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The Demise of the Legal Blogsophere

Has the legal blogosphere gone to pot? Mike Cernovich at the blog Crime & Federalism seems to think so. He sees it as overrun by shallow marketing and exclusive cliques. He makes good points.

His post is inspired by one at another blog, Apt. 11D, that considers how blogging has changed over the past six years. It is an unflattering assessment that says that bloggers, themselves, have undermined the blogosphere and that both bloggers and readers are burned out. But the post concludes that blogging remains worthwhile.

Blogging should be the means to another goal -- a rough draft for future articles/books, a way to network with professionals, a place to document your life for your children, a way to have fun. Those are very real and good outcomes of blogging and that's why I'm continuing to keep at.

Cernovich is more cynical. "The legal blogosphere has changed dramatically since I began blogging over 5 years ago," he writes. "It's a lot worse than it once was. I probably read 5 or 6 law blogs." The most dramatic and destructive change in the legal blogosphere, he contends, has been the rise of the marketers.

It used to be that a lawyer would publish a blog for the sake of blogging. Blogging was intrinsically good. He or she would give a name and professional bio. But the posts didn't read like lawyer billboards. Blog posts had actual substance.

Lawyers shared their knowledge of their specialties to other lawyers and lay persons. Blogs were actually edifying. Now most law blog posts are filled with lines like, "You need a personal injury attorney," with a concomitant link to the blogger's law firm. Blogging is about closing sales.

The other cause of the blawgosphere's downfall, he argues, is that it has gotten cliquish.

Law professors have their space. They link to each other rather than the greater legal blogosphere. Before, there was a lot of cross-discussion between professors, lawyers, and law students. All comers were taken seriously. People were judged based on their message rather than their perceived status. ...

Law blogging is like high school or college. The black kids, white kids, and Asian kids are all sitting at separate tables. The law professors, lawyers, and law students all link to members of their respective subcultures. There thus isn't much debate worth reading.

Cernovich sums it up eloquently: "The modern legal blogosphere sucks because it's been overrun by legal marketers, and because people who might be able to engage in actually-interesting conversations are too busy sucking up to their e-friends and e-colleagues."

I would not condemn the legal blogosphere as forcefully, but there is certainly truth in both his points. The rapid rise of blogs as a marketing tool has flooded the field and made it more difficult for any single blog to stand out and attract readers. But as an avid reader of blogs myself, I can attest that there remain many exceptional blogs with valuable, insightful and thought-provoking content. An overcrowded blogosphere means that bloggers and readers alike have to work harder, but the payoff can still be found.

As for cliquishness, this, too, is probably a function of overcrowding more than elitism. With too many blogs to choose from, we tend to stick with those we know and find comfort with. Has the legal blogosphere gone to pot? I would not say that. Is it more difficult to stand out as a blogger? Absolutely. That is the cost of competition -- and the challenge.

Your thoughts?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 9, 2009 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


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