Tuesday, September 04, 2012
How Do We Get Read?
Thanks to Dan for inviting me back for another stint! I wanted to start off with a topic that
should be near and dear to the hearts of PrawfsBlawg’s readers: How do we get our research read outside of our subject-matter networks? This question comes from a conversation I was having last week with my colleague Ben Spencer at Washington & Lee, where I am visiting for the academic year and teaching civil procedure and transnational law. We were both noticing how sure we are that our scholarship gets picked up by our subject-matter networks—say civil procedure folks or international law folks—but we were not quite so sure how to get a wider readership—say federal courts folks, judges, or scholars outside of the United States. Of course, blogs like this one play a role in getting legal scholarship out there to a wider audience. Having a blog like Larry Solum’s Legal Theory Blog highlight an article leads to immediate SSRN readership, even international readership, as does a more practice-oriented blog like SCOTUSBlog. Some of my colleagues at Pepperdine, which is my home institution (where it is always 70 and sunny!), have had success with sending out hard-copy reprints beyond their immediate subject-matter network. And, I notice that some folks also send out email e-prints to readers far and wide.
So, here is my question: How do folks find a way to get their scholarship out to a broader audience in light of all the various avenues that exist today for publicizing legal scholarship? I would be particularly interested in hearing thoughts about getting our work out to the practicing bar—which would at least in part answer some of Chief Justice Roberts’ recent criticisms (even if the piece is entitled, “A Kantian View of Transnational Civil Procedure”).
Posted by Trey Childress on September 4, 2012 at 12:16 PM | Permalink
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I can't speak to what would help to have your work read by others in the legal academy, but I can offer two suggestions to get the practicing bar to read.
1. Write about something that matters to practicing lawyers.
2. Don't bore the living crap out of the reader.
As a corollary to the second point, brevity is a wonderful thing.
Posted by: shg | Sep 4, 2012 12:36:31 PM
Supplementing shg's comment, the usual route is Bar publications, which are at least skimmed by practicing attorneys. Better, write an episode of NCIS or Thrones incorporating your scholarship.
Posted by: jt | Sep 4, 2012 2:47:42 PM
There is a serious problem with legal scholarship as well as law schools today which is well documented. Law professors need to stop simply writing to each other. They should choose topics which the bench and bar will find helpful. For example, they need to put together arguments which demonstrate why one circuit has it right. Professors need to also focus more on state law and in particular, the law of one state. A survey piece is of little value. But an article which distinguishes and contrasts binding authority can be of great value.
Posted by: Mitchell Rubinstein | Sep 4, 2012 6:35:34 PM
Trey, I think having a funded, active, and knowledgeable communications department at your law school can be useful, particularly in getting your work out to practicing alumni.
Posted by: Scott Dodson | Sep 4, 2012 6:54:29 PM
Trey, one thing that has worked for me is agreeing/offering to write shorter executive-summary versions of scholarship for practitioner-oriented newsletters (e.g. aba section newsletters, specialized listservs that service practitioners and the like). This is especially viable if the work you'd like to publicize deals with a current topic of interest to legal academia (e.g. a recent case or statute) but I've done this successfully with empirical work as well.
Posted by: Jason Yackee | Sep 5, 2012 8:02:43 AM
I hate to point this out, but getting published in places other than scholarly journals is not the same as being read, if by being read you mean people actually reading what you wrote. Just sayin'. Mags and such need credible filler, whether anyone reads it or not.
Posted by: Sal the Pineapple | Sep 5, 2012 1:21:38 PM
My colleague Karen Petroski has written an interesting article on getting read, called Does It Matter What We Say About Legal Interpretation?, which discusses how articles get cited and which articles get cited. It's a really good piece by a really interesting scholar. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1746102
Posted by: Eric J. Miller | Sep 6, 2012 12:04:52 PM
Thanks to everyone for the comments. Here is a link to a post regarding a legal scholar who not only got read but got taken seriously by the New York AG! http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2012/09/sometimes-what-we-publish-actually-matters.html
Posted by: Trey Childress | Sep 6, 2012 4:49:15 PM
present at conferences outside your area
Posted by: on the market (again) | Sep 6, 2012 5:41:44 PM
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