The Yale Law Journal


The Future of Legal Scholarship

06 Sep 2006

Legal scholars’ work has moved beyond law journals’ printed pages. This month, The Yale Law Journal Pocket Part features essays that discuss, celebrate, and critique the ways in which legal scholarship is changing. Professor Paul Caron describes how professors download articles from the Internet long before they appear in the law journals. Legal weblogs critique slip opinions months before students’ case notes reach the printer, as Professor Stephen Vladeck observes. A quicker publication process and a freer medium permit a jazzier style of writing, as Professor Christopher Bracey shows. And changes of pace and of style permit—indeed, encourage—changes of substance as well, as Professor Jack Balkin describes in an account of how his blog, Balkinization, helped scuttle Senator Arlen Specter’s recent bill on domestic spying. Professor Ann Althouse celebrates scholars’ online work but warns student editors not to “tart up” our websites, while Professor Eugene Volokh proposes three innovative ways to do just that. Professors Rosa Brooks and Brian Leiter have added their thoughts— Brooks discusses what the Internet will mean for female professors, and Leiter cautions against the dangers that unmediated public blogs can pose to scholarly debate. We thank these authors for their contributions and offer here a few words in response.

We see great value in professors’ online work. Blogs insightfully critique scholarship, comment usefully on problems of legal doctrine, and speak to decision-makers in straightforward language. The Yale Law Journal Pocket Part is our effort to join these strengths of online debate to the traditions of the student-edited law journal. The blogs have flaws that student editors can help to mend. Many online postings are incomplete or of only passing interest; students can help to select the most significant. Every online posting is subject to change or deletion at its creator’s whim; students can help to preserve and archive them. Many postings lack proper citations to the relevant authorities; students can carefully check the necessary sources. This Journal’s editors have long performed these tasks, and readers may rely on the permanence and the accuracy of these web pages as they have for so long relied on our printed pages.

By publishing the Pocket Part we hope to introduce new readers to the discussions begun in the Journal. We place special value on responses that relate the Journal’s work to the concerns of members of the bench and the bar who rarely read law review articles. We particularly hope that Pocket Part essays will be of use to legal decision-makers beyond the academy’s walls, be they federal appellate judges reviewing sentencing decisions or U.S. Senators framing questions for a Supreme Court nominee.

We welcome new writers to the Pocket Part as well. These pages are meant to bring other scholars into the Journal’s theoretical discussions and to correct and update older works, as Professor Volokh proposes. We publish student commentaries on recent legal events, including an eye-witness account of the Federal Rules Committee’s hearings on e-discovery amendments and a critique of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s recent expansion of the state assembly’s impeachment power. These student works might help to address Professor Vladeck’s concern that the legal blogs have usurped students’ traditional role in reporting current developments in the law. And we welcome contributions from practicing lawyers and judges on subjects as diverse as the discoverability of Instant Messenger “chats,” the reasonableness of federal sentencing decisions, and the constitutional status of tort law.

We invite all our authors and readers to work with us to combine the Journal’s traditions of accuracy and thoroughness with the clarity, brevity, and responsiveness of online legal scholarship.