Exploring the Blogosphere

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<<What is a blog? According to Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English, Preview Edition ( v. 0.9.6), to blog is "to author an online diary or chronology of thoughts." In other words, it is a way to put your every thought out there on the Internet for all to see.

Blogs come in just about every size and shape. Some are little more than stream-of-consciousness ramblings about anything and everything. Others are limited to specific subjects such as politics, news, legal issues, gossip, and hot-button topics. Blogging is so prevalent that it was a major source of information to the general public and media alike during the national political conventions in 2004.

Blogging is becoming increasingly common in the legal world. In fact, it is popular enough to have spawned its own term—blawging—which refers only to legal blogs. While the question of whether or not to blog is still faced by many attorneys and firms, few argue the potential of this new tool. Blogging allows a lawyer or firm to present a more personal side to potential, and existing, clients. It also attracts attention and facilitates new contacts at little or no cost.

One extensive, award-winning legal blog is www.excitedutterances.blogspot.com, started and maintained by Joy London, a knowledge management attorney in New York. London established her site in 2002 and focused on knowledge management and technology issues within the legal world. "At that time, there were only a few blawgs concentrating on the technology issues of law practice. Instead of following that theme, I wanted to tackle the sociological and psychological aspects of knowledge exchange in law domains—specifically large law firms worldwide." With more than 80 links to other blogs and legal newswire headlines, it is no surprise that excited utterances boasts 800 email subscribers—including lawyers, judges, and law professors.

There are also several blogs aimed at law students. A major one is JD2B.com. JD2B offers a combination of recent legal news, blogs by various students and professors, and links to various legal education resources. Shalva Alexander, who administers the site, thinks blogging is very important to future attorneys. "The Internet has opened up things. Blogging is continuing that process. It's information on demand. It puts people closer together."

Alexander does note, however, that only serious bloggers should post on the Internet. "Legal blogging takes a fair amount of time. People need to be consistent about it. They need to put something substantial up there that people will want to read."

A long-running and highly regarded legal blog is BetweenLawyers.com, where five seasoned attorneys offer their thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of legal subjects. The site is so prominent that its recent roundtable on the importance of blogging in the legal field was condensed into an article for the American Bar Association's Law Practice (July/August 2005 edition).

The participants of BetweenLaywers.com do not think every attorney or firm should have a blog. During that recent BetweenLawyers.com roundtable, blogger and attorney Martin Schwimmer commented, "Lawyers who either don't have the time to write posts, or who post very infrequently, should not undertake the effort. A poorly maintained blog will have the opposite effect of a well-written, frequently updated blog. The blogger will lose credibility with her or his audience."

Ernest Svenson, also a contributor to BetweenLawyers.com, noted, "The successful ones [blogs] require a certain kind of commitment, which is why the blog craze was incubated by passionate individuals rather than corporations or partnerships. Corporations and other legal entities don't possess passion, although they may employ people who do. The best corporations harness that passion."

Many blogs offer subscriptions, or RSS feeds, which will notify you every time something is added to the site. This is especially important to people who look to blogs for time-sensitive information. One blog site is solely dedicated to announcements about clerkships available with federal judges. Through the site, law students know when the judges begin calling candidates and when positions are filled, saving them from having to call individual judges. Blogs posting transcripts of the recent Roberts confirmation hearings were swamped with readers.

Is blogging here to stay? According to the BetweenLawyers.com crew, probably not. "For law firms, I would argue that a strategy based on RSS feeds makes much more sense than a strategy based on blogs," Dennis Kennedy said. "The trail of legal blogging is littered with the dead blogs of law firms."

Tom Mighell agreed. "I mostly agree with Dennis about RSS and believe that RSS feeds are the future, while blogs are just the fancy window dressing for the technology. Still, it's the blogs that will draw the readers in right now. If you tell the average potential client that the Smith & Jones firm has three RSS feeds on different legal issues, his or her eyes will glaze over with confusion. Show them a blog, however, and you can hook them with the RSS later."

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