Law Blogging as Law Making

Law Blogging as Law Making

For 10 years, Opinio Juris has served as a forum for short-form legal scholarship. Many posts were short and simple, quickly flagging a particular development or issue and bringing it to the attention of international lawyers across the globe. But other posts were far more in depth, analyzing a complex legal issue with great subtlety and persuasion. What strikes me about the longer posts is that they often read like mini-articles, enhancing and enriching legal scholarship with shorter articles that might not–or could not–be explored in regular law review articles. Producing legal scholarship on a daily blog allows for an immediate impact that would be impossible in a law review or law journal with a 6-month (or even 2-month) publication cycle.

Opinio Juris posts have been cited in many law review articles. A simple search for in any law review database will pull up hundreds of examples of law review blog posts that are now cited as scholarship alongside treaties, cases, and more conventional articles. Opinio Juris postings also impact the daily practice of law in important and urgent cases. To name just one well-known and recent example, Kevin Heller wrote about the U.S. drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki and queried whether it violated the federal murder statute. It was widely reported that Kevin’s post prompted the Office of the Legal Counsel in the Justice Department to substantially revise their draft memo regarding the lawfulness of targeting al-Awlaki. If that isn’t real-world impact, I don’t know what is.

I like to use blog posts, on Opinio Juris and elsewhere, to sound out ideas that eventually make it into law review articles. It’s often easy to sketch out the basic contours of an argument and see what kind of reaction it generates. Then, when it comes time to render the argument in article form for a law review, one already knows which aspects of the argument will generate the most push-back and will require a stronger defense. In many cases one can predict this in advance, but in other situations the audience reaction is genuinely surprising and counter-intuitive. In this way, law blogging improves legal scholarship.

For most of the last 10 years, I’ve been a reader of Opinio Juris, not a blogger. My migration from the former to the latter is relatively recent. Ten years from now, I hope we are looking back on another decade of compelling and intense discourse.

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John C. Dehn

I have been waiting for the right point to say this. Although I am only a former guest blogger for, reader of, and occasional commenter on OJ, I can quite safely say that—for a variety of reasons—I would not be a law professor today without the numerous and varied opportunities guest blogging and commenting on OJ opened to me. It has had a very real and important impact on my career. So to all of you at OJ, particularly Chris, Peggy, Ken, Roger and (for different reasons) Kevin, I must say THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I can certainly GENERALLY confirm from my experiences that lawyers at very high levels of our government and military, law professors at elite schools, and even federal judges and their clerks, read this blog…and often its comments.


If you read a deleted posting here, I had no one that I know (or can remember) has posted on OJ in mind.
My positive point is that this site has been most valuable for insights, point/counterpoint discussion. shaping ideas in new ways, and so forth. I am pleased to learn that OJ and other chat sites are being cited in law review articles. One of my forthcoming articles, on surveillance and the human rights disconnect, has some EJIL-Talk citations to posts and responses.
p.s. even though one of the responses was in the full name of a European professor, the journal editors would not allow me to put the word “Professor” before his name. Perhaps I could have emailed him for confirmation, but it was in the turn-around editing process. One response that I quoted was merely in the name used on-line. Perhaps there will be changes in the style manuals re: how to cite these things.
New world.