The Legal Workshop

is up and running -- this is the product of a consortium of top law reviews to produce op-ed-length online versions of their full-length paper articles. Here's a quote from their press release (I'm cribbing from Larry Solum's post):

A consortium of America's most influential law reviews today launched The Legal Workshop (, a free, online magazine featuring articles based on legal scholarship published in the print editions of seven participating law reviews: Stanford Law Review, New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review,Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review, and University of Chicago Law Review.

The Legal Workshop features short, plain-English articles about legal issues and ideas, written by an author whose related, full-length work of scholarship is forthcoming in one of the participating law reviews. But The Legal Workshop does not house a collection of abstracts. Instead, it offers an engaging alternative to traditional academic articles that run 30,000 words with footnotes, enabling scholars to present their well-formulated opinions and their research to a wider audience. In addition to making legal ideas understandable, The Legal Workshop seeks to house the best of legal scholarship in one place—making it easier for readers to find the best writing about all areas of law.

"But," as Chaucer says, "wherfor that I speke al this?" Note that today's lead article is my very own Choosing Interpretive Methods: A Positive Theory of Judges and Everyone Else, recently published in the NYU Law Review. And the bottom article on the page is also my very own Privatization and the Law and Economics of Political Advocacy, recently published in the Stanford Law Review. Larry Solum has interesting ideas about the project as a whole, so I'll just send you there so you can Read The Whole Thing.

Le Messurier (mail):
"op-ed length" ????

Is that shorter or longer than an editorial or just the same length; or maybe longer than a letter to the editor? I have no idea what you mean. I guess I'll have to go to the site and find out how long your two articles are to know for sure.
4.21.2009 8:40pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
No one really knows what op-ed length is! Actually, in my experience, 1000 words is on the long side for an op-ed, whereas my articles are something like 1500-2500 words. So maybe short magazine article length.
4.21.2009 8:47pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Works for me. :)
4.21.2009 9:48pm
David Welker (www):
I like both of your articles here and I especially appreciate the format (i.e. relatively short).

One point I would like to make is that I think that the idea that unions maximize union rents may be more problematic than the assumption that private firms maximize profits. It seems more plausible that unions maximize union dues. Of course, union dues are obviously not unrelated to union rents -- but I think there is probably a lot of stickiness there, i.e. it would be relatively hard for a union to convince union members to increase dues to advocate for policies that merely speculatively increase union rents. I think private firms, in contrast, would be more likely able to direct profits to advocacy, because of the way corporations are structured. Managements has an opportunity to spend the profits of an enterprise and only later are profits distributed to owners as dividends. In contrast, to raise dues necessary to fund advocacy (i.e. access union rents), unions have to convince their members to increase their dues, which is likely to be both contentious and challenging.

Another point that would be interesting to explore further is that private prisons may actually be more accountable to the extent that they are not protected by the same qualified immunity that presumably protect prison officials in government run prisons. I am far from an expert on this topic. I am not sure to what extent if any qualified immunity plays in making public prisons less accountable. But, from a position of ignorance, it strikes me as an interesting question.

Finally, to the extent prisons are privatized, I think your article suggests that those who are concerned about limiting advocacy of prisons for artificially high sentences would want a fairly strict antitrust regime in place. Maybe to even the extent of asserting that no single corporation could run more than one prison. This would ensure that collective action costs remained high. On the other hand, this would obviously inhibit some of the efficiencies that might be possible from having larger prison corporations that have more negotiating power and thus might be able to pass on savings of operating prisons on to the taxpayer. It is not clear to me what the optimal antitrust regime would look like for prisons if the purpose of antitrust was not primarily to protect taxpayers from artificially high prices in the provision of prison services as to protect them from the costs of advocacy that creates artificially harsh sentences.

Anyway, I found both of your articles to be very fascinating and I hope that more law reviews join in publishing articles in this workshop format. I have to be particularly motivated to read through an entire law review article, but for these shorter excerpts I mainly need to be somewhat curious.
4.21.2009 10:47pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
I cover your point about qualified immunity not in this article (which isn't about the merits of private prisons), but in my Developments in the Law article, 115 Harv L Rev 1838, 1868 (2002). The antitrust issue, however, I cover directly in this Stan L Rev article.
4.22.2009 6:54am

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