ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Monday, November 16, 2015

Farewell Post I: Why Junior Faculty Members Should Blog

I have told my co-bloggers and the Blog Emperor that I intend to step down from the blog at the end of the semester.  I am leaving things in good hands.  Nancy Kim will continue as a contributing editor, and Myanna Dellinger has agreed to step up as editor.  I hope that this post will aid Myanna in her efforts to attract new contributors.  The more different voices we feature on the blog, the more we can attract new readers and move others from occasional to habitual readers.  

Before I go, I have a few things to get off my chest, and I will do so in a final series of posts.

SnyderFirst come the thanks (and they will come again at the end).  Nearly ten years ago, I sent a Limerick to Frank Snyder (pictured) and asked him if he would be interested in posting it on this blog.  He responded by inviting me to become a regular contributor.  He showed me the ropes and roped me in to the contracts law community, and for that service, I owe him continual thanks, as the benefits continue to accrue.  While on the blog, I have had many great colleagues, who have helped keep the blog going and added new and interesting perspectives.  Two such colleagues, Nancy Kim and Meredith Miller, merit special thanks because of their long tenure on the blog and because their contributions moved the blog in new directions, both scholarly and quirky, that expanded our readership in ways we could not otherwise have done.  Both served me as sounding boards both in my contracts scholarship and in connection with issues that arose on occasion relating to the blog.  It is a bit odd to describe as friends people you have only spoken with face-to-face on a handful of occasions.  Yet, in unreflective moments, when I confess that I like to go to the International Conferences on Contracts because I get to see my friends there, I have Frank, Meredith and Nancy (and others) in mind.

Which brings me to the second subject I want to tackle in this post.  When I started blogging, I was untenured, and there were a few articles circulating (as well as many more blog posts) suggesting that it might not be a great idea for junior faculty members to blog.  The main concern was that blogging would interfere with serious scholarship.  Based on my own experience, I think this is nonsense.  Blogging can certainly spur scholarship, but I have never been much of a contracts scholar (with the exception of my forthcoming article so-authored with Nancy Kim, my publications tend not to be about contracts).   But blogging also is scholarship, and it is scholarship that is much, much, much more widely read than are law review articles.  This blog gets about 300 unique visitors A DAY.  I think I am doing well if one of my articles gets to 300 downloads TOTAL on SSRN.

And my posts on this blog have been cited in law review articles.  It doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, it is always for the unique substance of the blog post.  My law review articles are sometimes cited for that purpose, but probably more often, my law review articles are cited for some proposition that the author could have found in ten other law review articles.  

But the benefits of blogging to a junior faculty member can also lie elsewhere.  Blogging has certainly kept me on top of new developments in a field in which I teach.  But beyond that, blogging has helped me establish connections with contracts professors throughout the country and sometimes even internationally.  Through our online symposia, I have gotten to work with contracts scholars who are doing the most exciting work in the field.  I hope for better and not for worse, I am known as a contracts professor in ways that I think other contracts professors at "unranked" law schools generally are not, and I expect that my being known (for better and not for worse) also redounds to the benefit of my law school.  By way of contrast, I am not equally well known in the field of international law, although that is where I do most of my writing, and in the community of American scholars who work on Hans Kelsen . . . .  Just joking, all six of them know me.

On the more personal and less professional level, I have had innumerable, rewarding conversations with contracts professors at various conference and gatherings.  Often, these conversations begin with something like, "I saw your post about . . . ." or "Oh yes, I know you from the blog . . . "  We academics are awkward people.  The blog provides a ready ice-breaker, and so I have the blog to thank for providing the gateway to many rewarding exchanges.

For years, I have introduced myself to students as "the editor of the ContractsProf Blog, the official blog of the AALS Section on Contracts."  As I look out at their impassive faces, I tell them that they have now heard my best pick-up line.  I love the joke, especially since I don't know what it means to be the official blog of the AALS Section on Contracts.  I also love it because I think my students think it might be an impressive thing but also that my joking about suggests that I don't take myself too seriously.  

They are dead wrong about that.  When my teenage daughter gets too sassy, I remind her that I am a famous contracts professor.  I sign various school forms "D. A. Jeremy Telman, FCP," and I explain that FCP stands for famous contracts professor. "Dad," my daughter groans, "you are not a famous contracts professor."  "Oh yeah?" I counter.  "Can you name one who is more famous?"

She cannot, and now I have a plaque (Fathers' Day 2015) to prove it!

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