The November edition of Litigation News, a publication of the ABA Section of Litigation, highlights the emergence of law blogs. The article, which available online as a PDF file, is mostly favorable, and even ends with a link to my outline of law blogs. But the article quoted one lawyer whose observations I found rather provocative.
Steven A. Weiss, a Chicago lawyer and Co-Chair of the Section’s Technology for the Litigator Committee, said that “blogs tend to be too informal for the exchange of detailed information” and thus he does not believe that “blogs will have a significant impact on the legal profession.”
Well, I agree that blogs won’t have a significant impact on the legal profession. But not because they are informal and lack detailed information. Weblogs are already of great use to many lawyers. For example, Howard Bashman seems to have bolstered his well-deserved reputation through his weblog. However, Howard’s weblog is not only beneficial to Howard, it is also of great benefit to the many lawyers, law clerks, and judges who read it for timely and informed discussion of breaking legal news. Is Howard’s weblog too informal? Does it lack detailed information? Has Mr. Weiss even heard of Howard Bashman or read his weblog?
Has Mr. Weiss considered that a law firm might use a weblog to market itself as having expertise in an area of law, and thereby attract clients and boost its reputation? Consider Wiggins & Dana’s weblog on Franchise Law. I know of at least one General Counsel of a Franshisor company who reads it regularly. What if only 15 corporate general counsel read that weblog daily? Is that insignificant to Wiggins & Dana?
Marty Schwimmer’s Trademark Blog has helped him market his trademark law practice and brought him clients that he might not otherwise have had. Perhaps Marty’s weblog would attract more clients if it were filled with detailed and boring descriptions of trademark law, rather than down-to-earth commentary and humorous asides.
Mr. Weiss apparently is a litigator. Therefore he must know about the Daubert case that prescribed the limits on the use of expert testimony in federal courts. But I wonder if he knows about blog 702. Maybe he doesn’t do the kind of litigation that would cause him to benefit from reading that weblog. If he doesn’t care about a blog on Daubert issues, then he probably wouldn’t care about sites like the Daily Whirl and My Detod, which provide a compendium of information from various legal weblogs.
All of that having been said, Mr. Weiss may be completely correct in his view that law blogs are not all that significant. Of course, what is “significant” pretty much depends on how you look at the world. For example, a caveman wouldn’t regard a cellphone as a particularly significant tool, unless maybe he could use it to smash rocks.
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Perhaps the author of the article did try to contact Howard, and Howard failed to return any phone calls?
As the primary target in your posting, let me concede that I was a little too dismissive of law blogs. But remember, I didn’t write the article. I just supplied a few quotes. The point I was making, or trying to make, is that they are only useful for certain purposes. For example, they will rarely be the primary research tool in drafting a brief. I think they can be extremely useful for keeping up with recent developments in an area. In some narrow fields, they can be even more useful. I agree with you that a practitioner can help develop a reputation by hosting a blog on a particular topic, but that doesn’t help me as a litigator.
In response to some of your more specific, possibly rhetorical, questions: I had not previously, but have now looked at Howard Bashman’s weblog. It did not change my views. I have considered that a law firm could use a blog for marketing purposes, but so what? That helps the author, but not the reader. With respect to Daubert, there are so many newsletters and other sources of Daubert-related information and cases that one more source does not make a difference. (However, I will check out blog 702.)
Who knows, maybe we will eventually get all of our news and research from blogs, but I don’t think so. They sereve a useful purpose, and can be very valuable if they happen to be on point. They can also provide current information in particular areas. The key to valuable information these days is analysis, not content. Generally, blogs take a lot of sorting to find the reayyly useful stuff.
Anyway, since I saw your posting, I thought I’d throw in my two cents.
I don’t know a single young lawyer where I work who doesn’t read “How Appealing” on a daily basis. In terms of understanding what’s going on in the legal world, it’s not only useful but essential. My guess is the impact of the quality legal blogs will keep on expanding, but they’ve already gained an important part of many lawyers’ workdays.
Obviously my ABA dues don’t go to producing comprehensive journalism, as evidenced by this ABA Litigation News article on law blogs, which quotes Tom Goldstein at length about how wonderful Howard Bashman’s blog is but for some reason doesn’t even bother to quote (or even interview) Howard – in fact, Howard writes on his blog that the first he heard of the article was after it was published. Is this just laziness? Any good lawyer knows that personal knowledge is always preferable to hearsay. Why wouldn’t the author have wanted to check up on the person who writes the “best legal blog in existence today,” as the author quotes Tom saying about “How Appealing.”
The author of the article seems skeptical about (or at least unfamiliar with) blogs and probably doesn’t realize how influential they are, particularly among younger lawyers. I don’t know a single young lawyer where I work who doesn’t read “How Appealing” on a daily basis. In terms of understanding what’s going on in the legal world, it’s not only useful but essential. My guess is the impact of the quality legal blogs will keep on expanding, but they’ve already gained an important part of many lawyers’ workdays.
Haven’t read the original article (I’m an ABA member, but not a member of the Lit section, as I’m not a litigator), but Weiss’s comments seem vaguely reminiscent of the “big media vs. new media” feint-and-parry you see covered a lot (and covered well) by Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine–instinctively defensive, which I’ll grant is only human. However, any practitioner that doesn’t take advantage of the information (and synergy) offered by law blogs is not only just missing out; I think there will be a point in the future where it’ll come close to malpractice to be that much “out of the loop”.