Thoughts on "The Legal Workshop":
In his post below, Sasha links to the new website, LegalWorkShop.Org, which will post very short versions of published law review articles from participating law reviews. Larry Solum and Brian Leiter liken it to a Reader's Digest version; I would update that to the 21st Century and say it forces each scholar to reproduce his or her article as a long blog post.

  On the whole, I think it's a good experiment. At its best, it may help articles become better known within the scholarly community. When an article is 60 pages long, it's tempting for many to read the introduction, pick through a few sections, and feel that you have the basic gist of it. Most readers won't actually read it cover-to-cover unless it's unusually interesting or on an issue they're following particularly closely. More people will read short summaries, especially if they are reasonably complete, and that will help get the ideas out.

  Plus, authors forced to write a three-page version of their article are likely to express their ideas with more clarity and force than they do in a 60-page version. It may be that the short versions become valuable not only for their brevity but for their clarity. Consider the perspective of a casebook author looking to excerpt part of an article for a casebook. It is often hard to find the core argument of an article expressed clearly and quickly in the article itself. On the other hand, it may be much easier to find that in the Legal Workshop version. If so, it's all for the good.

  At the same time, I'm not entirely sure the experiment will work. First, I doubt the public will be very much interested. A short article about an esoteric legal topic is still an article about an esoteric legal topic. Second, many authors try to give the three-page explanation of the article in the introduction already. If the introduction to an article already does much of the work of the LegalWorkshop version, it's not clear the latter will be worth the extra effort to authors and journals.

  Still, on the whole I think it's a useful experiment. Worth watching.
another anonVCfan:
I think everyone who writes law review articles should force themselves to do this, just as an exercise in tightening up their writing and streamlining their explanations.

Then they should either burn the full-length article or go ahead and write a book.
4.22.2009 2:14pm
corneille1640 (mail):
Speaking only for myself, I really like this experiment. I was introduced to it by Sasha's post yesterday (or the day before?) and think I'll really like it. One reason I like it is that a lot of law review articles that posters link to on this blog seem to require some institutional affiliation to read (or they require an online subscription to that particular journal). This makes it difficult for me, a layperson, to follow what is being written.

I am a graduate student, and my university library offers students remote access to many academic journals, so I'm better off than the average non-lawyer reader of this blog. Still, I find the workshop site quite helpful, especially because my library's databases do not usually allow access to brand new articles.
4.22.2009 2:22pm
This is a good experiment, though I should note that some professors do this sort of thing anyway--write a long piece for a law review and publish a much shorter version for something approaching mass consumption. See, e.g., these 2 pieces:

Heather Gerken, Lost in the Political Thicket, Legal Affairs (Nov/Dec 2004)
Heather Gerken, Lost in the Political Thicket, 153 U. Pa. L. Rev. 503 (2004)

The first is 2,572 words and no footnotes. The second is 38 law review pages and 163 footnotes.

I agree with others who've said that any incentive for professors to publish shorter and more accessible versions of their work is a good thing. I agree with Larry Solum's caveat, however, that much of the legal scholarship out there is "aimed at a specialized audience because it builds on a complex set of ideas that cannot be translated into prose accessible to the general public without a serious loss of content."
4.22.2009 2:45pm
Mikhail Koulikov, MLS (mail):
The "public" might not be - but academics working in non-legal fields will definitely find this vastly more welcome than having to first wonder what the hell, say, "B.C. Int'l &Comp. L. Rev." refers to - and then, have to figure out where and how to access it.

(That, the scale and extent of coverage of legal scholarly publishing in non-legal databases, is actually a really interesting topic in of itself)
4.22.2009 3:04pm
Lewis Maskell (mail):
The general public, probably not. The educated public, people with a passing interest in legal stuff who will appreciate finding this stuff in one place (not unlike, ultimately, the VC and other blawgs) those will likely make it what it will be.
4.22.2009 3:52pm
stoshy (mail):
Though the academics might not believe this, there are practicing lawyers out there who have a measure of intellectual curiosity, and who might want to have some idea of what the theoreticians are pondering but who do not have the time or inclination to immerse themselves in lengthy footnoted scholarship. What is the downside of this venture? I perceive none.
4.22.2009 3:57pm
Barrister's Handshake (mail) (www):
I said this over at Legal Theory and Faculty Lounge, and I realize it makes me sound like something of a prick, BUT:

Color me cynical, and enough with the "excitement" about this thing, it's gratuitous self promotion for authors published in the leading law reviews. (No offense to them, if I was published in one of these places I'd draft one of these too).

With that said, for the most part we're getting 2500 word abstracts (up from the 500 word abstracts) but it's still dense legal theory that won't appeal to the masses.

Thus, the only audience left for this are law professors, who don't need short versions of articles to be drawn into scholarship published by Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, New York University, Northwestern, Stanford, Chicago.
4.22.2009 6:09pm
Michael Masinter (mail):
A practicing lawyer wondering whether he can circumvent (or enforce) an apparently binding arbitration agreement by defeating (or prevailing on) a motion to stay and compel arbitration based on unconscionability should find Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl's piece summarized from the NYU Law Review very helpful. The article is the best summary of the use and abuse of the unconscionability doctrine in the context of arbitration agreements I have read. I don't know the author, but his work speaks for itself, and I recommend it to anyone dealing with an arbitration agreement within the scope of the FAA.
4.22.2009 7:11pm
Prof. Solum's concerns notwithstanding, a version of this focusing on doctrinal scholarship would be very helpful to practitioners and judges.
4.22.2009 9:20pm
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4.23.2009 3:34am

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