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WHY BLOGS?

Why is American Lawyer Media, given its proud tradition of legal journalism and extensive Web network, investing precious home page pixels in blogs? After all, these bloggers aren't even editors or employees. Didn't ALM get the memo? And why should you carve out precious billable minutes to read blogs?

The best short answer to these questions was written in March 2003 by Jim Calloway of the Oklahoma Bar Association. In an article for his fellow members, Calloway wrote:

"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 Oklahoma lawyers have never heard of them. Bear with me just a bit...

[T]here 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 school 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."

I can only hope that Mr. Calloway's prescience paid off for him, given the explosion of blogger influence within the legal community since he pleaded with his colleagues to hear him out. Today, attorneys write some of the Web's most popular and influential blogs. You likely already know how valuable blogs are to your daily professional life if you litigate, need the latest on Blakely, or you're involved with a firm's law library.

Mr. Calloway didn't dwell on the fact that attorneys also oversee the Internet's most notorious blog sideshows (the legal blogosphere even has its own version of Wonkette), and I won't either. Not today. Instead, I'll laud the expertise, insight and quality of commentary provided by Law.com's affiliate bloggers -- as well as much of the blawgosphere in which attorneys find themselves today (ever heard of him or them?) That's why, on Nov. 22, American Lawyer Media officially launches the Law.com Blog Network, a showcase for seven attorneys who blog:

- The Volokh Conspiracy by Eugene Volokh and 14 other co-authors

- May It Please The Court by J. Craig Williams

- I/P Updates by William Heinze

- MyShingle.com by Carolyn Elefant

- The [non]billable hour by Matthew W. Homann

- Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer by Michael W. Fox

- Crime & Federalism by Michael Cernovich

We got your memo right here, pal

Now for the longer answer to my question: Why would ALM showcase writing by attorney bloggers? The answer is quality, agree Law.com's own affiliates. As The Volokh Conspiracy's Eugene Volokh wrote me in an e-mail last month:

"Law blogs provide analysis that's timelier, more legally sophisticated and more thorough than what we can get in the mainstream media, or even in the legal media. When you want to understand some computer crime law issue that's in the news, what better place to look for it than in posts by a law professor who specializes in computer crime? Few traditional publications will have writers with that kind of expertise. And blogs, of course, often link to key documents -- cases, statutes, complaints, pieces of evidence, and so on -- that the mainstream media often don't provide."

J. Craig Williams agrees -- but don't just read the "real skinny" on why he blogs and values blogs. Instead, click on the little gray icon at the bottom of his post and listen to him, too -- Craig's one of the few, if not the only, attorney I know who is Podcasting.

Quality -- of work and of life -- also is why these bloggers say they carve precious minutes out of their billable hours (or time in the lecture hall or time with their kids or time to sleep) to write and read blogs. Bill Heinze blogged the answer to my question, ("Why blog?") earlier this month, and I think he'd agree with Mike Fox, who e-mailed me this thought:

"My blog becomes my own personal tool to stay current, as well as serving as a private repository for my own research purposes. It is amazing the number of times I have been able to answer a question of a colleague by passing on a recent note and link. It certainly is also rewarding to hear from clients and other lawyers who have stumbled on it that they enjoy reading it ... And just like the lawyer chatting to the neighbors over a cup of coffee, if these folks come away with the conclusion that you just might know what you are talking about, that can't be a bad thing, for me or them."

The personal and interpersonal rewards of the job are two important goals for Blogger Matt Homann, whose very first post, I Hate Billing by the Hour, pretty much sums up his approach. "Blogging has given me a platform to share innovative ideas that I believe will positively impact my profession and improve my life," he wrote in an e-mail this week. With online colleagues like Mr. Homann and Carolyn Elefant, no solo has to feel like they're going it alone again.

Nor does any law student for that matter. In a nod to the recent graduates and young associates who visit Law.com, I'm happy to introduce Blogger Michael Cernovich.

The law at Legal Blog Watch

One of my roles, as the writer of this blog, is to provide you with daily upates on and links to the latest legal insight from Law.com's network of bloggers. Watch this space, as we'll regularly welcome other key contributors like this one. I welcome your suggestions for other sites and blogs here.

My second role is to shut up. I'd like to listen to your ideas and suggestions for the Law.com Blog Network. I wish I could make it easier for you by turning comments on in this blog, where you could post, but comment spam prevents me from doing so. Instead, for now, I invite you to e-mail me and tell me what you'd like to see happen here.

Please note: I treat all e-mails as public letters to the editor, so you may see your ideas here. I know I hope to.

Posted by Laurel Newby on November 19, 2004 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (4)

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