Probably not. Maybe Legal Evolution isn’t a blog.
Starting today, Legal Evolution will move to a biweekly Sunday publication schedule with occasional off-cycle posts connected to noteworthy developments. Then, over the summer of 2020–from Memorial Day to Labor Day–we’ll resume weekly publication. This is a publication schedule keyed to the academic year and the same as last year. See Post 065 (announcing 2018-2019 schedule).
Several times this summer, colleagues have referred to Legal Evolution as a blog. A couple times I’ve corrected them and said that Legal Evolution is a publication. After all, we have a publication schedule, subject matter focus, and contributor guidelines that are targeted and specific. See Post 092 (publishing contributor guidelines). But I’m done correcting my colleagues, as a friendly conversation is not the right time or place. Instead I’ll write it here and let the passage of time work its magic.
To the extent this sows confusion, we can blame Kevin O’Keefe, the founder and CEO of LexBlog. In the spring of 2016, Kevin visited Indiana Law to share his career journey with my students. Over dinner that night, Kevin discussed the monthly traffic of Law.com vs. the ABA Journal vs. Above the Law. The latter began its life as a blog, yet it was proving to be a profoundly disruptive force in legal publishing. Why? It was on the winning side of a massive demographic shift in readers and reading habits. Further, it was still gathering steam.
Kevin also discussed the massive investments he was making to both automate and improve online publishing. In effect, the cost of getting into the publishing business was dropping to near zero. The only thing missing was specialized content someone wanted to write and that another group wanted to read.
In my case, I was very interested in exploring applied research that focused on the legal market — rigorous enough to get traction with real-world problems (we’ve got no shortage of those) but written in an accessible and congenial style. A year later, I shut down The Legal Whiteboard (which, for the record, was a blog) and launched Legal Evolution.
As editor of Legal Evolution, I am trying to fill what I perceive as a gap in legal publishing — a reliance on data and theory (like the academy) but pointed at real-world issues that we’re actively engaged in solving (like legal practice). See Post 001. The content is often much longer (and more in-depth and technical) than legal journalism but much shorter (and less technical) than academic articles. We also believe in formal citations, as we are building a new body of knowledge in applied research that’s focused on the legal industry. Finally, we err on the side of accessibility (e.g., we favor contractions and relish Jae Um’s emojis and her hilarious, brilliant graphics).
Legal Evolution’s publishing conventions — particularly length and technical content — reduce the number of readers. We don’t care because we’re focused on serious thinkers and innovators. Yet, even among this smaller group, the number of monthly readers vastly exceeds the readership of a typical law review. Because our applied-research mission requires a robust engagement with practice, the new world of legal publishing — the cost structure, the control of visual presentation, the proximity to readers, the connectivity with relevant sources — has been an extraordinary opportunity to try new things and to build a community of interest. Everytime I look at Legal Evolution’s growing subscriber list, I’m astonished by the breadth and quality of our readership.
For all this, I am also willing to give Kevin O’Keefe credit. And by the way, Kevin is just getting started. I encourage readers to visit www.lexblog.com, which looks like a sophisticated newspaper for lawyers. Legal Evolution is proud to be part of this platform.