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A Tainted Victory for TechnoLawyer

While we here at Legal Blog Watch were off holiday-ing, the ABA Journal wrapped up voting for readers' favorites among its 2009 Blawg 100. Today, the ABA Journal editors posted the final results. In the technology category, the top vote-getter was TechnoLawyer Blog. But it is a tainted victory, at best.

Two days before voting was to close, Neil Squillante posted an offer on TechnoLawyer Blog to award $500 to two people and $100 to five others who cast their votes for him. "Vote for TechnoLawyer Blog, send us an email message, and win one of seven cash prizes," he declared.

Squillante's offer prompted a New Year's Eve post from Scott H. Greenfield declaring the death of the beauty pageant, at least for law blogs.

Neil Squillante at Technolawyer wants to win his category so badly that he has started a sweepstakes with cash prizes, substantial cash prizes, for those who vote for Technolawyer. Nothing that I've experienced as a part of the blawgosphere, as a blawg in the ABA Journal Blawg 100, has made me more ashamed than this.

This is what has become of the blawgosphere. The marketers, hypsters, snake oil salesmen have fought hard to change this from a community of thought and expression to a crass commercial opportunity. Nothing could be more crass than this. Obviously, Squillante thinks he can eke some monetary benefit from winning, enough so that it's worth putting up a substantial amount of money to buy votes. There's no rule against it, though the ABA Journal seems to make up rules for its Beauty Pageant as it goes along.

Greenfield's post drew plenty of comments, including some accusing Squillante of buying votes. Squillante responded to the criticism in a comment of his own:

Now, about our sweepstakes. We cleared it with the ABA Journal. Our sweepstakes counsel, Enns & Archer, wrote the rules. Finally, why are lawyers (not Scott but others) who should know better accusing us of "buying votes"? By definition, most of the people who enter a sweepstakes do not win. Our sweepstakes is no exception. Criticize us if you wish, but please use more precise language. We are not buying votes. We are getting out the vote.

Get out the vote he did. His blog came in first place in the technology category, beating second-place finisher E-Lessons Learned, a blog written by law students. But the first-place finish carried an asterisk leading to a disclaimer, of sorts. It said:

The TechnoLawyer Blog drew the most votes in this category only after it ran a sweepstakes campaign offering readers who claimed to have voted for it the opportunity to win one of two $500 first prizes and five $100 second prizes. Had the sweepstakes offer not been made, the likely winner would have been E-Lessons Learned.

Let me say right here that my own LawSites blog was also a contender in this category. For that matter, I sometimes contribute to the TechnoLawyer Blog as a commentator for its YouLaw feature. But this ploy to offer cash prizes for votes does not pass the smell test. I would have been glad to see TechnoLawyer win under other circumstances, but this is a tainted victory, not to mention a dismal lesson in lawyerly behavior for the law students who were edged out.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 4, 2010 at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)


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