Sociology in America has a long and distinguished tradition of studying individuals and groups who are in some way socially marginal. A close look at the margin, besides being interesting in its own right, has a way of casting new light on the center -- on the socially respected and respectable. This is certainly true in our own little corner of the world. A informal sociological field study that anyone can undertake is to spend a few minutes a day reading a genuinely respectable legal blog -- for instance Volokh or Prawfsblawg -- and then to devote the same amount of time to perusing JD Underground or Shit Law Jobs.
For example, reading this post and thread and then this one allows one to immerse oneself into two worlds that in an economic sense are closely related, but which in another are separated by the sociological equivalent of inter-galactic distances, all without leaving the comfort of one's academic office or parents' basement, as the case may be. Or you could compare this one and this one.
(The spectrum between between the hyper-respectable and the aggressively marginal is filled by sites such as Above the Law, which keeps one foot in the world of big law firm bonus gossip and the like, while also publishing plenty of broadsides that wouldn't be out of place on the scam blogs, and Top Law Schools, which publishes unedited law school PR, but also tolerates surprising amounts of straightforward criticisms of law school propaganda in its forums).
In all seriousness, few things would do legal academia more good than an imperial edict requiring every law professor in the country to spend 15 minutes of his or her precious time every day reading JD Underground. I'm genuinely fascinating by the question of what effect this would have on peoples' behavior. Would it be possible for a faculty that was forced to perform this particular exercise to just go on doing the same things they're doing now, in the same way, in their classrooms, and in faculty meetings, and on their word processors?
Speaking of sociology, one of the things that most strongly distinguishes the respectable from the marginal is language, and in particular the social etiquette surrounding its use. It's no coincidence that, while legal academic blogs tend to feature an exaggeratedly polite tone and very strong informal norms against using "crude" language and the like, the scam blogs go radically in the other direction, reveling in the obscene and scatalogical.
When I started this blog, I chose its title precisely for the purpose of signaling that, to the extent such a thing would be possible given the author's position, this was not going to be a respectable enterprise. (The success of this gesture was made immediately evident by the fact that an especially pompous law professor went so far as to declare himself "disgusted" that a fellow legal academic would refer to the contemporary American law school as a "scam.")
Of course this creates all sorts of real contradictions and tensions -- how can I write the things I write given the job I get paid to do etc. etc? -- but those tensions and contradictions are unavoidable consequences of being a participant-observer in regard to the economic and ideological crisis that is overtaking American law schools. The margin isn't a comfortable location, but it's a very interesting one.