It’s actually a pretty decent synopsis of the SSRN phenomenon, noting that it takes away the power of gatekeepers, makes scholarship available to the masses and lets them decide what’s worthy, etc. It points out that sexy still sells, noting that an essay with an unspeakable title is the 11th most downloaded article on the site (sorta NSFW, unless you’re an academic).
He also raises an interesting point:
It’s still not clear to me what SSRN means for the future of legal academics. I used to think that it would be the death of most law journals—that people would essentially self-publish their work on SSRN and advertise it on their blogs instead of seeking law journal placement.
. . .
I understand that untenured faculty still need the stamp of approval that comes with law journal acceptance. For those of us with tenure, though, what makes us continue to seek such acceptance?
Lawrence Solum responds at the Legal Theory Blog, suggesting that (1) SSRN is not focused on being a permanent repository, (2) the benefits of Westlaw & LexisNexis searching vs. the “noise” of Google (I’m not sure I agree with this!), and (3) the certification function of law reviews.
I think it comes partly too from a confusion amongst law professors (one of the few groups of academics without doctorates) that they need the prestige of journals in the same way scientists do. But a peer-reviewed scientific journal is in a different league than a student-managed law review. Nonetheless, we all pretend it’s close enough…