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BLAWg In Bloom

The Indiana Law Library Blog

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Vote For Your Favorite Legal Blog!

The ABA Journal has just started voting for its 4th Annual Blawg 100.  Editors pick their top 100 law related blogs, and then you can weigh in with your own votes as to which are the best of the best. You do need to register to vote, as there were voting irregularities before they required registration, but once in you can choose your favorites in 12 different categories.  Have a favorite blawg?  Then voting for it is a good way to support it!

Attribution in Blogging

We at the BLAWg IN Bloom have often cited the excellent work of Marcia Oddi over at the Indiana Law Blog.  It turns out that we are not alone, but that not everyone is giving credit where it is due.  The law firm of Ferguson & Ferguson has apparently been running the ILB on its website for sometime—it looks like they simply harvest it automatically and repost it, with no attribution. If you click on the link to one of the entries it does take you to the ILB website, but there is nothing on the firm website to let the reader know it is not a product of the firm.  The ILB recently ran a post complaining about this, and sure enough, that post shows up on the Ferguson website.  The same post also asks for suggestions.  What should she do?  The ILB is meant for the use of the Indiana legal community, this is true, but it also has supporters from law firms.  What sort of intellectual property rights apply to blogs?  The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Bloggers’ Legal Guide does have some tips.  Does Marcia Oddi have any legal recourse?  Should Ferguson be required to support the blog?  Would appropriate attribution be sufficient?  What do you think?

Top Legal Blogs

It’s that time again—time to vote for your favorite blawg on the ABA Journal’s list of the top 100 legal blogs.  Is there a particular blawg that you just can’t live without?  One that gives you all the right information and commentary?  If there is, the ABA Journal wants to know about it.  Tell them why your favorite blawg deserves to be in their top 100 Blawgs for 2009 in 500 characters or less, and they just might add it to the list.  You can fill out the form here.  You can also check out last year’s top 100 Blawgs if you need inspiration.

Lawyers and Social Networking

We’ve talked about it before, but it always bears repeating—be careful what you put online for the world to see.  This is especially important in a profession like law.  It is actually a relatively small world—your current classmates will remember if you are the one constantly involved in flame wars over student e-mails, and they will remember if you always had a Facebook status indicating that you blew off studying.  It is the same in the legal world.  A recent New York Times article talks about several cases in which lawyers got in hot water for blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting about, cases, clients, judges, and other lawyers.  Make sure that the information you put out for the world to see is really information that you want to be seen.

Do You Blog?

There has been some debate recently about law student blogs. It started with a post on the Volokh Conspiracy about dwindling numbers of student bloggers, which sparked a lot of discussion. There are several reasons that law students don’t blog—they don’t have the time, or they graduate and move on, and of course the terrifying idea that saying the wrong thing could influence a future employer. Since then the issue has appeared in other places, including The Shark, and Legal Blog Watch, which suggest that maybe schools should offer services to encourage their students’ blogging.

Blogging is not easy. If you are going to be good it is pretty time consuming and requires a certain level of personal interest. You have to always have something to say, and you have to be very careful that what you say is not going to come back to haunt you. You need to be interesting, relevant, current, and appropriate—not an easy thing to pull off. At the same time, though, blogging can be a real boon. You can use it to keep your thoughts organized, and the very exercise of preparing them for publication forces you to refine them. The same future employers who might be shocked by a nasty remark can be impressed by a blog that shows perception and dedication.

So go ahead and blog—you can do yourself a lot of good—but it is worth it to give a blog the time and attention that it deserves. Remember that if you wouldn’t want to say it in an interview now, you certainly don’t want it to take you by surprise in an interview in a few years.

New & Noteworthy (Sort of): Not Your Father’s Legal Thriller

Connelly, Michael. The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2005 [PS 3553 .051165 .L56 2005]

The law library doesn’t buy a lot of fiction. Still we do purchase the occasional legal based novel and of course the latest legal thriller (Grisham/Turow/etc.) So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when, a few years ago, I read a review of The Lincoln Lawyer, I decided it was an appropriate addition to our library. Connelly is perhaps best known as being one of Bill Clinton’s favorite writers and he had a string of successful “hard boiled” detective novels published in the 1990s. A fan of the like of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Connelly’s writing is as rough as 24 grit sandpaper. The Lincoln Lawyer, his first jump into the legal thriller genre, is no exception. Full Story »

The 2008 Weblog Awards

Nearly a million votes were cast in choosing the lucky winners of the 2008 Weblog Awards, and ten thousand of those were in the Best Law Blog category. The winner, as it so often is, is the Volokh Conspiracy. If you are interested in what is going on in the legal world it almost certainly behooves you to keep an eye on Volokh, as well as its many worthy competitors. Things like the Weblog Awards tell you what people are reading, so even if a particular blog does not appeal to you personally, it is good to know what everyone else is looking at. And if you get too burnt out on law blogs, you can always thumb through the notables of other categories, like Best Food Blog, or Best Comic Strip.

Thanks to the Law Librarian Blog for reminding us that these awards were posted.

Blogs and Professionalism

A letter from Houston attorney Jeff Murphrey recently made the rounds on several law blogs. Murphrey, who was recently hit by Hurricane Ike, missed a deposition because he was dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, and wrote angrily to another lawyer on the case who was not, he felt, sufficiently sympathetic. The letter is funny and awful at the same time, and it inspired a fair amount of ill will toward its recipient in the blogging community. The recipient, one Dale Markland, has recently responded with his side of the story.

As with all such stories, they truth is almost certainly somewhere between the two sides of the story. It is an entertaining read, but it should also serve as a reminder of the importance of professionalism in blogging. Markland could probably have been more understanding of Murphrey. But, even if Markland is in every way as bad as painted was plastering that letter all over the online legal community really the appropriate action? It is probable that some people now think of Markland as uncaring and obsessed only with financial details. But there are also people who are going to remember Murphrey as the guy who made a bitter public spectacle of a private dispute.

Remember, whenever you get in a flame war with fellow law students, these people are going to be your colleagues for years to come. The legal community is surprisingly small. And similarly, when you are writing a blog, even just a personal one, remember that your employers and coworkers are likely to stumble across it at one point or another.

Bloggers with Power

Continuing our reflections on the nature of blogging itself, perhaps the most remarkable thing about this new medium is that it really does give power to people who would not otherwise have it. All you need is some information that hasn’t been presented yet. If you have ever read your local paper online you know that you often get more of the story if you look at the reader comments. Half the time someone who lived down the street from the story can flesh out the details. Blogs are the same thing–they allow people to be heard that otherwise would not have had the chance.

There are lots of examples of this.  When the reporter who broke the Megan Meier story refused to name names bloggers from all over quickly hunted down the name of the woman involved and splashed it all over the internet. More recently, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, a blog entry taking the U.S. Supreme Court to task for missing some precedent may cause the court to reconsider its decision. Bloggers are branching out into more traditional media–publishing books, appearing on television. A lot of news sources now turn to the blogosphere to gage public opinion.

It’s remarkable what a little information and a platform to share it on can do.

More Thoughts on Blogging

Now that we’ve had a week or two to explore the blogging world we have learned many things.

One is that blogging is surprisingly difficult. One of the warnings that a lot of preparatory blogging research turned up is not to try to run a blog alone. This is good advice–especially when taken with another maxim of good blogging, which is to update frequently. It’s not easy to make sure that one is relevant, interesting, and helpful every day of the week.

There are some amazing blogs out there that are amazingly simply because their authors are willing to devote themselves almost whole heartedly to them. It’s also true that a lot of good blogs have many authors, who can speak to one another, and keep up a steady flow of information.

With so many smart and interesting people here at the library we should be able to keep the BLAWg IN Bloom pretty fresh. But, for all you fledgling bloggers out there who are interested in a blog that speaks to more than just your friends and relations, be prepared for all the work you will have to do.

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