I joined the Volokh Conspiracy in the spring of 2002. Eugene invited me to join the group as he the blog evolved from the Volokh Brothers to the Volokh Conspiracy. I was still new to academia, so Eugene suggested that I might wish to blog under a pseudonym. In an abundance of caution, not quite knowing how my blogging would be received, I accepted the offer, and Juan Non-Volokh was born.
In retrospect, I may have been overcautious. While I believe that conservatives, libertarians, and others with under-represented political views face significant obstacles within legal academia (see, e.g., here and here), they have not been as great as I had feared. Without question, some on the right overstate the hostility to conservative and libertarian views in the legal academy.
One of my concerns was whether my colleagues -- at my home institution and within my fields -- would feel that my blogging compromised my academic work. From the moment I entered academia I was counseled that were I to spend too much time on non-academic pursuits (op-ed writing, consulting, and perhaps blogging) some might believe that I was devoting insufficient time to my scholarship. After all, time spent blogging is time not spent producing law review articles. As I've argued before scholarship can and should be evaluated on its own merits, irrespective of how the author spends his or her time. Nonetheless, it is clear that how others view one's commitment to scholarship matters. As my academic career has progressed, I have felt more free to devote more time to non-academic writing. Over the past three years I have increased the amount of non-academic writing I do under my own name, including articles and commentary on some contentious political issues. This appears to have had no effect on academic career one way or the other (though it has cost me other opportunities). So it's not clear to me that blogging under my own name would have made a difference one way or the other.
I also failed to anticipate how the prevalence and respectability of blogging would grow within the legal academy. In 2002, there were not many legal academic bloggers, and very few without tenure. Today, however, blogging is sufficiently widespread that I highly doubt that blogging, in and of itself, would hamper the promotion of an otherwise productive and engaged academic. In 2006, a scholar with good article placements should have little to fear from responsible, respectful blogging. I hope my blogging has been both, and I apologize for those occasions when it was not.
Had I known in 2002 what I know today, I am unsure I would have adopted a pseudonym — and I doubt my posts would have been all that different as a result. I am not about to recommend that untenured professors blog under their own names, nor am I recommending blogging under a pseudonym. Untenured academics who wish to blog should consider what they expect to gain, and what they risk losing, from such endeavors, and make their decisions accordingly. For other thoughts on the pros and cons of untenured blogging, see these posts by Stephen Bainbridge, Daniel Solove, and Larry Solum.
Starting today I am taking a brief leave from the Volokh Conspiracy to attend to a few matters. I expect to return soon (as in, sometime between now and when my tenure is official later this year). When I do it won't be as Juan. In the meantime, I would like to thank my co-bloggers and readers for their support and feedback, even (perhaps especially) when we disagreed. I hope that most readers have found my posts to be worthwhile.