Blogging Ideas & Student Law Review Notes
It’s the time of year when a fair number of second year students doing law review are contemplating the project that lies ahead — drafting a note of their very own. Several students have asked me for advice on the writing process, and I’ve been pleased to refer them to a new book by Austen Parrish and Dennis Yokoyama, Effective Lawyering: A Checklist Approach to Legal Writing and Oral Argument. It’s a succinct and easy-to-read distillation of the various writing projects lawyers encounter, including a chapter on academic writing.
This year, moreover, I’ve gotten a new question on two separate occasions (once from a Temple student and once from a non-Temple student): “Would you mind if I wrote a note that builds on a blog post you did?” I’ll admit to having a bit of a mixed reaction to the question. On the one hand, I sometimes write a blog post as a way to test an idea that I plan to turn into a more scholarly work. In those cases, I’d be reluctant to have my idea pre-empted by an intervening student note. Indeed, I’ve often thought that by posting about it, bloggers are able to lay some proprietary claim to an idea or at least put it “on reserve” so to speak as something that they can claim as their own for a reasonable period of time. On the other hand, many times I write the blog post because an idea or story interests me and I’ve no larger agenda, in which case why not let someone else run with it?
So, which is the right approach? Indeed, should students feel that they have to check in with a blog post author for affirmative permission to rely on that post at all? How should students (or even, dare I say it, other academics) who get an idea from a blog post credit the post’s author for inspiring their own work? For myself, I’d think at a minimum a law review note (or article) that advances an idea dervied from someone else’s blogging needs to say so by citing the blog post. Of course, in doing that, it starts to make at least some blogging look a whole lot more like scholarship, which some have resisted on grounds that are not entirely unreasonable, although certainly open to challenge.
I’d be interested in comments on whether others have had similar experiences or views on how best to handle this issue.