July 8, 2011
On the Peasant-Landload Relationship in the Ancien Regime: Ignoring Tradition-Bound "Professional" Rhetorical Norms of Restraint and Civility to Promote Reforms
The "scam blogger" movement refers to those in the law-related blogoshere who criticize the legal academy for continuing to spin the story of "Come to law school. Sure, you'll take out loans, but it will all be worth it in the end when you enter this noble profession." Quoting Atlanta's John Marshall law prof Lucille Jewell in her NLJ interview with Karen Sloan at Unruly 'scam bloggers' are changing legal education, researcher argues. From the NLJ article:
Scam bloggers are law school graduates who take to the Internet to trash law schools for what they see as a scam of exacting high tuition for the privilege of competing for too few available legal jobs. Jewel surveyed the phenomenon in "You're Doing It Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession," published by the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology.
In the interview, Jewel states "I think they make a compelling argument," and explains that she decided to research the scam blog movement because it represents a new way to view the law school system — one that has resonated well beyond the relatively small world of legal education. Newspapers including USA Today and The New York Times covered scam blogs during 2010.
My complaint with Jewel's article is its narrow focus which characterizes "scam bloggers" as just being law school grads who ignore the legal profession's traditional rhetorical norms of restraint and civility. Jewel writes in her article, You’re Doing It Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession:
With the Scam Blogging movement, a small set of underemployed or unemployed attorneys—not the type of lawyers who would normally be listened to with respect to ideas for reforming an aspect of the profession—harness the power of the Internet to argue for changes in the way that law schools market themselves.
Wrong. There are plenty of law profs doing the same. While some law prof bloggers may reinforce their opinions with some empircial analysis, others with perspectives based on years of being in the legal academy; many simple follow the same conversational style as "scam bloggers," perhaps out of frustration of being associated with the legal academy's irresponsibility.
The ideas articulated by the Scam Bloggers have certainly been expressed before in more traditional formats, such as law review articles and papers, but because law professors are speaking to each other primarily in logo-centric and formal fashion, an academic idea often fails to resonate with many members of the profession or public.
Wrong Again. Law profs have been using the blogosphere for several years now because it presents an avenue outside the small world of the legal academic literature to call attention to an issue of importance. How do you think the mainstream legal and general media find members of the legal academy to interview for this issue? Their posts are not always confined to "polite" norms. Jewel's article "ultimately concludes that the legal profession will be strengthened by the new arguments and ideas entering online from the profession’s sidelines. Thus, we should, to a certain extent, relax our professional norms and allow these arguments to take shape." Already done and not just ideas from the "profession's sidelines.
Beyond the Old Guard. There may be a lesson to learn here for law librarians who aren't afraid of retribution from AALL or our vendors. To instigate reform, ignore traditional rhetorical, professional norms that were established during the Ancien Régime's peasant-landload relationship by using modern e-communication mediums. We're not just sheepherders anymore. [JH]