Sunday, February 10, 2019
An editorial by Southern University Law Center 2L Katherine Read appearing in the ABA Law Student blog questions whether authors (and editors) should rethink the way law review articles are written to make them more accessible to a wider, general interest audience via social media platforms. In that vein, Ms. Read further suggests that publishers depart from the longstanding Bluebook requirement that authors cite to hardcopy sources rather than web-based ones since most readers (both laypeople and practitioners) want to access that material online rather than setting foot in a brick and mortar library. In these ways, Ms. Read is like this generation's Judge Harry T. Edwards calling attention to the impracticality of much of today's legal scholarship vis a vis the general public who otherwise would greatly benefit from more accessible, easier to understand expert legal commentary. Here's an excerpt from her editorial:
What is the purpose of writing an article which interprets and analyzes current situations relating to the legal field?
Some may say that the purpose is to show the legal community (lawyers, judges and law professors) how sophisticated you are on a given topic so that you may change policy or help with judicial interpretation. Fewer may say that the purpose of writing an article is to educate the general public on legal issues that are affecting them in substantial ways.
Most legal articles are drafted with decorative vocabulary and citations to the oldest of textbooks. But why? Why have we succumbed to this one way of writing articles? So that people can see how smart we are? To show that we know how to open a book for proper citation formatting?
The many questions to our current practices remain unanswered. In my experience, the best authors are those who can effectively write a legal argument in such a way that is both entertaining and modern. Articles which require me to use a dictionary for every five words is not going to compel me to agree with the author’s contention because I feel inadequate as a reader when I do not understand what the author is trying to portray by the use of their vocabulary. When you have to read a judgement for a law school class, would you prefer a dense reading full of legal jargon or would you prefer an opinion that is simplistic in its tone yet complex in its meaning?
Today, people are searching the internet for any bit of information on a variety of topics, so legal articles need to be formatted in a way that will attract readership so that the knowledge from that article may be distributed across social media.
As a future lawyer, I am constantly asking myself the question, “How am I supposed to help the world if no one can understand what I am saying?” I try to solve this problem by taking dense issues and breaking them down to a more common understanding. This may not be the correct approach, but if your goal is to attain readership, try to make the article easier read because you are more likely to catch public attention.
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Continue reading here.