Blogging to Be a Lateral

laptop_guy2.gifAs much as I want to chime in on the Battlestar Galactica interview that the CO guys scored, it is hard for me to stay too long away from lateral market issues. So consider this the lost “Part 11” of my previous lateral market series.

As highlighted by Blog Emperor Caron today on TaxProf, Jay Brown (Denver) has posted an interesting new paper on SSRN: Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law Rankings.

Over the months, Jay has asked me to review various iterations of his paper and I had a chance to think about some of the arguments. Among his other thought-provoking arguments is that blogging may be a cost-efficient way for law schools to increase their rankings:

The paper also studies the impact of law blogging on rankings in the US News. In the short term, blogging can disproportionately benefit law schools and faculty outside the top tier. Blogs can enhance the reputation of the sponsoring faculty member, enable them to route around the biases inherent in the system of law review placements and SSRN downloads, permit a level of participation in the legal debate that might otherwise not be available, and facilitate the dissemination of information important to alumni and other constituencies. Most critically, however, they represent a cost effective mechanism for improving a law school’s reputational rankings and, perforce, its overall rankings in the infamous US News and World Report.

I think I largely agree with Jay’s points, but want to add another potentially provocative assertion here: good blogging can be an excellent way to not only get noticed on the lateral market, but for getting hired in that market. Jay notes that some day higher ranked schools may come to understand the advantage of having a high-profile blogger on their faculty and rather than start their own faculty blogs or encourage their faculty to start blogs will in essence purchase the services of an already well-regarded one for their school.

Now, I don’t think law schools have started to hire law professor bloggers in drove, but there is a substantial list of full-time bloggers who have moved schools in the last three or so years. And no, I am not arguing that Brian Leiter would not have made his way to Chicago without his multiple blogs. I think this theory works best with someone who is in the lower second tier or in the third and fourth tiers. These individuals have a harder time getting noticed in the law professor community from their current academic platforms and are looking for ways to get their work out and be invited to conferences and symposia. So not only only does blogging certainly help with one getting newspaper and media interviews, but it also can pique the interest of law school appointment committees.

Finally, if Jay is right that good blogging helps increase a school’s reputation, then it is in a school’s best interest to start hiring bloggers to increase their reputation scores (and yes, I recognize my own self-interest in making this point, but I really believe it helped me during the lateral process that more people already knew who I was through Workplace Prof). Again, I think this point is more valid for lower-ranked schools where there is more room to grow in reputation ranking. Nevertheless, even elite schools who are bunched closely together in various rankings may do well to get the added public relations push that comes with having a well-known blogger on faculty.

In any event, go read Jay’s great paper and feel free to give your comments to him either here or through his own blog, Race to the Bottom.

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