight, editorial constraint or control. A blog post can be made in anger, emotional pain or while intoxicated, and due to the magic of RSS newsfeeds, it can’t even be taken back when you rethink your post.

So you may be surprised to learn that many prestigious law reviews now have online companions sites that often look a lot like blogs. Ken Strutin’s Guide to Short Form Open Access Legal Publications, recently published on LLRX.com lists a significant number of these sites. Professor Gordon Smith of the University of Wisconsin Law School wrote in his post on Conglomerate, Online Companions to Law Reviews and the Future of Legal Blogs :

  • "Enter the ‘online companions’ to traditional law reviews. How do they add value? In my view, the primary value added by these new publications is not their timeliness or their supposed ‘polish,’ but that they (1) link thoughtful responses to long-form legal scholarship, and (2) act as a gathering place for a variety of pieces of short-form legal scholarship on the same topic (online symposia). In short, the law reviews have an organizational advantage over individual bloggers, who organize via cross-linking, which is often haphazard."

The online symposia view is compelling. If fully realized, it combines the best of both approaches, with the painstakingly researched and vetted law review article at the center of a collection of reactions, news items and off-the-cuff comments. Of course, for this to be fully realized, the centerpiece law review article has to freely available online. We shall see how soon that happens.

Professor Lawrence B. Solum, of the University of Illinois College of Law, examines "the shift of legal scholarship from the old world of law reviews to today’s world of peer reviews to tomorrow’s world of open access legal blogs" in Download It While It’s Hot: Open Access and Legal Scholarship, Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 10, p. 841, 2006 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=957237 He notes that "intermediaries (law school editorial boards, peer-reviewed journals) are being supplemented by disintermediated forms (papers on the Internet, blogs)." While this trend produces a wider range of opinions, I’m not sure this complete end result would be a positive one. My writings improve with a good editor, review and contemplation. Vetting reduces the chances of outright error.

What’s the take-away point for the practicing lawyer, who is not really interested in this academic discussion?  Bookmark Strutin’s article and be aware if you find a good law review article "on point" in your research, it may have an online companion with even more, or more recent, information.