Ben Domenech Ousted as Blogger for Plagiarism

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The biggest blog news last week concerned ousted blogger Ben Domenech. Domenech's reign as a controversial conservative political blogger for the Washington Post's website lasted only three glorious days. That was all the time it took for Domenech to be revealed by competitors as a plagiarist. Domenech also came under fire for issuing unsympathetic comments about Coretta Scott King on the day of her funeral. After a flurry of accusations, the 24-year-old Domenech resigned from his Red America blog. Among the claims against him, Domenech had apparently made a habit of taking credit for other journalists' materials and making up quotes. In his own defense, Domenech said it was his editors who inserted other writers' works into his articles. He did, however, say that the widow of Martin Luther King was a communist and that the President should not have attended Coretta Scott King's funeral. Nice guy, right? To his credit, Domenech remained strident even after being exposed. He thanked his enemies for spending a week bashing him instead of America. The truth is that Domenech is a hero of mine. I someday hope to become embroiled in a scandal and grab headlines for making apoplectic quasi-racist statements. There's still time for me.

In response to a March 19 New York Times article titled "Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms", Carolyn Elefant of the blog My Shingle posted an insightful post, asking why we should care. Elefant posits that while big law firms don't let female employees easily balance a home life and a career, they won't allow it for male employees either. She sees the situation at big law firms as "gender neutral." Rather than being an anti-feminist statement, the post is an all-out indictment of the big firms' cruel and inhumane treatment of attorneys. As a successful solo practitioner, Elefant doesn't see why big law firms are the pinnacle of lawyerly achievement or why more attorneys tormented by their fat cat bosses don't strike out on their own. She argues that the real role model isn't the woman who fights her big law firm employers, but rather the woman who establishes a practice by her own set of rules.

While discussing law firms, it is significant to note that the blogosphere has begun to affect the way law firms do business. An article from the law blog The Stopped Clock highlights how a law firm's blog can raise awareness of the practice and bring in new clients. Blogs are updated frequently, which can boost a site's presence on search engines. They also link heavily to and from other sites, which increases Web traffic. The Stopped Clock also points to blog RSS feeds as a great way to reach out to clients. The post also warns that if the blog is not directly connected to the firm's main website, the effectiveness of the blog in increasing the firm's profile is diluted.

On a related note, The Blogger's Blog featured a news item about an Employment Law Alliance survey that found an average of 5% of working Americans are blogging. By contrast, only 15% of employers have any kind of corporate blogging policy. In an era when speaking too freely on a blog can result in an employee's dismissal, official blogging policies are sorely needed. Blogger Paul Bourgeois of Startle Grams claims this problem will work itself out shortly, as everyone will soon be too busy writing their own blogs to bother reading anyone else's. Employment attorneys aren't as sure. Terminating someone's employment for what he/she said on a blog without a solid policy prohibiting such behavior could land employers in legal trouble.
Last week, law bloggers were buzzing about Ropes & Gray, Boston's largest law firm, and its decision to drop the Catholic Charities of Boston from its roster of clients. According to a March 15 Boston Globe article, the firm's decision was spurred by protests from Harvard law students who objected to the charity's policy of preventing gay parents from adopting children. Conservative bloggers, like The Right Coast were up in arms, claiming that Ropes & Gray had turned soft, kowtowing to effete liberal students. The Volokh Conspiracy's Jim Lindgren suggested that idealistic law students should retaliate by establishing clinics to represent unpopular clients exclusively. Can I recommend Ben Domenech?

Next week, we will return with further tidings from the law blog universe. Until then, remain vigilant, dear LawCrosser.

Jeff is a writer from Los Angeles, CA. Currently, he is the moderator of the message boards at Judged.com, the largest insider source of law firm information.

Ropes & Gray LLP.

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