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Of Blogs, Bloggers, and Blawgs
By Jim Calloway
 

NOTE: This month’s article is by Jim Calloway, my counterpart at the Oklahoma Bar Association. Jim was a speaker at the Solo Conference last year and is an avowed techno-geek. His article on blogs is directed to non-technical solo practitioners and is presented here with permission. Please note that there will be a great session at the Solo and Small Firm Conference on blogs. Carolyn Elefant, whose blog is listed at the end of the article, will be speaking at the Solo Conference. Enjoy.

Pat Yevics


     For many of you, even reading this article is a leap of faith. Many if not most readers of this column may never have heard of blogs (or blawgs). I would imagine the overwhelming majority of lawyers have never heard of them. Bear with me just a bit. Since blogs are already useful for the Internet-using lawyer and may evolve into a force having major significance for lawyers, spend a few minutes with us digesting some of this “cutting-edge” information. The recent rapid increase in the number of blogs online indicates that they may shape the future of Internet information management and Internet research.

     The word “blog” itself is of recent vintage. I doubt that you will find it in any print dictionaries - yet. Blog is a term derived from the phrase “Web log.” Web logs are, at their essence, online diaries. Blog software allows one with little or no technical skill to publish Web pages that are updated frequently with little more effort than drafting an e-mail. In essence, you spend 10 minutes or more publishing your thoughts each day for all of the online world to read. Blogs are the perfect forum for political pundit wannabees and other frustrated writers in search of a forum. Many blogs share teenage angst, amateur music reviews, suggestions for world peace and as many other ideas and attitudes as there are bloggers.

     If that were all there were to blogs, you would not be reading about them here today. But what group besides lawyers and law professors has so many opinions and is not shy about sharing them?

     For a person whose career involves analysis of various legal decisions and statutory enactments, the blog is the perfect outlet. Why wait for the printing schedule of a law review or the tedium of peer review and defense of one’s writing and views when with a blog you can publish your incisive analysis right now for all of the world to read? So for the last few months, we have seen new law-related blogs appear almost daily. There are so many of these now that the law-related bloggers refer to them as “blawgs.” (Today, I’ll stick with the term “law blogs.”)

     Law blogs range from the ordinary to the sublime, from the distantly professional to the intensely personal. Many bloggers freely mix in their political philosophy with their legal analysis. But by and large, blogs are more personal than other writing venues. A law review would almost never note a writer’s personal experiences. But it would be unsurprising to find a blog entry starting out, “Sorry, today’s blog is being posted late. I had a flat on the way to work, and I haven’t changed a flat tire in years.”

     This is not to suggest that blogs are trivial, though many no doubt are. But there are some brilliant people writing blogs and law blogs. Lawyers who charge their clients hundreds of dollars an hour are freely dispensing their wisdom and analysis online for anyone to read. Law professors at some of our nation’s top law schools now regularly opine on court decisions released just a day (or a few hours) earlier. And if one of those decisions impacts a case you are handling, that analysis could be very useful to the practicing lawyer.

    We’ll highlight several law blogs to give everyone an idea what’s online.

**  Ernie the Attorney (http://radio.weblogs.com/0104634/) – You cannot really discuss law blogs without mentioning Ernie the Attorney. Sure, his catchy name helped popularize his blog, but he updates his blog with several interesting items just about every day! I have no research to back up this statement, but Ernie probably has the most-accessed law blog. He is a partner in a New Orleans firm and discusses just about everything, with a focus on practicing law, legal technology and the Internet. He also keeps a great list of the other law blogs.

**  How Appealing (http://appellateblog.blogspot.com) – Howard Bashman’s “How Appealing” blog shows how powerful blogs can be. He is the chair of the Appellate Group at Philadelphia’s Buchanan Ingersoll, and his commentary on appellate law is simply unparalleled. Links to the decisions allow you to read and decide your opinion for yourself. In a recent ABA Journal article he estimates that his law blog gets 3,000-5,000 hits per day. Many have read or heard the story of last October when he pointed out an error in a footnote in an opinion by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the court amended the opinion the next day.

**  Inter Alia (http://www.inter-alia.net/) - This blog focuses on Internet research; the blogger also publishes a free e-mail newsletter entitled “Internet Legal Research Weekly.” You can sign up for the newsletter on this blog.

**  HIPAA blog (http://hipaablog.blogspot.com) – Attorney Jeff Drummond says this blog is “a discussion of medical privacy issues buried in political arcana.” But if your practice deals with HIPAA regulations and other similar issues, it is a “must-visit” blog.

**  SCOTUSblog (http://www.goldsteinhowe.com/blog) – This blog tracks Supreme Court litigation. A discussion area for users has recently been added.

**  Statutory Construction Zone (http://www.statconblog.blogspot.com) – Some of the most useful blogs are those devoted to an extremely narrow topic. This one is limited to federal statutory construction.

**  FourthAmendment.com (http://www.wallywaller.com/4th) – Will blogs do away with pocket parts? John Wesley Hall Jr. is a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor who practices in Little Rock, Ark. and this is his online supplement to his book on search and seizure published by Lexis Law Publishing.

**  COPYFIGHT: The Politics of IP (http://www.copyfight.org) – Donna Wentworth is quite the dedicated blogger. She covers intellectual property issues.

**  Web Logs at Harvard (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu) – Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School hosts a blog. You know blogs have to be important now, right?

**  BeSpacific.com (http://www.bespacific.com) – Sabrina I. Pacifici was one of the two editors of LLRX.com, a great web page for law librarians and researchers that recently announced it was going “on hiatus.” Her new blog promises “Accurate, Focused Law and Technology News.” You can sign up for daily or weekend e-mail deliveries of the content at the site as well.

**  Netlawblog (http://www.netlawblog.com) – Jerry Lawson wrote the book The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers, so it is not surprising that his blog focuses on Internet tools for lawyers.

**  My Shingle (http://www.myshingle.com) – Carolyn Elefant’s blog focuses on solo and small firm issues. She includes links to great online resources and features like a review and ranking of state bars’ services for the solo and small firm lawyer community.

**  Rory Perry’s Web Log (http://radio.weblogs.com/0103705) – Rory Perry is the Clerk of Court for the West Virginia Supreme Court. His blog is subtitled “Law, Technology and the Courts.” He discusses his incorporation of blog technology into the court’s Web pages.

**  Excited Utterances (http://excitedutterances.blogspot.com) – Excited Utterances isn’t about the hearsay rule at all but rather law firm knowledge management.

**  DennisKennedy.blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog) – Dennis Kennedy is a St. Louis lawyer. His new blog will focus on legal technology and technology law.

     There’s one more thing about blogs that make them so powerful; bloggers read each other’s blogs and link to things they like without hesitation. Therefore, a well-thought-out commentary posted on one blog may soon be spread from one blog to another. It may literally be read by tens of thousands of people. Soon that could be hundreds of thousands. Bloggers call this the blogosphere.

     Many blogs allow others to post comments and reactions to things that they read.

     New law blogs spring up constantly (a blog on Pennsylvania worker’s compensation law was just announced). Law firms should consider using blog technology for internal firm announcement newsletters and external client newsletters. A small firm lawyer can become a nationally recognized voice with a blog. I expect that we will see many community-based blogs – a current events blog for a small town, for example. But for the majority of lawyers who have no interest in starting or maintaining a blog, it is important to understand what they are and how visiting blogs can improve your practice.


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