Jim, the latest law professor to speak with us for this interview series, uses his blog to write on all-things law: though the general focus is tax law (the area of expertise for which he is known at Villanova), he is also known to offer up commentary about other issues such as legal education.
As usual, the details of our e-mail exchange are available after the jump.
1. Rob La Gatta: In bestowing upon you one of his 2007 Blawggie Awards, Dennis Kennedy wrote that “the best compliment you can pay a law professor blog is that it makes you want to take a class with them, and Jim’s definitely does.” Do you believe the blog has given you a degree of respectability among law students?
Jim Maule: Yes, I think the blog has given me a degree of respectability among law students. They know that what I write is what I genuinely think, they realize that I have knowledge about the subjects on which I discourse, and they know I am serious and committed to posting regularly. More than a few students have told me that they read the blog, some very regularly, others somewhat more episodically.
2. Rob La Gatta: Can blogging have any serious impact on a law professor’s national reputation?
Jim Maule: Yes, blogging affects a blogger’s reputation, and that is an effect not limited to law faculty or faculty generally. The content of the blog can bring someone into the spotlight or brighten the intensity of a spotlight in which someone already stands. Blogs are easily accessible, but for some nations that block them, and they tend to attract readers who are interested in the subject matter and who enjoy the blogger’s writing style.
2a. Rob La Gatta:
Has it impacted yours?
Jim Maule: Anecdotally, I know that my blog has been cited by several law review articles. It has been mentioned in national and local newspapers. It brings me e-mail from people throughout the world. I wasn’t a stranger to the tax world before I began blogging, but certainly my name and my thoughts are now reaching people who very well may not have become aware of me but for the blog.
3. Rob La Gatta: How have you seen traditional law reviews adjust to match the growth of the legal blogosphere?
Jim Maule: Traditional law reviews haven’t done much to evolve, aside from making their publications available on-line.
I had hoped, and still hope, that without the constraint of paper publication costs, that law reviews would resume publishing the notes and comments written by law review students as they did decades ago when law reviews published more issues each year than they now do. I had hoped, and still hope, that law reviews would create blog-like web pages that would provide opportunities for law students, lawyers, and law faculty to engage in conversation. Because an increasing number of law faculty are blogging, the law reviews have been pre-empted, to some extent, in taking the lead in adapting to the twenty-first century and its new technologies.
4. Rob La Gatta: In an interview we did with Paul Caron last year, he said that he believes blogs have had “a profound impact on law teaching and legal scholarship.” Have you seen evidence of this firsthand?
Jim Maule: Paul Caron is correct. What I have seen is a new form of the trial balloon for scholarly articles. Though presentation of paper drafts in face-to-face workshops and conferences continues, I see law faculty (and a few practitioners) putting their thoughts in blog posts in order to get feedback. This permits an author to obtain constructive criticism; it provides an avenue for others to raise arguments and objections that encourage the author to modify and refine the draft.
I have adapted several of my blog posts, and published them as short topical essays with BNA Tax Management, Inc. Though that isn’t scholarship as most define it, it demonstrates the value of posting ideas and getting feedback as one develops an article.
In terms of teaching, I am aware that some law faculty direct their students to specific blogs either for purposes of class discussion or for help with seminar and directed research projects. There is no question that the serious law blogs are contributing to scholarship and teaching, and surely in many more ways than I have mentioned.
5. Rob La Gatta: Where do you ultimately see blogs taking legal scholarship in the future?
If the cost of publishing and mailing print copies of law reviews continues to climb, if the increase in specialization within the law persists, and if the number of people with ideas to express and a desire to access those ideas grows, it would not surprise me to see more and more scholarly pieces develop within blogs and perhaps be published in blogs.
I expect that some of what now appears as “response to X” articles may develop within blogs and blog comments. There are some “do it myself law school ranking” projects popping up that use blog citation, numbers of blogs, and other “statistics” based on blogs in arranging their particular “rankings” of law schools. Several law schools have “institutional” blogs, and thus have committed to something that is “bigger” than the blog of any one individual faculty member.
There are several reasons for this development, and though one is the advantage of having multiple authors so that no one faculty member is compelled to post several times a week or more, as do most bloggers, another may be the concern that if a blogging faculty member leaves, the blog goes with that person to another law school.
Interested in hearing more? Recent LexBlog Q & A posts:
- Buzz Bruggeman, founder of ActiveWords and author of buzznovation [2.26.08]
- Mike Dillon, General Counsel at Sun Microsystems and author of The Legal Thing [2.25.08]
- Matt Raymond, Director of Communications at the Library of Congress and author of their official Library of Congress Blog [2.22.08]
- Eric Turkewitz, author of the New York Personal Injury Law Blog [2.21.08]
- J. Daniel Hull, partner at Hull McGuire and author of What About Clients? [2.20.08]
Or, see our full list of legal blog interviews.