This week, Blawg Review #232 is hosted by Susan Cartier Liebel at Solo Practice University on World Teachers' Day. Held annually on October 5th since 1994, World Teachers' Day commemorates teachers’ organisations worldwide. Its aim is to mobilise support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.
For those who don't know, Blawg Review is carnival blog that is hosted by guest bloggers using their own blog site to provide content of a (usually specialist) theme. It usually has a technology / IPR / alternative slant and, in the main, hosted by US bloggers. There have been UK and Irish hosts in the past, most notably BabyBarrista (TimesOnline), CharonQC (Mike Semple Piggot), Cearta (Eoin O'Dell) and Lex Ferenda (Daithi MacSigthi).
This, it would appear, is the first blawg review to focus on legal education specifically, yet does so in a way that illustrates the 'Accidental Educator':
"Who is the accidental educator? In this case, the lawyer, regardless the myriad motivations for doing so, who shares his or her expertise that benefits many through the ever-expanding world of the internet. The tweeter who tweets one article that helps another find invaluable life-saving information and who continues to do so often and in random fashion. The lawyer who condemns in the court of public opinion a rule of law which is just plain wrong. But for this forum it might go unnoticed by the majority, unheard and unexplained. The opinionated who challenges you to rethink your position. The provocateur who baits others to engage in a much needed public debate. They are all educators if they make you think. They are all educators if they challenge your ideas, your biases, your beliefs. If they create and promote the conversation, they educate. You don’t have to agree, but you listen."
Susan then reviews and celebrates some of the blawgosphere's educators - again, mainly US but this does introduce the reader to further niches: bicycle law?
Last week, Colin Miller updated a list of US ‘legal educator’ blogs, following on from Daniel Solove‘s earlier census reports which were restrictedly solely to law professors. It can be found on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) and downloaded here.
Whilst interesting to flick through, the organisation of this list is mainly by law school or blog title. Some titles reflect the name of the blogger, such as Lessig Blog, or Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, others are plain subject titles such as the Mass Tort Litigation Blog, some might even be a collective effort from one particular institution: The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog. Others, however, are less indicative of their content: Law Prof on the Loose! What it does not do, is organise by field, subject or specialism – which might be of more use to those looking for a particular type of blog to read.
Miller does offer some stats on the (roughly) 60/40 male-to-female ratio for these bloggers, and that Harvard Law School leads the field with 23 bloggers on their faculty. This does, as he observes, offer some “indication of where law schools stand in the blogosphere”, and it will be interesting to see if these observations change over time. Interestingly, Harvard does not lead the table of ‘number of blogs on which educators at those schools post’.
In the light of Susan's comments on accidental educators, the authors of the blogs in the above list are clearly opining in one way or another, yet few comment on their approach to teaching. Paul Maharg observed in his blog Zeugma that only one such blog focused on legal education as their primary theme: the Best Practices blog, maintained by Prof Mary Lynch and here are links to some of her recent posts:
So, what can we say about these legal bloggers? Yes, they are giving an educational experience to the reader, but it is more than likely that the reader will be a fellow academic, a practicing lawyer,or other professional. Less likely is that law students will read or engage with these blogs, other than perhaps blogs written by their own teaching staff. It might be interesting to consider whether bloggers are better at blogging an opinion or viewpoint than transmitting the same point whilst teaching a class.