August 02, 2006

How language sausages are made

Like so  many other older scholars, until fairly recently I had mistakenly thought that blogs were things written by teenagers to communicate with other teenagers. Then one day when my friend, John Lawler, was visiting us here in Montana, he introduced me to Language Log. I loved it, of course, and was thrilled when  a few months ago Geoffrey Pullum invited me to post with this group.

Although my enlightenment is increasing, I was surprised at what I learned when I read "Law-Related Blogging Starting to See a Coming of Age" in the August 1, 2006 Chicago Lawyer, written by Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law (see here). What surprised me was that Berman has published over 50 law review articles and commentaries and he estimates that these have been cited only about a half-dozen times in judicial opinions. In contrast, his Sentencing Law & Policy Blog (here) has been cited in more than a dozen cases. He reports:

My blog is my most-cited work, by far. Certainly, it is more widely read than any of my scholarship ... It's all part of the power of the blog ... Blogs help make the legal world move a lot faster. Within a matter of minutes, I can take a new legal development, make it available to the world, and comment on it quickly.

Law-related blogs began  only about six years ago. Since then they have caught fire, with over 1,300 of them now up and running. One of Berman's law students even got academic credit for maintaining his own blog. And a law professor claims that he obtained his position at Boston University's school of law because of his blog.

Two of the many things lawyers like about their blogs is that they make their field more collaborative and they level the playing field by increasing interaction between the well-known legal academics and judges and the less well-known law practitioners.  One of the latter, whose blog is named Ernie the Attorney, calls blogging a "coffee table discussion" on a range of topics:

The big word here is transparency. It's better to let people see how sausages are made, what's going on.

As Language Log readers know by now, we try very hard to help people see how language sausages are made.

Posted by Roger Shuy at August 2, 2006 06:10 PM