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Friday, November 14, 2008

Kind of feels like being an Article III Judge . . .

I am thrilled/surprised/relieved to report that the faculty at the College of Law has recommended me for tenure. I mention this to echo and add to Bill Henderson's comments at ELS of how he addressed blogging in his tenure materials. The statement I included in my submission, similar in some respects to Bill's (although I have not been as prolific or high-profile a blog writer as he), is after the jump.

Since blogging has become a more common and important part of the legal academy within the last eight years, there has been a lot of discussion about the wisdom of blogging without tenure. But the reality is that a substantial number of bloggers are untenured (Aside: Has anyone examined the status of the contributors on the top legal blogs in Caron's most recent study?). And that number goes up when we consider the large number of guest bloggers who cycle through here, CoOp, and other places. So the real question is not whether pre-tenure blogging is a good idea; it already is happening. The real question is how to present blogging as part of our package of scholarship, teaching, and service.

It seems to me that any discussion of blogging in tenure materials will be one part education and one part justification. We have to explain a lot to some senior law faculty, as well as to central administrators and perhaps to faculty in other departments and who are involved in the review process (FIU does not have a university-wide faculty committee between the law school dean and the provost, although many schools do). We have to explain what blogging is at its most fundamental level, why we do it, why it is not a waste of writing time, how it relates to our core scholarship, how it benefits us professionally in terms of scholarship, teaching, and service, and how it benefits the school. It may be a good idea (as Bill did) to provide at least a representative list of (more substantive) blog posts, which makes blog writing look, at least, like writing op-eds and other short pieces.

It also seems to me that the level of needed explanatory detail will decrease as more and more bloggers gain tenure (say, within the next five-seven years) and blogging becomes a routine and understood part of our writing activities. In about 5-10 years, it should be enough to say "I blog at ______" in the "other scholarly activities" section of the tenure folder. The interesting question will be whether committee members begin reading some blog posts for evaluation--not in the same way or with the same interest as they review scholarship, but with an eye towards evaluating how good this person is at this particular, accepted scholarly activity.

Alternative Scholarship and Blogging

More recently, I have begun regular blogging, which provides an even-more timely outlet and a chance to directly reach a repeat audience with short (anywhere from 200-2000 words), very immediate commentary. Blogging is a new and essential component to legal scholarship, a forum for regular and frequent writing and commentary on law and policy, as an alternative outlet and as a complement to core legal scholarship. I am a regular contributor on two legal blogs. The first is PrawfsBlawg, a general legal blog targeted primarily at law professors and law students, for which I began writing this past year. My writing on this site has been beneficial to my scholarly profile and to raising my name recognition, particularly among people who do not otherwise write in my scholarly areas. The second is Sports Law Blog, a blog targeted at the sports-law community, academics, practitioners, and fans. This site has been the primary outlet for my writing on sports and the law, particular about connections between sport and legal rules and processes. The site also is widely read by sportswriters and has provided me with many media interview and commentary opportunities.

Writing on these blogs has kept me involved in broader conversations about the law. These outlets also enable me to speak to different audiences about a broad range of legal and policy issues. This includes discussions of new and ongoing legal and political controversies that connect to broader scholarly subjects of interest, as well as discussions of subjects or questions that do not lend themselves to immediate, full-fledged scholarly treatment (although many may be the focus of future scholarship), but that I wanted to write and present to an audience in a timely fashion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 14, 2008 at 06:48 AM in Blogging, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Howard, Congrats on a well-deserved promotion and thank you for sharing this material to all of us.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Nov 14, 2008 9:33:56 AM


From a loyal reader: hearty congratulations.

All good wishes,

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Nov 14, 2008 4:51:26 PM

I think of my blogging as like an op-ed: more like service than scholarship. Then again, my blogging (at the urban planning group blog www.planetizen.com/interchange) tends to be less "scholarly" than many people's blogs.

Posted by: Michael Lewyn | Dec 7, 2008 12:01:48 PM

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