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D.C. Bar Article on Legal Blogging

I linked earlier to an article in DC Bar.org from April 2005 by Sarah Kellogg, entitled “Do You Blog? I found this and numerous others articles on “blawgs” at Bill Gratsch’s site, www.blawg.org.

Here are some quotes from the introduction:

“‘You could tell early on that web logs would be very appealing to lawyers because we’re uniquely suited to doing this,’ says [Denise] Howell …. ‘Lawyers are trained to write … and research. The writing they generate tends to have some credibility behind it. That is the crux of web logging right there.’”

“Experts say that attorneys will find more than companionship in the blogosphere, noting that blogs can boost legal practices, assist in legal research, and turn every attorney into an instant cyberexpert in his or her practice area.

“‘Blogs allow for easy access to information and make it easier for lawyers with similar practice interests to get in contact with each other,” says Stephanie Tai, an appellate environmental litigator for the federal government and cocreator of the Blawg Review, which tracks articles and commentaries in law review journals. “I think it helps overcome a lot of the hierarchy present in the profession as well. Because of my blog, I’ve been able to correspond with various law professors who I don’t think I would’ve come into contact with otherwise.’

“Yet cyberspace and blogging hold their own pitfalls for legal professionals. That’s because, though posting one’s opinions to the World Wide Web can be heady stuff, mistakes made as the world watches can be far-reaching and difficult to erase. And the ethics rules governing lawyers are far more stringent than those (practically none) governing bloggers who write about politics, the environment, or chess.

“Still, legal professionals of every kind, not just technolawyers, say the risks are worth the rewards. Blogs provide an opportunity to break free of the traditions and limits of the legal profession, enhancing the practice of law in the digital age.”

The article then proceeds to give a brief history of blogs in general, and then notes that blogs have benefits over traditional websites:

“As the technology took hold, popular blogs soon earned a reputation as provocative or funny journals about pop culture, politics, and technology. It was clear to early constituents that the medium had the power to create cyberspace communities as distinct as towns, cities, and states.

“Compared to a web site, a blog remains a cheaper and more fluid vehicle for communicating on the web. By forgoing the bells and whistles its web site kin features—databases that allow for extensive searching, for instance—the blog can be a quicker and easier content management tool. A blog can be updated a dozen times a day, if necessary. Even the hippest web sites are considered stodgy by bloggers; they say web sites lack the freewheeling enterprise of blogs, which can spark a worldwide debate in a flash.”

Then the article proceeds to discuss blogs in the context of the legal profession:

“The greatest contribution blogs may make to the legal profession is their ability to reveal talent and expertise often hidden in courtrooms and boardrooms. Blogs excel at getting the word out, and observers say lawyers who embrace them are bound to be rewarded with fans and fame.

“Instead of waiting for months or years to be published in a legal journal or magazine, attorneys can pen a short article or commentary expressing their views on any range of subjects, dramatically cutting the time it takes to reach colleagues and the public.

“The blogosphere is teeming with topic-specific blogs that have won kudos from legal experts for their ability to supply timely information that is unique and hard to find.”

The article discusses many of the benefits of legal blogging. Blogs are:

  • useful to law students for observing what practitioners really think about the law.

  • advantageous to solo and small firm practitioners, who are the ones “best situated to take advantage of reputation-builder blogs.”

  • beneficial in exploring new potential areas of practice, providing “a way to strike out and explore a legal interest that may have been little more than a hobby to this point.”

  • ideal for legal research, because “they can be used to monitor evolving legal issues, uncover answers to arcane legal questions, or find far-flung experts across the continent.”

  • a growing method of client recruitment through “allow[ing] lawyers to showcase their past work and their potential.”

  • constructive to communicating with clients, keeping them “up-to-date on their cases or educat[ing] them about a firm’s skills and experience.”

But there are pitfalls to legal blogging. For example, blogs are:

  • potentially a mixture of advertisement and solicitation that can cross ethical and regulatory lines.

  • confusing as to what constitutes actual legal advice.

  • risky in the areas of client confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

  • inaccurate (and even sanctionable) if the law is different in a reader’s jurisdiction.

This summary doesn’t do justice to a very informative article. I would recommend that people read the whole thing.

The following blogs are referred to in the article:

Adam Smith, Esq. - link

Bag and Baggage - link

The Common Scold - link

Dennis Kennedy - link

Ernie the Attorney - link

Inter Alia - link

Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog - link

My Shingle - link

The [non]billable hour - link

Reid My Blog! - link

SCOTUSblog - link

The Trademark Blog - link

Underneath Their Robes - link

The Volokh Conspiracy - link

February 9, 2006 in Blog Articles, Lawyer Blogging | Permalink

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