The popular daily online magazine Slate recently launched a legal blog that features 22 highly prominent voices in law, including Berkeley Law visiting professor Diane Marie Amann. Called “Convictions,” the blog presents daily commentary on a dynamic range of legal topics.
“Blogs are becoming an important source of information for many people,” Amann says. “With the presidential campaign or the Guantánamo military commissions, we’re more accustomed to reading about these events as they happen, and the commentary and analysis that follow. When I read the morning paper the next day, part of it already feels like old news.”
Law professor blogs have emerged as an important forum for attorneys, professors, and law students. Reflecting this surge, the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT) will co-host Bay Area Blawgers 3.0—the third annual gathering of local legal bloggers—on May 20.
Judicial decisions have cited law professor blogs with increased frequency, and entries within the Law Professor Blogs Network often provide substantive commentary about judicial decisions just hours after they are issued. Legal blogs are also more widely available than traditional legal scholarship, which is usually confined to law reviews and related journals.
Filling a Void in the Blogosphere
As blogging’s popularity increased, Amann was disturbed not to see more women participating. Taking matters into her own hands, last year she launched “IntLawGrrls,” which centers on international law and policy issues. More than two dozen women are permanent contributors, including American Society of International Law President Lucy Reed and European Society of International Law President Hélène Ruiz Fabri. The site has received nearly 90,000 page views.
With an undergraduate degree and pre-law career in journalism, Amann was well positioned to tackle the blogosphere. As an academic in the international law field for 12 years, she had built an extensive network of colleagues, and quickly found many women excited about contributing.
“There aren’t many blogs by women, and that was particularly acute in international law and national security law,” Amann says. “I think many women are socialized to be more cautious and careful, and they’re often reluctant to quickly post something that pops into their head.”
Consequently, Amann does not impose minimum posting requirements for her IntlLawGrrls contributors—some post every week and others more sporadically. “A portion of our posts have a feminist slant but most of them don’t,” she says. “That’s part of the point, to underscore that women in these fields are working in all aspects of international law.”
A Brand New Slate
For Slate’s “Convictions” blog, Amann posts roughly twice a week. “It’s a mixed group gender-wise and the range of topics is different and broader than my own blog,” she says. “It’s also a bit more law-grounded, and frees me up to talk about domestic legal issues.”
Three recent posts by Amann illustrate the diversity of topics that appear in “Convictions”: International law implications of the Pope’s recent address to the United Nation’s General Assembly, human rights issues relating to the torch relay for the Summer Olympics in China, and the role poetry has played in key judicial decisions and legal reasoning.
Other Slate contributors include law professors David Barron (Harvard), Jack Balkin (Yale), Kenji Yoshino (Yale), Richard Ford (Stanford), Eric Posner (University of Chicago), Rosa Brooks (Georgetown), and Doug Kmiec (Pepperdine), as well as former U.S. Solicitor General and Duke law professor Walter Dellinger and federal district Judge Nancy Gertner. Barron is a former Clinton Administration attorney and advisor, Brooks is a Los Angeles Times columnist, and Kmiec was an assistant attorney general in the George H.W. Bush Administration.
Amann, who lives in Berkeley, will resume teaching law at UC Davis this fall. She taught Constitutional Law during her first semester at Berkeley Law, and is wrapping up Civil Procedure II this semester. Her recent work focuses on legal responses to U.S. policies regarding executive detention at Guantánamo and elsewhere, and she is currently researching a biography on Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Although “Convictions” presents entries from some of the country’s top legal minds, Amann—as expected of a law professor—cautions readers to generally remain skeptical about what they read in the blogosphere.
“The danger is that many people who blog don’t self-edit, so you lose that whole intermediary of professional copy editors,” she says. “There are folks who just start typing and post. It’s an open medium. So readers should be a bit wary, but that’s not a bad thing.”
— By Andrew Cohen