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The Life and Career of Robert J. Ambrogi: Author, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web, Rockport, MA

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"We are in a period of unprecedented secrecy in which the First Amendment is becoming the greatest victim. Federal and state governments are hindering public access to government documents and meetings. Judges are ordering journalists to testify and threatening them with jail," he said. "In the midst of all this, the Internet is forcing us to rethink traditional concepts of media and media law. We are in a time of significant turmoil and change. That makes it difficult, but it also makes it exciting."

For Ambrogi, the ins and outs of media law are almost second nature. With a journalistic career that dates back to high school, he said he has been interested in journalism for as long as he can remember.


"Over the course of my career, I have worked both in media and for media. As a result, I have always been involved in media law to one extent or another," he said.

In the past, Ambrogi has worked as the editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, founding editor of Lawyers Weekly USA, editor-in-chief of the National Law Journal, director of the ALM News Service, and publisher of newspapers in Connecticut and Idaho. In fact, he actually went to law school in order to advance his career in journalism.

"After college, I considered getting a master's degree in journalism," he said. "My undergraduate journalism adviser said that would be a waste of time because I already knew how to report and write. He suggested getting an advanced degree that would teach me about how the world works, and he said the best degree for that would be law. He was right, of course."

In his private practice, Ambrogi specializes in media law and divides his time between practicing and consulting.

"In my law practice, I focus on media and new media law and serve as legal director and lobbyist for the state newspaper publishers association," he said. "I also work as an arbitrator and mediator and serve on several ADR [alternative dispute resolution] panels. In my consulting practice, I provide advice to law firms and legal vendors on media, Internet, and editorial matters."

However, in the legal field, Ambrogi is probably best known as the man who effectively shaved hours off of the Internet-research process by combining his writing skills, technological proficiency, and legal knowledge to create The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web.

In the book, which is now available in an updated second edition, Ambrogi lists and ranks the most important websites for every major area of law, giving the worst sites zero stars and the best sites five stars.

"Lawyers do not have a lot of time on their hands to waste looking for the right website, and there are a lot of websites out there for them to sort through," he said. "My book does the work for them, helping them hone in on the best sites for their particular needs."

Inspiration for the book came from legal.online, a newsletter Ambrogi produced from 1995 to 2000. The first Internet newsletter for lawyers, legal.online included an annual feature titled "The Best of the Web for Lawyers"; and after a suggestion from ALM Publishing, Ambrogi got to work turning the annual feature into a full-length book designed to make navigating the World Wide Web a little easier for those in the legal field.

"I was an early convert to the potential power of the Internet for research, marketing, and communications," he said. "When I first started exploring it, I was so excited by its enormous potential and low cost that I wanted to bring it to the attention of other lawyers."

Currently, Ambrogi is focused on keeping attorneys abreast of developments in Internet research and journalism through electronic publishing.

"I write two blogs, record a weekly podcast, and contribute to Law.com's Legal Blog Watch," he said. "That keeps me pretty busy."

It was during the writing of his book that Ambrogi was first introduced to the world of legal blogging.

"Although there were only a handful of legal blogs at the time, it struck me as an effective tool for me to use to keep myself and my readers up to date," he said. "When I started in 2002, I certainly never expected that I would still be blogging four years later."

LawSites, Ambrogi's first blog, builds on the premise of his book and is described as "tracking new and intriguing websites for the legal profession." Media Law, which he started in 2004, is dedicated to reporting legal issues within the field of journalism.

"The Internet truly did bring about a revolution in law practice. Everything has changed—how we communicate with our colleagues and clients, how we market ourselves, how we perform research, and how we manage our practices," he said. "The bad news is that the pace of law practice has accelerated, but the good news is that I can sit here in my little seaside town and operate a business that is international in its reach. It continues to amaze me."

Ambrogi predicts that the global community created by the Internet will continue to initiate changes in the legal profession.

"Because of the Internet, we live in a time when geographic borders tend to lose their meaning," he said. "I am in virtually daily contact with lawyers and businesses in all corners of the country and even the globe. The traditional notion that law practice should be confined to and regulated by a single state must evolve. I firmly believe that we will eventually develop a system for licensing lawyers to practice across jurisdictions."

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