Why Do Law Student Blogs Struggle in the Long-Term?

A couple weeks ago, Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy raised the issue of what he perceived as the decline of law student blogs.

We know the folks at Volokh focus on American content, so we don’t take their comments there personally.  On this site we’re noticing several thousand visitors a day.

One explanation offered was that a few years back law student bloggers were still early adopters and they benefited off the novelty.  My good friend Jansen Dennis of the University of Minnesota Law School rightly pointed out that links from law professors are not what create value or worth for a law student blog.

A very plausible reason of students just not having enough time to blog was also offered up.

Stephen Brown related stories of Career Services threatening that no blogging law student would ever get a job, and others noted the professional “liabilities” of having a web presence.

To me the last explanation seems the most ridiculous.  It’s true that some of our contributors have heard the same from their respective Career Services.   But these people are Luddites who often left practice years ago, and have no idea of the immense potential of blogging.

There are plenty of lawyers that we Google when doing our write-ups here, and we frequently come across some rather humorous material.  If you don’t create at least some positive web presence, someone else will create it for you eventually, and usually not favourably.  An online identity is a reality in today’s world – the real issue is how to manage it.

ClaimID, for example,  is a great way to prevent others from pretending to be you or using your name inappropriately.  A bigger issue is when people pretend to be others and comment using their name.  We’ve seen a couple incidents of this already on this site, and co.mments, Commentful, coComment and BackType might be of some use to these users.

But this does relate to what some described as a cultural change, or a reluctance to participate in activities that do not have clear tangible returns.  These arguments miss the point, and anyone who blogs knows they get more out of the interaction and reading other posts than they ever expect to get in direct monetary compensation.

Other readers noted that group blogs such as this site tend to be more successful, again going back to the time issue and the ability for multiple contributors to create regular postings.  This was one of the reasons that Nuts & Boalts was presumably successful to this day.

But a larger issue emerging from this is continuity. Law students are only in school for three years.  After that time there are confidentiality and conflict issues that can limit online content.  Most of our contributors are in their second year now, and we started on this site just before or during our first year.

For this reason we have tried to recruit new first year students this year.  Law students already involved in blogging and the online space, such as David Shulman, were easy decisions.

Other students trying to get in to law school are always on our radar. For example, Vitali Berditchevski, a 4th year student at UofT, writes on My Journey to Law School and recently said,

Also, I’m being noticed in the bLAWgosphere, which is interesting. If you have your own bLAWg or know something ahout law/law school, please don’t hesiste to comment.

Vitali is referring to a conversation we had about his site.  We have several mutual friends that set up the intro, and his site was passed on to us soon after he started blogging.

We do want this site to continue well after we’ve moved on, and so these efforts continue.  This past week we welcome a new contributor to our site, Ryan MacIsaac.  Although Ryan is not in law school yet, he does have several offers of admission and will be starting in the Fall.  He recently completed a B.A. in Linguistics from UofT.

And yes Ryan, we are looking at people like you to take the helm once we start articling.

3 Comments on "Why Do Law Student Blogs Struggle in the Long-Term?"

  1. I’m an American student and a third year undergraduate. I’m very interested in human rights and international law, but I haven’t found too many undergraduates interested in these fields! So I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog and I follow it regularly. It’s great that you’ve been able to maintain the continuity. I think group blogs are a great idea, especially as law school seems to be so intense. It’s great that you are able to find the time to pose; I think blogging has amazing potential and more law students should definitely try to pursue it.

  2. As of today, I am no longer “trying” to get into law school. I got an offer from UWO. I look forward to contributing to this blog.

  3. Ah, see, my website is more of a personal blog than a law-school blog per se. I write about law school, but I also write about clubbing and my pet toads.

    I think that’s why I don’t care if a professor links me.

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