Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Letters to the powers that be

I am a junior (untenured) assistant professor at Howard University School of Law. Although I do not (yet?) self-identify as a public intellectual, I do produce scholarship that seeks to critically study and reflect upon problems in society and that proposes solutions for those problems. It seems that the very act of seeking to affect the public discourse makes me a public intellectual (at least according to Wikipedia).

I've found myself reflecting on my status recently because I've been offered several opportunities to sign letters that seek to influence rules being promulgated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. See, e.g., this letter. My gut reaction is usually a bit of self-doubt. Do I really know enough about all sides of the issue to weigh in? Have I thought about the problem long enough and adequately reflected on the appropriate solutions? In addition, I wrestle with how much time to devote to getting up to speed on the issue covered by the letter.

I assume that others have much more experience in this area than I do. As such, I'm curious what other folks think about signing (or drafting) such letters. What factors affect your decision to either draft such letters in the first instance or to sign ones that come across your desk? How much time do you invest in making sure that the comment letter you sign is as perfect as it can be? Put differently, do you treat these letters like a blog post or a law review article? Finally, did you think differently about these issues when you were untenured? Should you have?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

 

Posted by Matthew Bruckner on September 6, 2016 at 09:56 AM in Current Affairs, Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Law and Politics, Things You Oughta Know if You Teach X | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Should junior legal academics write a book? (and if so, when?)

As a junior academic, I found Chris Walker's recent Junior Law Prawfs FAQs Series here at Prawfs to be quite useful and informative. I don't intend to add an exhaustive series of posts on this topic this month, but I do hope to contribute a little to that rich conversation, as I think it's worth continuing.

First of all, I want to ask about the place of books in legal academy - specifically, should junior (or aspiring) law profs seriously consider writing a book? And, if so, when? How should such a decision be approached and where should a junior prof be thinking about submitting their work? (Brian Leiter has previously blogged about ranking the prestige of presses in law, but there are also other such lists for other disciplines - often with some overlap.) Books obviously consume a large amount of research and writing time, and could potentially distract an author from publishing as much in journals. However, many legal academics write books (though quite a few authors often incorporate a number of previously published law review articles as chapters, which does help keep the book from completely consuming the author's output during the writing period). As a point of reference, I have just signed a book contract myself, and I know others who are proposing and writing books at the moment, both inside and outside of legal academia. The process, and the decision-making that up to my decision to initiate it, was both difficult as well as quite encouraging, and the prospect of the book itself is quite exciting.

I've noticed what I suspect might be two approaches to writing books among legal authors. First, those that started as book-length projects from the outset, with select chapters sometimes also serving as the basis for separate law review articles published in the months or year before the full book. Second, I would guess that other books only became books after an author had published quite a bit on a topic and then, subsequently, decided to incorporate his or her scholarship together into a longer, more extended discussion. I suspect both of these approaches have their pros and cons.

I also wonder if scholars with PhDs approach questions about books differently than those without PhDs? I am now working at a law school in the Netherlands, and I quickly noticed that here (as apparently in other parts of Europe), law PhD Candidates are often expected (or required) to publish their dissertation in book format. (In fact, in a recent PhD defense in our department, the committee consistently referred to the PhD Candidate's dissertation as a book (e.g., "In your your book you argue that..." or "I really enjoyed reading your book, but..."). In my own PhD program, there was no expectation (or even pressure) to publish my dissertation as a book - even when it was a holistic body of research (that is, not a collection of 3-4 published articles, as some often are in certain disciplines).

So, a set of questions:

  • should junior legal academics be thinking seriously about book writing?
  • What considerations would you suggest need to be taken into account?
  • If a person decides to pursue a book project, are their times within the typical model of professional development (e.g. pre-tenure, first couple of years as a faculty member, etc.) when a book does or does not make sense?

Based on my own experience, I think a book makes sense for me at the moment because the book project builds on (but is not) my PhD dissertation, and also brings together legal research and empirical findings from a single multi-year and multi-method study. A series of articles based on the work is also a possibility, but it doesn't allow me to tell the bigger story that is emerging from my data and analysis in a holistic and integrated way. I plan to publish a couple of journal articles along the way, based on chapters, but these will only provide small glimpses into the larger results I hope to present in the book. As for timing, publishing a book after establishing yourself as an authority in a field obviously lends a book some heightened credibility, but publishing a book earlier might also really help establish that authority in the first place. (Chris's earlier post "How Do I Become a Voice in My Field?" and subsequent posts are also relevant here.) In my case, my research project is wrapping up now and I didn't want to sit on writing or publishing because it might be better timed at some possible point in the future, and I hope to move onto other projects anyways. I'm currently a post-doc and not yet in a continuing or tenure-track faculty position - which also means I have fewer teaching and administrative responsibilities to distract me from research and writing now than I will (hopefully) have in the coming years, which also makes this time an attractive option.

But, I'd be interested to hear what other have to say...

Posted by Bryce C. Newell on July 11, 2016 at 11:30 AM in Books, Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Complete Junior Law Prawfs FAQs Series

It has been such a pleasure to guestblog at Prawfsblawg this month and to do this Junior Law Prawfs FAQs Series on how to become a voice in one's field. I have learned so much from your comments, your Twitter conversations, and your very thoughtful emails. I appreciate the time the PrawfsBlawg community has taken to crowdsource answers to these frequently asked questions. Based on the emails I've received from other junior (and aspiring) law professors, many others are also grateful.  

For ease of reference, here is the complete list of questions (with links) to the frequently asked questions we covered this month:

1. How Do I Become a Voice in My Field? (See Also: D Merritt, Going Meta on the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series)

2. How Does My Research Fit Within the Types of Legal Scholarship?

3. Should I Say Write a Response to a Law Review Article (or Allow the Law Review to Solicit Responses to Mine)?

4. Is Publishing a Book Review in a Law Review Still a Worthwhile Pretenure Endeavor? (See Also: P Horwitz, Yes (With Caveats), Publishing a Book Review is Still a Worthwhile Endeavor for Untenured Law Professors)

5. How Do I Make Sense of Online Law Reviews?

6. How Do I Increase the Chance My Scholarship Will Be Read?

7. How Should I Respond to Requests to Read Draft Articles in My Field?

8. How Can I Increase In-Person Scholarly Interaction with Limited Resources?

9. Is Blogging Worth It? (See Also: M Froomkin, The Plural of Anecdote is "Blog"; O Kerr, Legal Academic Blogging and Influence vs. Credit)

10. Is There Any Reason Not To Be on Twitter?

11. What About Podcasts? What About Media Consultations? (See Also: C Turner, Podcasts; C Walker, Rethinking Law Review Podcasts)

12. Should I Join Law Prof Amicus Briefs, Write White Papers, Or Do Other Advocacy Work?

13. Am I Asking the Right Questions? (See Also: M Rich, Hard Prawf Choices)

As the outline I included in the first post in the series suggests, there are numerous additional questions that junior scholars (and all scholars for that matter) frequently ask with respect to becoming a voice in one's field. I hope we will continue to have discussions about those here and elsewhere.

I also hope that we continue to ask ourselves whether we are asking the right questions. I hope that these questions above won't get in the way of writing high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to our fields. Perhaps more importantly, I hope we keep asking the "best" questions about how we can use this amazing opportunity we have as law professors to have a profound and lasting impact on the students we teach and the communities we (and they) serve through our research, teaching, and (university, local, state, national, and international) service.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 29, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Am I Asking the Right Questions? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Before turning to this final question, I was going to do one more post (on writing casebooks and treatises) to wrap up the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series for this month. But after Michael Rich's courageous Hard Prawf Choices post earlier this week, I thought I'd skip to the last question I included in my initial post: Am I asking the right questions?

The short answer, I think, is: probably not. Put differently, there are "good," "better," and "best" questions, and these types of questions likely fall in the "better" camp. 

The "good" questions -- indeed, the necessary but not sufficient questions -- concern the quality and type of our scholarship. Derek Tokaz's comment on an earlier post captures the critical importance of these "good" questions:

6. Write Higher Quality, Useful, Relevant Articles. I mean, I know that Batman v Superman has shown that enough buzz and advertising can get eyeballs on the screen no matter how low quality your product is, but I still think the most important way to get an audience is to have something worth reading.

This is certainly true. Our primary mission as scholars should be to produce high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to our field. With the exception of a quick post on Dean Minow's Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide, admittedly I haven't focused on those "good" questions. 

But I hope this FAQ series has underscored that once a scholar has answered the "good" questions -- and produced high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to one's field -- it's time to turn to the "better" questions of how to get those ideas read, digested, and incorporated. As Eric Segall commented on a prior post, "The hardest part is engaging in self-promotion (especially on social media). It often feels super yucky but in our new interconnected world, it is usually necessary if you want the piece read."

If we truly believe we have produced high-quality scholarship that is useful and relevant to our field, we should think about these "better" questions to maximize the chances that our scholarship will reach the relevant audiences and have an impact on our field. That may involve choosing wisely the format of the scholarship as we discussed in the first week, including responses to scholarship, book reviews, and online law reviews. It definitely involves thinking about how to participate in one's field, as we discussed in the second week with respect to commenting on others' draft articles, increasing in-person scholarly interaction (with limited resources), and otherwise improving the chance one's scholarship will be read. To maximize one's voice, as we discussed in the third week, it might be worth blogging regularly, it probably is worth being on Twitter, and podcasts and other media consultations may well be the future (or not). And advocacy work, such as law professor amicus briefs and white papers, might also help one develop a voice in one's field, as we discussed on Monday.

Unfortunately, sometimes worrying about the "better" questions gets in the way of taking care to answer/complete the prerequisite "good" questions. Those "better" questions can also get in the way of asking the "best" questions. To borrow a line from President Shepherd, "I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job." 

So what do I mean by "best" questions? Borrowing from Michael's Hard Prawf Choices post, I think the "best" questions concern more broadly this amazing "opportunity [we have as law professors] to make an impact." No, neither Michael nor I are referring just to one's "scholarly impact" -- though scholarly impact is definitely part of the impact we can have as law professors. Instead, this impact likely takes into account our tripartite mission of teaching, research, and service. These "best" questions no doubt differ for each of us based on why we became law professors and what impact we hope to leave on the world through our work. But I'm guessing for most of us that mission extends beyond becoming a scholarly voice in our field.

Here's another way to frame these "best" questions: One of the most common phrases I've heard from junior scholars is "after tenure." After tenure, I'm going to write that book. After tenure, I'm going to design that experiential learning course that I wish I could have taken in law school. After tenure, I'll finally be able to serve on that state commission, on the board of that public interest legal service provider, or with a political campaign. After tenure... 

I don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't worry about securing tenure. We should. And no doubt the difficulty of obtaining tenure varies by institution. The cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule should be followed, especially pretenure. But at many schools the tenure requirements leave time and space to develop in all three areas; indeed, one is often rewarded for accomplishments in all three. Moreover, for some scholars, that "after tenure..." may never happen even after tenure if they continue to fixate on these "better" questions without also focusing the "best" questions.

I find much inspiration from my fellow junior colleagues on the faculty here (at The Ohio State University): The colleague who spends countless hours each year running a national security simulation for his students. The colleague who got involved with students and others in the Black Lives Matter movement in Columbus while she was juggling a clinical course and an ambitious research agenda. The colleague who advocates on behalf of children with disabilities at both the state and federal level, at both the administrative and legislative level. The colleague who takes the time to weigh in on how states should regulate drones and also serves on a city-wide commission to implement a police body camera policy. The colleague who volunteered to help rewrite the university-wide intellectual property policy for the benefit of thousands of professors on campus. These are just a few examples.

To be sure, these service activities leverage my colleagues' relevant expertise and often overlap with their research agenda. But these endeavors don't really have anything to do with the "good" or "better" questions. If merely doing a cost-benefit analysis based on enhancing one's scholarly profile (or securing tenure and/or promotion), these activities most likely wouldn't make the cut. Instead, they seem to be my junior colleagues' answers to the "best" questions about how they can have an impact as a law professor.

Pausing to ask myself whether I'm asking the right or "best" questions could lead me, as it did for Michael, "to change the timeframe of my planning. I don't wonder how to construct a career for twenty years from now; rather, I want to make an impact now, or at least soon."

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 27, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rethinking Law Review Podcasts (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Last week I questioned the value of law review-sponsored podcast programs, predicting that they'd be the next Betamax (as opposed to the next iPad). Based on the comments, Twitter responses, and emails, a line from one of the most ridiculous and ridiculously funny new shows on TV comes to mind: "But what if it wasn't."

In particular, it seems like there are a number of really terrific law podcast series out there, including Oral Argument and The Week in Health Law. These podcast series are not sponsored by law reviews, and seem to have carved out a niche audience with field-specific content. So I'm still skeptical that just generalist law reviews doing podcasts on the diverse articles they publish would be a recipe for success, as you need to build subscriptions and an audience.

Accordingly, if I'm the editor-in-chief of a major law review, I see two main paths forward:

First, you become the official podcast of the law school more generally, and you turn all of the school-sponsored speeches, ACS/FedSoc debates, events, etc., possible into podcasts as well as sponsor your own live events to turn into podcasts. That way, you tap into the alumni network of your school as well as lawyers within your region. Depending on the speakers, there's a potential to build your audience beyond those networks.

Second, you specialize in one area of the law and do a podcast series around that. Some journals already do this with online blogs, annual symposium issues, etc. For instance, the Harvard Law Review could do a Supreme Court Review podcast (perhaps partnering with SCOTUSblog?) similar to their annual issue, and those journals that cover particular circuits could do the same -- like the Ohio State Law Journal with the Sixth Circuit Review or the Wake Forest Law Review with the Fourth Circuit Review.  The Duke Law Journal and George Washington Law Review both do annual administrative law issues, so that could be an option.  That said, the Administrative Law Review and/or Yale Journal on Regulation would also be in a prime position to do a weekly administrative law podcast.

I guess there is a third and slightly different path forward: The law review editors could approach one of the existing podcasts and see if they wanted to partner, lending time and resources to an already successful podcast series.

In all events, my hunch is that the generalist law review doing a generalist podcast series probably won't cut it. But, again, I could be wrong. I'm much more optimistic, though, about a focused podcast that develops an audience in a field (or around a law school's general programming and built-in networks). That said, my guess is that launching and maintaining a successful podcast would require a fair amount of time and energy -- time and energy that could be put to other good uses. So consider the opportunity costs.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 26, 2016 at 10:39 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Should I Join Law Prof Amicus Briefs, Write White Papers, Or Do Other Advocacy Work? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

My guess is that today's FAQ takes a slightly different form based on one's field of research. For me it first presented itself as a request to join a law professor amicus brief. Since then these requests have included drafting white papers and participating in other advocacy projects.

So the question, framed broadly, is: What is the value to one's scholarly research agenda, especially as a junior scholar, in engaging in legal or policy advocacy within one's field?

In tackling this question, it might be helpful (or not) to put to one side the other benefits of engaging in advocacy work as a law professor, such as service to the broader community (and making a difference in the world!) and instead focus on the impact on one's scholarly profile. Also, as with prior questions, we're assuming the tenure work is getting done and the Ask Your Colleagues cardinal rule has been followed.

Let's start with law professor amicus briefs, as my sense is that there is quite a division of opinion on whether law professors should join them. As a former Kennedy clerk who teaches and writes in administrative law and constitutional litigation, I receive a fair number of requests to join law professor amicus briefs. My general rule is to not join them, unless they are squarely within my area of expertise, I have the time to thoroughly review and comment on the draft, and I agree completely with the final version. I have not joined many amicus briefs; in fact, I think I've only joined one, for a case in the Ohio Supreme Court. Time constraints for review are usually the main barrier, and I hope to join more briefs going forward.

One of the main benefits of working on and joining law professor amicus briefs is that it gives one an opportunity to interact with other scholars in one's field and further strengthen one's networks. Another potential benefit is that it could provide an opportunity to get one's scholarship into the brief before the Court -- bringing more exposure to one's research. The adlaw profs brief in support of the United States in the pending immigration case United States v. Texas is a terrific example of that. Although this may be an obvious point, one should make sure one agrees with everything in the brief. Having drafted a fair number of amicus briefs with my lawyer (not academic) hat on, there is often a lot of room to maneuver in an amicus brief to allow more parties with diverse views to join.

Of course, we're not talking about the somewhat distinct scholarly project of writing one's own amicus brief in a case. The scholarly benefits of that may be different and perhaps can be much greater. Stephen Sachs' amicus brief in Atlantic Marine Construction comes immediately to mind. My coauthor Aaron Nielson and I are just waiting for the right qualified immunity case to file a law professor amicus brief based on our empirical work on qualified immunity to encourage the Supreme Court to, among other things, require lower courts to give reasons for exercising (or not) their Pearson discretion to reach constitutional questions.

As for white papers and reports for organizations, my guess is that the scholarly cost-benefit analysis is going to vary greatly depending on the field, the organization, and the topic. That's been my experience. The first white paper I did was on the importance of cost-benefit analysis in financial regulation. My colleague Paul Rose and I coauthored the report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and we presented the report and our findings at a conference at the Chamber shortly thereafter. At the time (though not now), Paul and I were among the few defenders of cost-benefit analysis in financial regulation, so the report got a lot of buzz and "but see" citations. 

The second report was commissioned by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) to assess the role of federal agencies in the legislative process, with a particular focus on technical drafting assistance. ACUS is a government agency composed of government agency officials at various agencies and public members (including a lot of law professors) that commissions research on the federal regulatory state. This was an amazing opportunity, as ACUS opened many doors at federal agencies for me to conduct interviews and surveys for the project. The feedback from the ACUS members during the drafting and recommendation process was invaluable. I should note, though, that this was a tremendous amount of work. For example, the final product, with agency-specific case studies in the appendices, reached 90 pages, and I spent hundreds of hours on the project.

Both projects built on existing research interests and have led/will lead to more traditional scholarship. Both also included some monetary compensation for the work, despite both reports being independent from the sponsoring organizations (and ultimately departing at least somewhat from the organization's position on the issues). If you decide to do any consulting work for which you receive compensation, I highly recommend that you disclose those outside activities, even if your institution does have a form or policy for that (mine doesn't). For instance, per John Coates' helpful advice, I post a financial disclosure form on my faculty profile. It's also worth flagging specifically any consulting work directly related to a subsequent law review article in the article itself.

So what have been others' experiences regrading the scholarly value of doing advocacy work in their field? I hesitated to do a FAQ on this topic because my hunch is that the answer(s) to this question will depend so much on one's field, in addition to the specific opportunity. But because I think advocacy projects can (and cannot) present incredible opportunities to build one's scholarly profile, especially as a junior scholar, I thought I'd post it and see what others think.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 25, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, April 22, 2016

What About Podcasts? What About Media Consultations? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

We already covered Twitter and blogging this week, so I thought I'd finish the week with two somewhat related questions: First, what should we make of this emerging trend among law reviews to do podcasts concerning scholarship they publish and other legal issues? And, second, how do media consultations fit into the scholarly agenda, especially pretenure?

When the law journal board here turned over last month, one of the questions they had for me was whether they should start a podcast series on the articles they publish. I was caught off guard as I apparently hadn't been following this development. The editors noted that there is a fair amount of buzz about podcasts among law review editors nationwide. Sure enough, a quick google search reveals that law reviews at AmericanHarvard, LSU, McGill, NorthwesternUCLA, Yale -- to name a few -- have implemented some version of a video or audio podcast.

I confess I haven't given too much thought to the value of podcasts in the scholarly dialogue. To be sure, I have participated in, and have very much enjoyed, teleforums sponsored by the ABA AdLaw Section or the Federalist Society (which I'm told are then turned into podcasts). I'm not sure, however, those are the same thing as law review-sponsored podcasts. I'm skeptical about the enduring value of this law-review innovation, but then I also was skeptical when Apple launched something called the iPad. If others in the PrawfsBlawg community have experimented with law review-sponsored podcasts, I'd love to hear about those experiences in the comments.

So what about media consultations? Our law school's communications team does a great job of directing reporters my way when they have questions related my research and teaching interests. I seldom turn these opportunities down (when they concern topics within my areas of expertise) -- whether that's local TV news, print or online news outlets, or radio appearances. Sometimes these media consultations are fun -- especially the sit-down NPR-styled interviews -- but most of the time I'm just nervous which soundbite or two the reporter is going to use from a ten-minute conversation.

Although I seldom turn these opportunities down, that's not because I think media consultations help me become a voice in my field or otherwise build my scholarly profile. So I think we're straying from the purpose I originally articulated for this Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ series, but would welcome disagreement on that front. Instead, I view media consultation primarily as a means of service to the law school and university (and hopefully the public). At times I also see those activities get incorporated into the classroom if students come across the TV news segment, article, or radio show. 

While we're on the topic of media consultations, I wish I had received more training on how law professors should interact with the media. I've had a number of awkward interactions with reporters since arriving at the law school. The worst, I think, is when I commented at length on a case, and the reporter decided to make the article about me instead of the case with a clickbait headline of "Justice Kennedy's Former Clerk Thinks..." -- not my finest hour. A few tips, based mainly on lessons I've learned the hard way, immediately come to mind:

(1) Reporters Aren't Your Friends: Reporters are really great at getting people to open up by expressing interest in your opinions, but they often have the story already written and are just looking for the quote they want from you. So they will keep you talking until they get that quote, even if it really isn't your main point (or really your position at all). You have to reframe questions, resist narratives, and make clear your positions.

(2) Know the Difference Between On the Record, Off the Record, and On Background: Here is a quick description. Unless I've dealt with the reporter before, I tend to ask that everything is on background until I get a better sense of where the interview is going and then we can decide what is on the record/attributable to me.

(3) You Don't Have To Answer Questions: Especially as a more junior scholar, it's important to stay within one's comfort zone and area of expertise. If reporters ask me to talk about legal or policy areas where I'm less familiar, I either just say I lack the expertise to weigh in and refer them to a colleague. Or I'll explain that I don't feel I have the sufficient expertise to go on the record or background, but that I'd be happy to talk through the issues off the record.

(4) Email Interviews: I've become a bigger fan these days of responding to emails with my take on a case, regulatory development, etc. I then don't have to worry about what could potentially be included in the story or whether my quote is accurate. One related best practice our communication team utilizes is to get a one-paragraph take from the relevant faculty expert to send out to the law school's media contacts. Sometimes the reporters just pull a quote from that release, or they follow up with additional questions but know in advance where the faculty expert is coming from on the issue.

These are just four observations that come immediately to mind. A google search of "tips for talking with reporters" would no doubt produce many more. Definitely share your wisdom and experiences, as I'm guessing I'm not alone in feeling less than fully competent in dealing with the media.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 22, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is There Any Reason Not To Be on Twitter? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

As the framing of the FAQ from Monday and today suggests, I'm somewhat agnostic when it comes to whether law professors should blog. But not when it comes to law professors on Twitter.

First, though, a few follow-up thoughts on blogging: As Will Baude noted in the comments, "the advisability blogging, even more than most of aspects of this series, is going to turn heavily on personal tastes and abilities. Blogging is certainly not *so* important as to be worth a person's spending time on it even if they find it unpleasant and time-consuming." I think that's right, though my attempt at categorizing the types of blogging to include field-specific blogging, practitioner-oriented blogging, and beyond blogging was aimed at suggesting that the pain of law blogging may be even more worth it if your goal is for your scholarship and ideas to reach policymakers, practitioners, and the public more generally. In those circumstances, Orin Kerr's observation may no longer be the case that "blogging is still an extracurricular activity instead of something that is part of the core mission of legal academics." For example, I'm guessing that's not the case for Doug Berman, Paul Caron, Noah Feldman, Rick Hasen, or Steven Davidoff Solomon, or perhaps even for Stephen Bainbridge or Josh Blackman.

With respect to Twitter, however, I'd reframe the FAQ I often get as whether there is any reason for a law professor not to be on Twitter. 

I'm a big fan of Twitter for law professors, as my leading question suggests. At the start of my second year at the law school, I decided to experiment with Twitter as a professional resource and social media tool, and I haven't looked back. A few benefits come immediately to mind.

First, a lot of academics are on Twitter, so from an information-gathering perspective you can find out about developments and new scholarship in your field much more quickly. Because you choose who you follow, you can structure your Twitter timeline (or create lists if your timeline consists of a lot of different fields, etc.) to track in real time what's going on in your field.

Second, a lot of academics -- in addition to other experts and media in most law and policy fields -- are on Twitter, so from an information-sharing perspective you can add your voice to the conversation on a particular issue and get your scholarship and ideas out there more quickly. For instance, I've fielded a lot of media inquiries based on my tweets about current cases or regulatory developments (more on media consulting on Friday), and my blog posts and draft articles get a lot more eyes on them by circulating them on Twitter (not so much on Facebook or LinkedIn).

Third, conversations about your scholarship, blog posts, and ideas are likely already happening on Twitter. And because you're not on it, the likelihood that others will find your more extensive commentary on the issue -- or explore your other scholarship and ideas -- is diminished. So much of information-sharing is driven by social media these days that I'm puzzled, for instance, why a number of law bloggers aren't even on Twitter. These seem like missed opportunities to join the conversation around an idea, blog post, or article that you've already written, or to add your scholarship to the discussion.

Fourth, especially in comparison to blogging, Twitter requires very little effort. It's not the case that you only get out of it what you put into it. You get a lot out of the very little effort of setting up the account. Just create an account, let Twitter search your contacts for potential accounts to follow, follow those accounts in your field, and then tweet out stuff when you feel like it -- once a day, once a week, or whatever. Having a Twitter presence, without too much more, helps reap the benefits discussed above. Of course, some scholars put a lot more effort into Twitter than that, and I'd be curious if they feel the benefits are commensurate to the costs. Plus, Twitter, like all social media, can be quite addictive and could distract from scholarship if one does not exercise self-control. On the other hand, Twitter can also be a nice reprieve from waiting in line at the DMV, sitting in the audience at an event you have to attend (you can always live-tweet conferences, etc., to keep you more engaged too), or filling some other dead time in the day.

Finally, some remark that they are already on Facebook and/or LinkedIn (or Instagram or Snapchat (!?)), so they do not want to take on another social media platform. In my experience, however, the benefits listed above are much better on Twitter than Facebook or LinkedIn. I'd be curious what others have experienced with the various social media platforms. As for tips for navigating twitter, there are lots of how-to guides out there. Plus, over at the Faculty Lounge in February we brainstormed some tips for law reviews on Twitter, and many of those tips apply to law professors as well.

So what say you PrawfsBlawg community?  Is Twitter great or the greatest?

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 20, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Is Blogging Worth It? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

The Junior Law Prawfs FAQ series enters its third week. The first week focused on publishing legal scholarship (responses, book reviews, and online law review essays). The second week turned to interacting with peers in one's field, including promoting new scholarship, commenting on others' draft scholarship, and increasing in-person scholarly interactions. This week's line of questions builds on last week's, but concerns interacting within one's field more generally (not just limited to other scholars in the field).

Today's FAQ asks a very common question: Especially as a junior scholar, is blogging worth it?

To focus our crowdsourcing, let's put a couple things to one side. First, follow the cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule, especially pretenure as your tenure-voting colleagues will no doubt have strong feelings on whether they feel blogging is a worthwhile pretenure endeavor. Second, make sure your tenure house is in order. I see blogging as one means to help one become a national (or international) voice in one's field, but it's not a substitute for the traditional scholarship required for promotion and tenure (at least not at any school I know). So this FAQ assumes the junior scholar can blog on top of doing the things required for tenure.

With those assumptions in mind, the next set of questions concern what type of blogging and what benefits one hopes to secure. Let's start with the type of blogging, as I think that changes the cost-benefit analysis. Here I'm going to define blogging more broadly than perhaps the ordinary, everyday meaning:

(1) Generalist Law Nerd Blogging: Perhaps we should call this category the first wave of legal blogging? In this category I include any of the generalist law blogs (Prawfs, Concurring Opinions, Faculty Lounge, Volokh Conspiracy, etc.), where a collection of legal scholars blog about nerdy law and policy topics that may interest them. To be sure, some blog more exclusively on their subject matters, but the blogs themselves seem more general, with the target audience being other legal scholars and law nerds.

(2) Field-Specific, Law Professor Blogging: Here think Law Professor Blogs Network. These blogs have a subject-matter focus, yet the bloggers are generally still legal scholars. The audience, though, may be more than just other legal scholars and may include policymakers, advocates, and others interested in the field. Some of these blogs are team efforts, whereas others -- Doug Berman, Paul Caron, and Rick Hasen come immediately to mind -- are mainly solo endeavors. Some of these blogs attempt to cover everything that's happening in that field (again, see, for example, Berman, Caron, and Hasen), whereas others cover topics that are of most interest to the bloggers (and their audience).

(3) Field-Specific, Yet Practitioner-Oriented Blogging: A variant of the prior category, these blogs are similarly focused on one legal field, but their audience is perhaps as much if not more policymakers and practitioners, as it is other legal scholars and law nerds. This is at least the goal of the Notice and Comment blog, where I've regularly blogged since Fall 2014. The Yale Journal on Regulation student editors founded the blog, and we became the official administrative law blog in the Law Professor Blogs Network about a year later. More recently, the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice joined as a co-partner to expand our government and practitioner audiences (and bloggers). The blog's mission is definitely to reach policymaking, government, and practitioner audiences.

(4) Beyond Blogging: As traditional media outlets have been forced to evolve (perhaps in part in response to blogging), opportunities to write regularly for more traditional media outlets seem to be on the rise. Volokh Conspiracy's migration to the Washington Post is one example of that trend. But individual law professors have also been deeply involved, with Garret Epps, Noah Feldman, Peter Shane, Steven Davidoff Solomon, and Cass Sustein coming immediately to mind. These authors write regularly for the Atlantic, Bloomberg View, Huffington Post, and the New York Times, among others, as opposed to at law blogs. 

My guess is that the costs and benefits will vary significantly depending on the type of blogging one is interested in doing, and of course what one hopes to get out of it.  I can only speak from my own personal experience. As I mentioned above, I started blogging at the Yale Journal on Regulation back in Fall 2014. The advice I received from many regular (and retired) bloggers was to start with a narrow focus, as blogging takes up a lot of time and can end up swallowing time otherwise dedicated for my own research.

Inspired by Jotwell, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette's Written Description Blog, and Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog, I decided my initial experiment would be the AdLaw Bridge Series, in which I would highlight one piece of administrative law scholarship each week in an attempt to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of administrative law. I was already reading all of these articles, and oftentimes providing comments to the authors, so I thought the additional work of coming up with a few hundred words about the piece wouldn't be too overwhelming. 

As I got more comfortable with doing the AdLaw Bridge Series, I'd sprinkle in a couple substantive posts of my own each month, covering current administrative law cases and topics. For instance, I did two fun posts on King v. Burwell (within hours of the opinion being issued), and more recently one in response to Tyler Cowen on Trump as Regulator-in-Chief. We've also done a number of online symposia on various topics, and I do a monthly SSRN adlaw scholarship top-10 list. I of course also blog about my own scholarship -- at the idea-generating stage, at the comment-soliciting stage, and at publication.

I definitely underestimated the costs of blogging regularly, but fortunately I also undervalued the benefits. Blogging regularly is therapeutic, as it keeps me more engaged with ideas and arguments in my field, supporting my own research and teaching. Blogging about articles makes me read them a bit more closely, and obviously has helped me get to know scholars in my field. Hopefully readers have also found them useful. If one enjoys talking with reporters or consulting with policymakers, the number of calls I receive from both groups has gone up considerably since I started blogging, and many of those individuals reference blog posts of mine. SSRN downloads shot through the roof once I started blogging, and I hope that means that scholars, government officials, and practitioners are reading and thinking about my scholarship.

In sum, my own experience is that there are significant costs and benefits to blogging, but at least for me it has had a large positive net value and complements well my research agenda. It's particularly helpful for someone like me who hopes that federal agency officials and administrative law practitioners will read and incorporate my scholarship.

I'm curious to hear others' perspectives on blogging regularly -- both as to the cost-benefit analysis generally and as to cost-effective ways to blog. If you've already blogged about that elsewhere, please do include the link(s) in the comments so that others can find them here.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 18, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, April 15, 2016

How Can I Increase In-Person Scholarly Interaction with Limited Resources? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

In her meta response to this Junior Law Prawfs FAQ series, my colleague Deborah Merritt suggested, among other things, that we should "[r]educe the number of scholarly presentations that require travel."  She further explained:

Workshops and conferences are terrific ways to promote scholarly exchange, but we have more than is prudent. These sessions are expensive for schools to host, and frequent faculty travel disrupts class schedules. And let’s not forget the major effect that air travel has on global warming. We could cut scholarly travel modestly, replacing some of it with online interactions. We could prune, moreover, in a way that preserves junior and diverse voices.

Like Howard, I agree with some of Debby's proposals, including encouraging both shorter and online forms of scholarship and balancing our scholarly modes. But I'm just not convinced that the benefits of this less-travel-for-conference proposal justify their costs. In fact, I see in-person scholarly interaction (especially with the senior scholars) as a vital part of developing a voice in one's field. 

But, as Debby notes, we live in a world of (perhaps increasingly) limited resources, so such in-person interactions may be becoming less common and more precious. In response to this post I'd love to hear more about how others have leveraged existing resources to create meaningful, in-person scholarly dialogue.

To get us started, here are ten best practices I've seen in my first few years here:

(1) Faculty Workshops: For those schools that still maintain a faculty workshop series with outside presenters, one best practice that I love about my law school is that pretenure scholars are given the opportunity each year to choose one of the outside presenters and are encouraged to select someone senior in their field who they would like to get to know better. This is a terrific opportunity for junior scholars to interact with others in their field, and the folks I've brought in have remained strong mentors in my scholarly development.

(2) Summer Faculty Workshops: Last year we experimented with a new form of summer faculty workshop where pretenure professors invited other junior scholars in their field to present their scholarship during a lightning-round faculty workshop. The junior scholars paid their own way, and our law school covered a dinner the night before and the lunch at the faculty workshop. To limit the number of events, we had three presenters at each of two workshops, who received 20-25 minutes total to present and get feedback. These lightning rounds were very productive, as was the ability for all of the juniors here to interact with three juniors from outside the law school.

(3) Junior Faculty Workshops: Established long before I arrived here, the law school supports a monthly junior faculty workshop series, where we get to present scholarship internally. In addition to having a smaller environment that may encourage a different type of discussion (and with more junior peers, which may take some pressure off some to present earlier and/or crazier ideas), it is also an easy way to have additional in-person scholarly interactions without the cost (in terms of lunch, if that is provided, and faculty time) of the full-faculty workshop.

(4) Inter-School Exchange Workshops: We have a number of exchange agreements with other Ohio schools, where they send one scholar to our faculty workshop each year and we send one their way. This reduces costs significantly -- allowing us to have more opportunities to present elsewhere as well as more opportunities to interact with scholars outside of our school here.

(5) State/Regional Conferences: For many years now we have had the Ohio Legal Scholars Conference twice a year, in which junior scholars at law schools from across the state pay their own way to drive to one school for a one-day event. The costs on the host institution are relatively low (lunch and facilities), and this provides a great opportunity to interact with others in the field and in the state. Indiana-Bloomington also hosts an annual Big Ten Juniors Conference that is absolutely amazing. I love that it's in August, near the end of the summer research cycle but before classes begin. I attended a "new ideas" conference at the beginning of last summer that U Kentucky hosts each year, and that was a terrific event as well.

(6) Law Review Symposium: When Chevron deference turned thirty, my colleague Peter Shane suggested that we organize a birthday party and pitch it to a law review. This is a lot of work to do solo, especially pretenure, but not as heavy a lift if you have a partner in crime. The Fordham Law Review agreed to take the symposium (final written product here).  This experience remains for me one of the most meaningful from the perspective of developing as a scholar. Law reviews are always looking for symposium topics, and law reviews typically have funding to help pull off the event. It obviously helps to have a participant at the law review's institution.

(7) Field-Specific Conferences: Imitating the longstanding and successful Federal Courts Junior Faculty Workshop and newer Civil Procedure Workshop, a number of us (coincidentally all at Big 10 schools) have launched the Administrative Law New Scholarship Rountable. The inaugural roundtable will be at Michigan State this summer; Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have committed to host the event during the next three years. The host institution agrees to pay for meals, facilities, and the travel and lodging expenses for the senior commentators, and the presenters (who were selected from a call for papers) pay their own travel and lodging. This is a terrific way to gather scholars in a field together to workshop papers and share ideas, and this format (which we copied from the Fed Courts Workshop) is pretty cost-effective. A number of other legal fields have similar events.

(8) Practitioner Events: One of the hidden secrets for administrative law scholars is the annual ABA Administrative Law Conference. The ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice solicits panel proposals in the spring/summer for the fall conference, and many law professors propose panels on current topics and scholarship. And many more law professors attend the conference, along with 500-1000 government and law firm attorneys. This is a terrific opportunity to bridge the theory-practice gap, and my guess is that other ABA sections have similar programming (or could have similar programming with a little nudge from professors in their field). There are of course annual conferences for the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society, among others, that may afford additional opportunities for law professors to present their scholarship and interact with each other and other lawyers and policymakers in their field.

(9) Online Forums: Although not in-person interactions, there are a number of ways to interact online. For instance, as I mentioned last week, we just wrapped up a terrific online symposium over at Yale JREG on Peter Conti-Brown's new book on the Federal Reserve. I've participated in a number of ABA and Federalist Society teleforums on emerging issues and cases (see, e.g., here). As Richard Re documented last summer here on PrawfsBlawg, we once had a pretty vibrant discussion via Twitter about the Supreme Court's standing precedent. (I'll return to Twitter next week.) And Nancy Leong's RightsCast is worth checking out as another way for scholars to interact online about their research.

(10) Book Clubs: I couldn't compile a list of in-person opportunities to develop one's scholarship without mentioning the scholar who occupies the office next to mine: Peter Shane. I am so fortunate to have another scholar in my field at my law school. And one of the most generous scholars in my field, at that. We have many, many interactions on a weekly, if not daily, basis, but one of my favorites is our "book club" -- an idea Peter proposed shortly after I arrived. We take turns choosing a new piece of scholarship in our field to read, and then we discuss it over lunch. I've learned so much about my field, about writing scholarship, and about life during these lunches. To be sure, sometimes we spend just a few minutes on the assigned reading, and conversation quickly drifts to our own research. Not everyone is fortunate to have another scholar in their field at their school, but fortunately technology has made it more possible to have such conversations remotely.

I think I'll stop there, as I'm already over 1,000 words. These are the first ten that come immediately to mind. But I'd love to hear ideas that others have to encourage more interaction between scholars in one's field. And, as always, definitely chime in if you think I'm asking the wrong question(s).

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 15, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How Should I Respond to Requests to Read Draft Articles in My Field? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

A significant part of my first few years on the faculty has consisted of reading articles from scholars in my field. Perhaps in part because I transitioned straight from private practice, I felt way behind when I arrived and took the advice of mentors to spend much of my first year just reading articles in my field -- time that, looking back, was very well spent. 

As I started in interact more in my field, however, the requests to read and comment others' drafts started trickling in and now I spend a lot of time reading and commenting drafts. I am guessing I'm not alone here. Although I've gotten faster at reviewing drafts, it still requires a decent chunk of time, and even more to do so well.

That leads to my Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ for today: Especially for junior scholars, how should one respond to requests to read drafts of articles in one's field?

The short answer, I think, is that junior scholars generally should accept the request to respond. This feels like a critical part of being a legal academic. I admire the senior scholars in administrative law who are so generous with the time to comment on drafts of my work. I still remember when Jerry Mashaw and Peter Strauss, for instance, took the time to review and comment on one of my papers. To be sure, especially as a junior scholar with a steeper learning curve and a tenure clock, it's understandable to set some limits. But healthy habits are made early.

Perhaps the more interesting question is how to respond. In other words, what type of feedback is most helpful and valuable to scholars in the field? I've received everything from general comments and broad themes to specific suggestions and even line edits. I'm just happy to receive any feedback, so I haven't focused too much on what has been most helpful to me. And I'm particularly curious if there are any best practices for aspiring and junior scholars to think about when commenting on senior scholars' draft articles in particular.

Circling back to Monday's FAQ post about increasing the chances of one's scholarship being read by folks in the field, one critical step is becoming part of the field. And reading and commenting on drafts from others in the field seems like an important ingredient. On Friday I'll turn to what I think is another important ingredient: participating (and organizing) conference/symposium events.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 13, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, April 11, 2016

How Do I Increase the Chance My Scholarship Will Be Read? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Last week we covered various FAQs concerning the type of legal publication (responses to articles, book reviews, and online law reviews). This week the questions will focus on interacting within one's field. The first question, which dovetails nicely with the questions from last week, is how to increase the chances that one's scholarship, especially pretenure (though not limited to that), will actually be read in the field. I'm very interested in leveraging the PrawfsBlawg community on this. To get us started, here are a few best practices that come to mind:

1. Post Papers Online: Make sure your paper is available on the various online repositories. SSRN is probably the most used in our field, but also consider Selected Works (bepress), Academia.edu, law school depositories, and others. I tend to post draft papers to SSRN once they've been accepted for publication, but practices seem to vary among legal scholars. Some post drafts before they submit to law reviews, whereas others wait until the final paper is published. There are advantages, I think, to getting the draft circulated once it's in decent shape so that you can actually incorporate comments you may receive. But definitely get a sense of the norms in your legal subfield as well as follow the cardinal Ask Your Colleagues rule. I don't post to the other online repositories until the paper is published, though there probably isn't a good reason for that.

2. Utilize Social Media: Once you have the paper posted somewhere, it makes sense to circulate to your social networks, via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. (I'll return to Twitter/social media in more depth later this month.) 

3. Circulate to Readers: I send the final version to anyone who has provided comments on prior drafts, as well as any organizers of conferences or faculty workshops where I presented earlier drafts. I've also created an email list of junior scholars/regular readers in my field that I send it to, as well as a list of current and former research assistants (I do that more as an excuse to stay in touch with them).

4. Hard Copy and Electronic Offprints: When I transitioned from private practice to the law faculty here, I pledged to never send out paper offprints as it just seemed like a waste of trees (and money!). I've since changed my mind and send out offprints to a number of folks in the field. I'd be curious to hear what others think about hard-copy offprints. In all events, if not hard copies, at least a personalized email to those in your field who may find it interesting (construing that category broadly). 

5. Guest-Blogging about Article: I plan on discussing blogging in greater detail later this month, but it's not a bad idea to blog about your new paper -- either once you have a draft online or once the final version is posted. If you don't blog regularly, you can always approach a blog in your subfield and ask if you can do a couple posts about your article. If your work is related to administrative law/regulation, we always welcome guest blog posts at the Yale Journal on Regulation blog (the student editors have the final say, but they love to get guest posts on current scholarship). RegBlog also encourages adlaw scholars to write up opinion pieces on their current scholarship, as does Osservatorio AIR (with a great readership in Europe).

Those are the best practices that come immediately to mind. I'd love to hear what others do to increase the chance their scholarship actually gets read. Definitely feel free to shoot down any of the ideas I've suggested above.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 11, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (10)

Friday, April 08, 2016

How Do I Make Sense of Online Law Reviews? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

As I mentioned on Monday with respect to whether to publish online responses to law review articles (or to allow law review editors to seek response(s) to one's own article), I planned on returning to the more basic question of how to make sense of the rise of the online companions to many general law reviews. To get us started, consider the following question Nancy Leong recently crowdsourced on Facebook from a friend who is interested in legal academia (reposted with permission):

For purposes of getting a job, which of the following article placements is best: (1) a print law review at a school ranked 50-100; (2) a print specialty journal at a top 15ish school; or (3) an online law review at a top 15ish school?

This isn't the first time I've seen such a question on Facebook, and a number of aspiring academics (and junior law professors) have asked me similar questions. Based on the responses to Nancy's FB post, my guess is that there are at least as many answers--many conflicting--as there are online law reviews.

My questions are a bit more basic (though I hope still important) than whether to place an article in the print or online journal: What's the purpose of online law reviews? And how should we view and use them as scholars (junior or otherwise)?

Outside of writing responses to law review articles (the purpose of which seems quite obvious), I've only waded into the online law review waters once. My colleague Paul Rose and I had authored a white paper for the Chamber of Commerce on cost-benefit analysis in financial regulation. (I plan on returning to white papers/reports/advocacy projects later this month.)  In doing that research we had what we thought was one pretty cool, but pretty narrow, argument that didn't fit in the report. We didn't want to write a full article because of other research obligations, but we also wanted to get it out there as the D.C. Circuit was considering similar cases and it was part of a hot academic debate. So we wrote up a few thousand words, and published the essay in an online law review. It attracted a fair amount of attention, got the idea out there in a timely manner (submission took less than a week and editing another couple weeks), and drew more attention to our white paper in the process.

If the purpose of the online law review is to get timely, short (2K-6K words) essays out there faster than the traditional law review, I think I understand the place of online law reviews in current legal scholarship. But that doesn't seem to be the case with at least some online law reviews, as Nancy's FB post indicates. Scholars now seem to be publishing much longer pieces in online law reviews. It seems, perhaps, that at least some law reviews are treating their online companions like the GAP to their print volume Banana Republic (or maybe the better analogy is the Banana Republic Outlet line to the more expensive BR line).

This is perhaps reinforced by the latest Washington & Lee Law Review Rankings, which were released earlier this week. In skimming the top-100 general law review rankings (based on the "combined" citation score), I was surprised to see a few online companions in the list. In drafting this post I took a closer look:  Among the general law reviews -- print and online combined -- the Stanford Law Review Online comes in at No. 52, the Yale Law Journal Forum at No. 70, Northwestern at No. 86, Columbia at No. 92, Penn at No. 123, Harvard at No. 125, Vanderbilt at No. 147, and Michigan at No. 148. So apparently scholars are reading them and citing them, more so than many other fine print law reviews. Further digging is needed to understand whether the online companions are becoming substitutes for other journals in those tiers with respect to medium-length articles/essays. Anecdotal evidence suggest that may be happening.

When working as a law student on the law review over a decade ago, the trend at the time was for law reviews to commit to publishing shorter articles, meaning fewer than 25K or even 20K words. While longer articles have their place in legal scholarship, I was hoping this trend would stick to encourage shorter, more accessible articles (especially to scholars outside of law who would consider our articles books) in addition to the more treatise-length articles we publish. That doesn't seem to have happened. I fear the online law review might be filling that void, and if so, I'm not sure what that means for legal scholarship.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, and online law reviews end up being what many of us hoped they would be: an opportunity to publish quickly an important idea on a timely law or policy topic in the form of a short essay (5-15 pages); an opportunity to respond to an article published in the law review; or an opportunity to have a fun dialogue or debate (minisymposium) on a timely topic in law or policy.  I have seen this done very effectively. Mehrsa Baradaran's postal banking essay comes immediately to mind,  in which she further developed an idea floated in one of her law review articles in response to the USPS releasing a white paper on the topic. She then wrote a full-length book on the subject, and Bernie Sanders has taken that idea further. That's just one of many examples that come to mind.

I hope this post sparks a productive discussion on how to make sense of online law reviews. I'd love to hear about others' experiences--both good and bad--with the online law review publishing process. Do online law reviews serve other useful purposes that I haven't flagged in this post? Am I even asking the right questions here with respect to the purpose and value of online law reviews?

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 8, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Going Meta on the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series

I'll be back on Friday with my next FAQ (on the mysterious rise and perplexing value of online law reviews), but I thought I'd share the provocative response my colleague Deborah Merritt posted about this Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ Series over at the Law School Cafe. The full post is here, but here are seven points that she thinks are essential to reshape our scholarly sphere:

(1)  Give back some of the time we now devote to scholarship. We could use that resource to reduce tuition, expand experiential education, offer more feedback to students, or equalize faculty status (see point #7 below). I strongly support excellent scholarship, but know that we can preserve quality (if not quantity) with fewer resources. The scholars of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s did it; so can we.

(2) Reduce the number of scholarly presentations that require travel.Workshops and conferences are terrific ways to promote scholarly exchange, but we have more than is prudent. These sessions are expensive for schools to host, and frequent faculty travel disrupts class schedules. And let’s not forget the major effect that air travel has on global warming. We could cut scholarly travel modestly, replacing some of it with online interactions. We could prune, moreover, in a way that preserves junior and diverse voices.

(3) Encourage both shorter and online forms of scholarship. A short published response to a theoretical piece can promote significant intellectual advancement. Put that essay online and it may stimulate even more discussion. Create an online conference and it will foster both synchronous and asynchronous commentary. These scholarly modes have already emerged but, as Chris’s discussion suggests, junior scholars are unsure of their value. Faculty leaders should make clear that these new scholarly venues make significant contributions.

(4) Balance our scholarly modes. Although I like new forms of scholarship, the traditional law review article and academic book still serve key roles. There are times when a scholar needs to develop an idea fully in an article or book. As faculty leaders, we should promote newer types of scholarship in combination with more traditional outlets. Most scholars will do some of each over an academic career; others will gravitate to a particular mode. We can find balance both individually and as a faculty.

(5) Promote scholarship that helps practitioners and clients. These groups draw value from many types of scholarship. I have discussed my federalism theories with legislators, government lawyers, and judges. Community members have responded enthusiastically to essays critiquing the legal system. We shouldn’t assume that practicing lawyers and their clients are too plebian to appreciate theory. But at the same time, we should not denounce other types of scholarship as too “descriptive” or “doctrinal.” It’s hard to describe legal principles clearly, and legal doctrines are complex. As a result, practitioners and clients benefit from ongoing insights about legal developments. Faculty already recognize the complexity of legal doctrine in their teaching; that same complexity justifies thoughtful, well organized scholarship that guides practitioners and clients through legal thickets.

(6) Value teaching materials as scholarship. Like my plug for professionally relevant scholarship, this point is both old and new. Hart and Wechsler’s revolutionary casebook on The Federal Courts and the Federal System profoundly affected both scholarship and teaching when it first appeared; it undoubtedly continues to do so under its contemporary authors. Creating thoughtful materials for students has always provoked scholarly reflection. Today, as brain science deepens our understanding of pedagogy, there is even more scope for teaching materials that incorporate and further scholarship.

(7) Abolish our faculty caste system. Today’s legal scholarship rests on an uneasy–and deeply unfair–caste system. Tenured professors at many law schools enjoy job security, high pay, light course loads, and extensive research support (summer grants, travel funds, research assistants, computers). These professors rarely teach the time-intensive courses that students, employers, and regulators recognize are essential to professional education. Instead, we rely upon a cadre of professors who are much lower paid, lack full job security, and enjoy little research support to teach those courses. Many of those professors want to do research; indeed, many have produced scholarship without the summer grants or lightened teaching loads that tenured faculty claim are indispensable.

  

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 7, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Is Publishing a Book Review in a Law Review Still a Worthwhile Pretenure Endeavor? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Following up on my post from Monday on whether it's worth writing a response to a law review article as a junior scholar, I thought I'd turn to the somewhat related question of whether as a junior scholar it's worth doing a full-length book review in a law review. To provide a little background, I still remember some advice a professor gave during my aspiring-professor legal studies workshop in law school over a decade ago (paraphrasing as my memory isn't that good):

Publishing a book review in a law review is an excellent way to introduce yourself to the field because you can interact with a respected senior scholar's work and then let your own voice and ideas come through as well.  There's the additional value that it's easier for a junior scholar to place a book review (especially of a book by a respected scholar in one's field) in a top-tier law review than a traditional law review article. So you build your CV with a top-tier book review placement, which helps you place your first full-length article. And, moreover, scholars in your field are more likely to read a book review from a junior scholar than a traditional article from that same previously unknown junior scholar.

Assuming this advice was good a decade ago, is it still good advice today? Do many law reviews still publish these long-form book reviews? Is it really easier to place a book review than a traditional article in a law review? Is it more likely that scholars will read the book review than a full-length article from an unknown junior scholar in the field?

To be sure, the Michigan Law Review still does its Annual Survey of Books. As Paul Horwitz noted on this blog last year, the Tulsa Law Review also has had a long tradition of publishing a book review issue, though I didn't see a submissions option on their website for this year. And I see the Harvard Law Review and others still publish book reviews on occasion. In fact, Kathryne Young  and Joan Petersilia just published a fun books review in the Harvard Law Review that's definitely worth a read, especially because it reviews, among other books, Alice Goffman's On the Run that has been the subject of some controversy -- though Young and Petersilia conclude (at 1330 n.36) that "[t]he allegations that [Goffman] fabricated data or exaggerated claims have received a fair amount of media attention, but at this point strike us as so poorly founded that they are not worth debating here." [HT Orin Kerr]

I have little insight to offer on this question, as I've never written a long-form book review for law review submission. Sure, I've blogged about books over at the Yale Journal on Regulation, including a contribution yesterday to our symposium on Peter Conti-Brown's terrific new book The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve. And it's definitely on my bucket list to publish a book review over at The New Rambler (one of my favorite academic websites out there). But blog and website short-form book reviews strike me as a different beast than the long-form law-review book review. The cost-benefit analysis for these online book reviews seems similar to writing responses to law review articles (which we discussed in Monday's post).

With that disclaimer of ignorance, I'm a bit skeptical about the pretenure value of long-form book reviews. Again, it comes back to opportunity costs. It takes a long time to read and digest a book and then come up with something smart to say about it, and an even longer time to then build on the book in a way that furthers one's own research agenda. To be sure, there may be times when the stars align and the book ends where your brilliant research agenda begins. There may also be opportunities to coauthor a book review with a senior scholar in your field, which produces additional benefits (and costs). In other words, there may be exceptions to the general rule. Conversely, I'm not convinced that a junior scholar has a better chance of placing a book review than a traditional law review article, perhaps because I'm not sure law reviews are publishing book reviews as often as they may have been in the past. Nor am I persuaded that scholars in the field are more likely to read a new scholar's book review than her first full-length article.

Do folks agree that the general pretenure rule is probably to focus on other forms of scholarship? I'm quite curious to crowdsource this question and hear the experiences of others (both pre- and post-tenure).

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 6, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

How Does My Research Fit Within the Types of Legal Scholarship? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

A number of junior (and aspiring) law professors have reached out with a common question: How do I conceptualize where my research agenda and/or methodology fits into the larger legal literature? Fortunately, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has already provided a terrific starting point, in an essay entitled Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide, which was published in Journal of Legal Education in 2013. Here's the introduction:

It has been my pleasure to be a sounding board and advisor to many people who consider becoming law professors and yet it has not always been easy to introduce people considering their own research projects to reflect on how their ideas connect with the varieties of legal scholarship. One day I decided to write up a “field guide,” meant to be rather like the guides to birds that offer pictures and descriptions to assist the casual or serious birdwatcher. After sharing it and revising it, I have learned that this “guide” now travels underground and electronically, so I thought it time to give it an official publication, and the Journal’s editors kindly agreed. The explosion of interdisciplinary research in law contributes to the variety of legal scholarship. So does the contrast between “inside” and “outside” thinking in law schools where we try both to equip people for practice and effectiveness within existing institutions and for roles as critics, institutional reformers, and scholars who may explain and analyze in terms quite different from those in the minds of actors operating within existing legal systems. So here with an invitation for supplements, critiques, and revisions is my Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide.

Definitely go give the full essay (all five pages!) a read here. Tomorrow I'll return with my next FAQ on whether book reviews in law reviews are still a worthwhile pretenure endeavor.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 5, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 04, 2016

Should I Say Write a Response to a Law Review Article (or Allow the Law Review to Solicit Responses to Mine)? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

It seems a growing trend for law reviews to solicit responses to articles they have selected for publication, with the responses appearing in the print volume or the law review's online companion. (I'll have a separate, more general question about publishing in online law reviews later this month.) The editors of my institution's main journal have been doing this for at least a few years now. I think this innovation is a great addition to the legal academy, but the reasons for that would distract from the questions that prompt this post.

Instead, my questions are two-fold: (1) Should junior law professors agree to write such responses? (2) Should junior law professors agree to have the editors solicit responses to their own articles?

I ask in part because a couple years ago the student editors here mentioned that as part of their sales pitch to publish a junior scholar's article, they mentioned that they would love to solicit responses (either based on names the author suggested or faculty suggestions here). The author's response surprised them: The author didn't think it was a good idea pretenure to have a review of/response to the article in print.

Putting to one side extenuating circumstances (and the cardinal "Ask Your Colleagues" rule), I think this is the wrong instinct, especially pretenure. Responses draw more attention to your scholarship, get you more in-depth feedback during the editing process from an expert in your field, and often can lead to a mentor (or closer colleague) in your field. Pretenure I was fortunate to receive responses on two articles. (Thanks Emily and Leandra!) In both instances, I received critical feedback during the editing process that I would have preferred to receive while I could make changes, instead of in an external review letter for tenure (or in subsequent published interaction with my work). Both scholars have become close mentors, and at least three or four conference invitations have resulted from those relationships built. The observations in their responses featured prominently in the promotion and tenure committee's memo to the faculty and dean recommending tenure. 

Whether to respond to someone's article is a tougher question, especially pretenure, as there are of course greater opportunity costs involved (than just agreeing to allow a response to your own article). Since joining the law faculty here I've written four separate response essays, with a fifth coming out next month. I confess that I haven't agreed to do so with the strategic goal of strengthening my voice in the field or building my tenure file. Instead, I've done so because I thought it would be fun, by allowing me to build on my own work, helping me interact with scholars I wanted to get to know better, and/or just learning something new. My sense is that my faculty didn't know what do to with these shorter responses when considering my tenure file (though there's an argument to be made that central administration probably found the additional publications helpful, especially when they are accustomed to seeing many more publications in a tenure file in other disciplines).

In sum, allowing (indeed encouraging) editors to publish responses to your law review articles seems like a best practice for a junior scholar, but I'm not as sure about expending the time to publish responses to others' work. I've thoroughly enjoyed publishing responses and think responses generally add a lot of value to the legal academy (at least in my field), but one needs to consider the opportunity costs. I'm curious to hear what others think.

 

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 4, 2016 at 09:03 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

How Do I Become a Voice in My Field? (Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ)

Thanks Howard for the introduction, and thanks PrawfsBlawg for hosting me this month. By way of introduction, I’m a law professor at The Ohio State University where I teach civil procedure, constitutional litigation, legislation and regulation, and state and local government law as well as teach in our Washington DC summer program. My research focuses primarily on administrative law.

Because I blog regularly on administrative law over at the Yale Journal on Regulation, I want to use this opportunity to blog about something else. Having just gone through the tenure process (awaiting Board of Trustees approval), I’ve thought a lot this year about how to become a voice in my field—both pretenure and shortly after tenure. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded here by a terrific cohort of junior scholars with diverse research interests. Many of our conversations inevitably turn to questions related to maximizing the impact of our precious research time. (Similar conversations, of course, take place with our more senior colleagues.)

I’m guessing we’re not atypical in that respect, as evident by the multiple posts here and elsewhere that address similar questions. That said, I’d love to leverage the collective wisdom of this community to crowdsource answers to a dozen or so questions that junior scholars think about pretenure and shortly after tenure. I'm going to focus on research-related questions (not teaching or service), and all hopefully relate to the larger question of this post about how to become a voice in one's field.

Some of these questions are captured in the outline below—an outline my junior colleagues and I brainstormed at one of our junior faculty workshops a couple years ago. Please don't hesitate to add to the outline in the comments. If you have additional questions you want me to raise as a post, just shoot me an email or include as a comment here. If blog posts (or other publications) already provide an answer, kindly include those links in the comments. Same goes for if you think I'm not asking the right question(s). At the end of the month I’ll assemble all of these in a one-post FAQ for ease of reference.

Below is the outline. I’ll circle back on Monday with my first question.

  • Traditional Approaches to Legal Scholarship
    1. Law Review Articles
    2. Book Reviews in Law Reviews
    3. Symposium Contributions / Organizer of Symposium
    4. Book Chapters / Editor of Book
    5. Academic Press Books
    6. Casebooks / Treatises / Supplements
  • Newer/ish Approaches to Legal Scholarship
    1. Peer-review Articles
    2. Coauthored Scholarship
    3. Interdisciplinary and Empirical Work
    4. Online Law Reviews
    5. Online Law Review Responses
    6. Trade Magazines/Journals/Websites
    7. Jotwell
    8. Online Scholarly Outlets
    9. Op-Eds & Media Consults
    10. White Papers & Other Practitioner or Policy-Oriented Publications
    11. Law Professor Briefs and Of Counsel Filings
    12. Blogging
  • Other Scholarly Activities To Magnify Scholarship, Voice, and Networks
    1. Comment on Works in Progress of Those in Field
    2. Invite Scholars in Field to Your Law School
    3. Conferences & Work-in-Progress Sessions: AALS, regional conferences, junior scholars workshops, and other field-specific gatherings
    4. Organizing Colloquia, Symposia, Conferences, and Other Scholarly Gatherings
    5. Practice-Oriented Groups: ABA, etc.
    6. Scholarship Circulation: Offprints, Emails, SSRN, BE Press, Academia.edu
    7. Ideas Circulation: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
    8. Editorial Boards of Field-Specific Journals, eJournals, and other Publications
    9. Participation in Field-Specific Email List Services, eJournals
    10. Fellowship and Other Funding Opportunities
    11. International Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Scholarly Interaction
    12. Consulting Opportunities within field, practice area, government, nonprofit, etc.

@chris_j_walker

Posted by Chris Walker on April 2, 2016 at 09:30 AM in Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)