The Influence of Law Blogs (2006-Present)

I asked my wonderful research assistant, Robert Blumberg (TLS ’12), to update the Yospe/Best study on court citation of blogs and the Best 2006 study on law review citation of blogs.  He used as a dataset the 2009 legal educator blog census (which we are currently updating – see future posts for details), excluded some general sites which happen to have a law professor as rare contributor (the Huffington Post), and ran searches in WL’s JLR database.  Since 2006, under those conditions, law blogs have been cited in the journals 5460 5883 times.  Here are the top twenty sites since 2006.  Total citations are in (parenthesis), 2006 rank in [brackets]:

  1. FindLaw’s Writ (618)
  2. The Volokh Conspiracy (402) [2]
  3. SCOTUSBlog (305) [4]
  4. Balkinization (259) [3]
  5. Patently-O: Patent Law Blog (211) [8]
  6. Concurring Opinions (162)
  7. Sentencing Law and Policy (160) [1]
  8. JURIST – Paper Chase (130)
  9. PrawfsBlawg (122)
  10. The Becker-Posner Blog (104) [10]
  11. Conglomerate (102)
  12. White Collar Crime Prof Blog (89) [12]
  13. Election Law @ Mortiz (85)
  14. Legal Theory Blog (85) [5]
  15. The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog (76)
  16. Technology & Marketing Law Blog (74)
  17. Lessig Blog (73) [6]
  18. The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Goverance and Financial Regulation (72)
  19. Ideoblog (72)
  20. Election Law Blog (69)

Overall, the top 20 represented around 63% of all citations over the four year study period.  In 2006, the top 20 represented 76% of  852 citations.  In 2007, the top 20 represented 68% of 1095 citations.  In 2008, the top 20 represented 61% of 1388 citations.  In 2009, the top 20 represented 63% of 1441 citations.  Finally, in 2010 (so far) the top 20 has represented 65% of 562 citations.  It is difficult to make out any clear trend lines in the data.  Even taking into account the lag time of publication for 2009 and 2010 volumes, the rate of citations to law blogs is not increasing. There is a very mild trend toward diffusion in influence, although the top blogs still appear to drive the conversation, even as the number of professors blogging increased.  In the aggregate, the top few  blogs would each (if considered to be individual scholars) be worthies on Leiter’s citation lists.

The story in the courts is a bit more…unimpressive.  Since 2006, law professor blogs have been cited in the WL ALLCASES database a measly 38 times.  The honored blogs are:

1.  Sentencing Law and Policy (17)
2.  FindLaw’s Writ (4)
3.  The Volokh Conspiracy (3)
4.  ProfessorBainbridge.com (3)
5.  PrawfsBlawg (1)
5.  The Becker-Posner Blog (1)
5.  First Things (1)
5.  How Appealing (1)
5.  Credit Slips  (1)
5.  ImmigrationProf Blog (1)
5.  The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) Blog (1)
5.  Crime and Federalism (1)
5.  Is That Legal? (1)
5. Goldman’s Observations (1)
5.  Legal In-sur-rec-tion (1)

As I hypothesized in 2007, early reports of (and concern about) court’s relying on blogs depended on the novel sentencing revolution.  Outside of sentencing problems, courts are uncomfortable relying on the dashed off thoughts of a bunch of professors noodling on the web.   Overall, Berman’s Sentencing Blog is the clear leader – of over 300 blogs – in providing useful information to courts.

You can check out the entirety of the dataset in this excel file If we’ve made errors, please email me and I’ll correct this post. [Update: I’ve made a few corrections. Update #2: more corrections!]  Also, if you have started a blog in the last year (since 2009) please email me.  We’re working on the revised and updated Census, and I’d appreciate your assistance in finding new entrants.

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12 Responses

  1. Max Kennerly says:

    I disagree with your “dashed off thought” that, if a blog “provid[es] useful information to courts,” the court will cite it. My search logs are loaded with hits from “gtwy.uscourts.gov” that were referred in from Google searches on legal issues like “plain meaning.”

    I presume most of those searches are done by clerks trying to figure something out; maybe they aren’t impressed by my thoughts, but at the very least they’ll be informed by my citation/quotation of a given case, and thereby I will have “provid[ed] useful information to courts.”

  2. Dave Hoffman says:

    Max,
    So maybe it would be more correct to say that courts are uncomfortable being seen to rely on the dashed off thoughts.

  3. Keith says:

    This is a great resource. I am a rising 1L, and had no idea there are so many terrific legal blogs out there. I systematically made my way through the list you provide above, and got excited enough about what I was reading to bookmark about half of them. Great way to separate the wheat from the chaff; no offense intended, but great to know that there are active legal blogs out there with more meat on the bones than ATL.

  4. Have you ever studied whether practitioner blogs are cited in court cases or journal articles? I know that my renewablesoffshore.com blog has been cited in some student law review notes, but I wondered how common that is.

  5. Todd Klimson says:

    Wow concurring opinions more citations than Becker-Posner, Impressive. Kinda tells you something?

  6. TOTM says:

    Your numbers are wrong for truth on the market. Searching http://www.truthonthemarket.com in JLR yields 23 hits. Your spreadsheet has zeros across the board.

  7. dave hoffman says:

    TOTM folks: we’ll check into it and make corrections!

    Carolyn: Is there a repository where we could see the names of a large set of “practitioner” blogs?

  8. Orin Kerr says:

    Measuring the influence of law blogs on legal opinions by counting judicial citations to law blogs doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. There are two problems. First, there is a lot of influence without citation: Most judges are very cautious about what they cite, and blogs are not yet on the list of “standard” sources. Second, there is a certain amount of citation without influence. Some of the citations to law blogs in judicial opinions are actually citations to third-party documents that happen to be hosted by blogs. The blog is merely part of the URL where the document can be found in such cases, not actually a source of authority, and yet I gather it counts as a citations.

  9. Orin Kerr says:

    One more thought: I don’t know how much it matters, but if you’re counting the blog citations, it may help to include now-defunct blogs not on the 2009 census. (I’m aware of that possibility mostly or only because my own solo blog orinkerr.com was cited in a Sixth Circuit case in 2007, although the blog itself is long defunct and therefore not on any census.)

  10. dave hoffman says:

    Orin,
    I agree with you — citation as a measure of influencing courts is a terrible metric. Can you think of something better that is objective & relatively easy to collect? (I can’t.)

  11. Orin Kerr says:

    Dave,

    I’m not sure, but one idea might be to poll recent law clerks on the question.

  12. dave hoffman says:

    It’s an interesting idea. Though I bet that you are more likely that I am to have access (through the vast-VC conspiracy) to a sufficiently large sample of clerks.