Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where Indeed, Ms. JD?

Ms. JD was a blog created to serve the following purpose:
JusticeConcerned by the rates at which women opt out of the legal profession, the lack of representation of women in the highest courts and echelons of the legal community, and the role of gender in the progression of many women’s legal careers,a group of female law students from Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley), Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, Stanford, UCLA, UT Austin, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and Yale came together and created Ms. JD in March 2006. Serving women in law school and the legal profession, Ms. JD is an online community that provides a forum for dialogue and networking among women lawyers and aspiring lawyers.
Over at Feminist Law Profs, Bridget Crawford asks Where Are You, Ms. JD?
The blog has been notable mostly for the paucity of its postings. I understand that students are busy over the summer, but are there other possible explanations for Ms. JD’s thin content? Is the blog not reaching its target audience? Are issues of women in the legal profession too sensitive to blog about? Is a blog run by a group of law students subject to the same vicissitudes that plague almost all student groups? Are student-bloggers worried that their postings will be used against them in the future? Do legal personnel folks at the corporate sponsors not have any issues to raise or even brag about?
Where indeed, are you Ms. JD? I found the blog interesting, insightful, and useful. I admired and supported its mission. Okay, I should have linked to it more. But I always thought it was good that it existed, especially with other types of informational "service" blogs like Xoxohth.

I can't address Bridget's first two questions, but I'll try to address the few I think I can.

Are issues of women in the legal profession too sensitive to blog about?

No. I try to blog about such issues to the best of my ability, although I admit that I have the benefit of pseudonymity. But I have blogged about glass ceilings, child care/family care responsibilities, tenure clocks, the two bodies two cities problem, and gender discourse in the classroom.

Is a blog run by a group of law students subject to the same vicissitudes that plague almost all student groups?

Probably, but as I run a solo blog, I can't say for certain. There are plenty of group law student blogs that were/are successful: the former Crescat Sententia, the former Three Years of Hell, Nuts and Boalts, the slipping Barely Legal. My use of "were" is perhaps telling; student law blogs have a finite run when the students graduate. Perhaps if the blogs operated like law journals, with elections of new editors every year or three years (or as positions become available) then they might, like proper organizations should, have an indefinite run.

The blog, if it is a true group blog writing for a purpose that does not become exhausted (e.g. unlike election committees), should not die just because one author slacks off or there is periodic turnover. It's a bad sign if a group blog has few postings. That means the people behind it are not blogging consistently enough or sharing blog duties. I group-blog on MoneyLaw, and I try to get in a post every 2-4 weeks. Not every day, like here. Most of my posts here wouldn't fit MoneyLaw's theme at any rate. But I try to contribute to the group blog in the spirit of collaborative enterprise. Any academic post is cross-posted, and I try to write posts specifically for the MoneyLaw audience of academics interested in academic culture/pedagogy, and aspiring professors.

I am thankful I don't have to post every day on such topics, since such posts require much thought (and sometimes research or number crunching). And if I don't blog, Jeff Harrison or Sam Kamin will--but yes, I do blog. If I stopped posting entirely on MoneyLaw, I wouldn't deserve to be a part of the team. And if everyone on the blog team stopped posting, then MoneyLaw would fail to exist in a meaningful way. And so we all do our part. We keep up the posts in service of our blog's purpose. The purpose exists whether or not we blog, but we must blog in order to serve it and fulfill it.

I am sad to see that useful, information dissemination/discussion blogs are not kept up to date more than they should be. I am very glad that Legal Theory Blog, PrawfsBlawg, and Concurring Opinions exist--in addition to the wonderful services that Leiter's Law Reports and Emperor Caron's Law Professor Blog Network provides. Ms. JD was not just a general purpose blog or a general interest law blog--it was created by students, for students and for very salutary purposes of correcting the gendered discourse in the legal academy and profession. Yes, you may ask me why I didn't join myself--because I'm already on enough blogs, and I have my own mission statements! Also, as an aspiring academic, I think I fulfill my blog niche well enough here and at MoneyLaw. Ms. JD is very useful for students going through OCIP or considering the work/life balance and culture at their future firms.

I hope they keep blogging, and blog more regularly. It's tough for students to blog with so many other engagements (I am betting that most of the editorial board are already doing other clinics and journals). That's another reason why the legal profession and academy should consider blogging to fulfill a public scholar/public service function, so it can be an "instead of" rather than "in addition to" extra-curricular activity for the already over-committed and overstretched law students.

Are student-bloggers worried that their postings will be used against them in the future?

Probably. I am, hence the pseudonymity. But the declared purpose of Ms. JD is so salutary and strongly stated, that I understand the desire to claim responsibility for the service the blog provides. Still, that means editing the tone, not the topic of the blog. Avoiding snark and personal effluvia (clearly a problem with my blog, but again, it is an individual, personal blog) should mitigate against future embarrassment or retribution.


Blogger Anthony Rickey said...

Three Years of Hell was never a group blog. I did create a page called the Columbia Continuum that aggregated RSS and ATOM feeds from other Columbia blogs, but unlike Crescat or other group blogs, there was never any sense of collective organization. It never had a particularly high readership, so I'm not sure I'd consider it a success. On the other hand, if one considers the Continuum a "group blog," then creating something like Ms. JD should be relatively easy. One could just create a page that aggregates feeds from other blogs writing about similar issues.

9/15/2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anna Lorien Nelson said...

X-posting my reply from Law and Letters (since Belle has x-posted her entry here)...

@ Belle: your comments about group law student blogs, and group blogs in general, seem right on the money. I'm a law student who's worked on Ms. JD. The thing to know about Ms. JD is that it was not founded by bloggers. Which is weird, but true.

So students at Ms. JD have been working on other, non-blogging projects--we've funded scholarships for public interest work (for students) and sponsored attendance at women's law-leadership training (for practitioners), been contacting women's student groups at law schools all over to create a national law student coalition that can speak coherently about student concerns, and building a networking website that works a little like Facebook, but with a more professional tone, so that women can find each other by affiliations (schools, employers, locales, practice areas, etc.) for advice and networking. But the blog is the public face of Ms. JD and its highest profile project, and that isn't what it could be.

So we need more bloggers, and we haven't figured out a formula of structure and incentives that will draw lots of busy people talking in one place. The web is so decentralized, how do we draw bloggers who can as easily be writing elsewhere on their own separate blogs (like this one)? We have some new people starting this fall (always looking for more, come by if you're interested), and we are always looking for ideas. How we can get the project working better?

9/21/2007 4:19 PM  

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