Will Blogs Kill the Law Review Case Comment?
While mulling over my blog post below about a recent court decision, it occured to me that one way blogs will change the content of law reviews is by rendering case comments superfluous. A case comment is a brief student-written article, usually around 10 pages long, explaining and offering commentary on a recent court decision. Case comments traditionally have served three functions: 1) Alerting readers to a recent decision, 2) Offering a scholarly assessment of the decision soon after the decision is out, hopefully before academics and appeals courts have had time to digest it, and 3) Helping editors improve their writing skills and generating a writing sample for future job applications. The question is, will blogs drive case comments out of business?

  My sense is that blogs have eclipsed the first two functions of case comments. How Appealing alerts readers to new court decisions, often on the same day they are published (at least when Howard doesn't have the nerve to go on vacation). Within a matters of days, the blogosphere usually generates a discussion among practitioners, law professors, students, and interested laypersons about the merits of notable decisions. In general, the quality of legal analysis generated by the blawgs is notably higher than that of case comments; practitioners and law professors have more expertise and experience than 2Ls, and the back-and-forth debate online generally tightens loose thinking pretty quickly. In contrast, student case comments are usually short on perspective and long on political agendas; the majority seem to fall into the "I'm liberal and want to bash the Rehnquist Court" mold, or the "I'm conservative and this Reinhardt decision is nuts" mold.

  By the time case comments come out, usually about a year after the decision, it is too little, too late. Litigants, judicial clerks, and anyone else involved in the case can read the output of the blawgs online and take away whatever lessons they wish from the commentary; few are going to go hunting through westlaw for student comments a year or two later. For example, if Eugene blogs about a First Amendment decision the day it comes out, offering his assessment of the case and pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, will anyone care if a year later the Brown Journal of Law and Identity publishes a case comment by a 2L editor explaining that he liked or didn't like the decision? In a pre-blawg world, such a case comment might be the very first piece of analysis on the case; it could be important because there is nothing else on the opinion. The role of first responder is now played by the blogosphere.

  Perhaps the third function of case comments is enough to keep case comments alive, at least for a decade or two. But my prediction is that journals will eventually stop publishing case comments and instead focus more on scholarship surveys (where student reviews could be very helpful) and broader note topics.

  Thoughts? Reactions? I have enabled comments.