Do you blog? More and more lawyers do, with only a modicum of Internet know-how and plenty of opinions to share. Today's Web technology means working on a law journal isn't just for law school anymore.Open your office door, drop the briefcase on a chair, power up the computer, park the Starbucks cup near at hand, and flip through the news gathered on a Findlaw or Yahoo home page. It's how you used to start your day.
Now, you do all that--but you also glance at a page listing four short articles dated yesterday on a pending change to your state's evidence A colloquial term for testimony given by an Accomplice or joint participant in the commission of a crime, subject to an agreement that the person will be granted Immunity rules, plus 27 other articles written in the last few hours on topics you regularly follow.
With caffeine speeding through your veins and a chorus of fresh viewpoints foremost in your mind, you open a program in a separate window. A box appears, and you type a few sentences about your latest small victory in an ongoing products case, then add a link to the trial judge's recent order. It's as if you were sending an e-mail to a colleague, but instead, you click a button that posts it on the Internet for anyone with a computer to read.
You have just blogged.
"A blog is the unedited voice of a single person," said John Palfrey This article is about the professor of Law. For the U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, see John G. Palfrey.
John Palfrey (b. 1972) is Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and a Clinical Professor of Law. , executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School Harvard Law School (colloquially, Harvard Law or HLS) is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard Law is considered one of the most prestigious law schools in the United States. . "It's relatively off-the-cuff and occasionally reflective."
Blogs are personal, but publicly accessible, Web pages on which the "owner" posts journal entries by date, discussing his or her topic of choice. Topics can range from the armchair pundit's views on the election, to a teenager's impressions of a month at soccer camp, to a new mother's thoughts on her decision to give up the corner office to raise her child.
Palfrey's blog discusses the emerging area of Internet law. (1) It resides on Harvard's server, which currently hosts about 550 blogs. That number reflects the soaring popularity of these online glimpses into the inner thoughts of strangers.
In early 2004, the Pew Research Center The Pew Research Center is a "fact tank" based in Washington, D.C., that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the USA and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. estimated that of the 53 million U.S. adults using the Internet, about 2 percent (1.06 million) post blogs, and 11 percent (5.8 million) read them. (2) According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. other estimates, as many as 8 million Americans blog. (3)
So-called blawgs use this format to focus on legal topics. (4) Blawg writers, generally lawyers or other legal professionals, express their thoughts about a subject of interest in a few paragraphs--unlike traditional law journal-or brief-writing, but with a similar aim of analysis and assistance. Most posts include links to court opinions, articles for further reading, or other online information. Most blogs are updated frequently and arranged in chronological order, with the most recent additions at the top.
Time-pressed lawyers are increasingly turning to blogs to keep abreast Verb 1. keep abreast - keep informed; "He kept up on his country's foreign policies"
keep up, follow
trace, follow - follow, discover, or ascertain the course of development of something; "We must follow closely the economic development is Cuba" ; "trace the of the latest legal news in areas that interest them.
"One reason why lawyers like blogs is that they provide timely information (such as links to legal news events or court decisions), but with commentary from the blogger. If the lawyer is knowledgeable in the area being discussed, his commentary carries additional weight or perspective," said Ernest Svenson, who writes the widely read blog Ernie the Attorney. (5)
You can read a blog by going to its Internet address There are two kinds of addresses that are widely used on the Internet. One is a person's e-mail address, and the other is the address of a Web site, which is known as a URL. Following is an explanation of Internet e-mail addresses only. For more on URLs, see URL and Internet domain name. . But when your interest broadens past, say, SUV rollovers to include Seventh Circuit opinions, vegetarian cooking, and basset-hound breeding, you may find yourself visiting dozens of blogs daily. Then, a news aggregator See syndication format. can save you time.
These programs periodically scan the Web for news and pull recent posts on topics that you select into one page, usually displayed in reverse chronological order with headings and summaries of the new content and direct links to it. You can use a reader through your Internet browser See Web browser. , with an e-mail program Software in the user's computer that can access the mail servers in a local or remote network. Also known as an "e-mail client," "mail client," "mail program," and "mail reader," it provides the ability to send and receive e-mail messages and file attachments. like Outlook, or as an application installed on your computer or other electronic device like a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) A handheld computer for managing contacts, appointments and tasks. It typically includes a name and address database, calendar, to-do list and note taker, which are the functions in a personal information manager (see PIM). or cell phone.
"Posts of interest come to you without your having to go to all the specific blogs. It's not like receiving e-mail messages that you have to sort through to pick out the pertinent things," said Dennis Kennedy, a computer lawyer and legal technology consultant who writes a tech-focused blog. (6)
One danger of this system, Kennedy said, is that it makes it possible for blog readers to get what he calls "The Daily Me." By using a news reader to collect only certain posts, readers can guarantee that "all of it agrees with my worldview world·view
n. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. , which makes me a smaller person if I read only things that I agree with."
But reading blogs of all shapes and sizes is useful for "getting a sense of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color , of what people are thinking about an issue in a pretty transparent medium," said Palfrey pal·frey
n. pl. pal·freys Archaic
A saddle horse, especially one for a woman to ride.
[Middle English, from Old French palefrei, from Medieval Latin . Reading blogs and occasionally adding comments to a blogger's post makes readers part of an online group of people who share common interests.
"The key to success is being part of a community," Palfrey continues. "Moving from one set of trusted information to another builds a community of trusted ideas. Lawyers form a relatively active community that blogs about cases, changes in the law, and various developments. Even though one source is not definitive, the metafact [significance beyond fact] is more than you saw with previous technologies."
Sole or small-office practitioners who don't have other lawyers down the hall to act as sounding boards for ideas can substitute the blog community.
"I find it rewarding to be in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of a conversation about issues I care about, communicating with other lawyers, students, and colleagues," said Palfrey. "The best bloggers work in something of a public system and believe a strong, democratic community is about having a robust debate."
Lawyers "like the opportunity to speak freely about things that they believe in. And apparently a lot of nonlawyers like reading stuff that lawyers write that is more down-to-earth" than formal legal writing, said Svenson.
A blog allows a lawyer to be personable PERSONABLE. Having the capacities of a person; for example, the defendant was judged personable to maintain this action. Old Nat. Brev. 142. This word is obsolete. and accessible--two waits potential clients appreciate.
"Trial lawyers need all the help they can get to improve their image," said Kennedy. "When people come in contact with the law and lawyers, it can be in an unpleasant situation. To the extent that trial lawyers can explain the process through blogging, that's a really good thing."
Lawyers who jumped on the Web site bandwagon to establish a presence on the Internet can also use blogs to make themselves known. Unlike static Web sites with content that has to be recoded and reloaded with every change (requiring staff time or a budget for hiring help), blogs easily accept new information. A lawyer can use a blog to write and share opinions, gain an audience, and establish expertise in an area simply by writing a short update every few days and clicking a button.
Since Internet search engines seek out and constantly categorize cat·e·go·rize
tr.v. cat·e·go·rized, cat·e·go·riz·ing, cat·e·go·riz·es
To put into a category or categories; classify.
cat new information, frequently updated blogs get attention. To obtain information about someone, most people first enter the person's name in Google. If the person has a current blog, it will be one of the first things First Things is a monthly ecumenical journal concerned with the creation of a "religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society" (First Things website). to turn up.
"Even if I update only twice a month, that heightens my visibility in search engines and gets my name out there," said Carolyn Elefant, who writes MyShingle for and about sole practitioners and small-firm attorneys (7); she also maintains a blog on offshore renewables, one focus of her energy-regulation practice?
When readers see Elefant's name in search engines and on her blogs, they might seek out her Web site, which contains in-depth information about her practice. "A blog can jump-start the process of driving traffic to a static Web site," she said.
While her energy blog hasn't generated any referrals "because my practice area is very narrow," said Elefant, "I have contacted other bloggers with questions about legal areas that related to issues I needed to handle, because I was familiar with their work from their blogs."
There may be more business-model marketing uses for blogs, but they are not universally accepted.
"An issue in the blog world is the debate about how people are going to commercialize or whether they should, and what seems appropriate and what doesn't," Kennedy said. "There's now the issue of putting ads into the RSS feeds Summaries of Web site content that are published in the RSS format for download. See RSS. ," the data-sharing system for distributing blog contents. "It will happen overtime. It's just a question of when and how. The difference lies between a tasteful taste·ful
1. Having, showing, or being in keeping with good taste.
2. Pleasing in flavor; tasty.
taste spot or sponsor ad--which is really clear branding--and intrusive pop-up, glitzy glitz Informal
Ostentatious showiness; flashiness: "a garish barrage of show-biz glitz" Peter G. Davis.
tr.v. , animated stuff that just gets in the way, or anything that looks like spam."
Palfrey said that "if blogs become another annoying set of banners and popup ads An advertisement that displays on top of everything on screen when you visit a Web page or have the misfortune of having adware running in your computer. See popunder ad, popup blocker and adware. on the Web, they aren't going to have staying power."
Perils of posting
Anyone can read blogs, choosing the depth and breadth of their exposure according to personal taste. Writing a blog, however, comes with a few caveats. "The biggest drawback is that it takes time, and writing is hard," said Svenson. "If you don't like to write, then don't even consider blogging."
Kennedy agrees. "Blogging is the right format for some lawyers, wrong for others. It's a writer's medium," he said. "To do it on a long-term basis is tough; those who have longevity are good writers and writers by inclination. The best bloggers are writing about something that genuinely interests them. For that reason, it's hard to fake your way in a blog."
Maintaining a blog takes time: Even writing short posts of one or two paragraphs requires research if links to other sources will be included, as well as editorial effort to make the few sentences conveying an idea as clear and strong as they can be. Some lawyers might prefer to establish camaraderie by playing softball softball, variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a smaller field. Invented (1888) in Chicago as an indoor game, it was at various times called indoor baseball, mush ball, playground ball, kitten ball, and, because it was also played by women, ladies' or networking at the Rotary Club.
"Of course, depending on what your blog covers, it could be very easily delegated to a paralegal paralegal n. a non-lawyer who performs routine tasks requiring some knowledge of the law and procedures, employed by a law office or who works free-lance as an independent for various lawyers. or law student," said Elefant. Or attorneys may have others collect news links and information, and then write the post themselves.
Attorneys who gather information about a pet topic to share on a blog may be doing the work for other "free riders Free rider
A follower who avoids the cost and expense of finding the best course of action simply by mimicking the behavior of a leader who made these investments. ," Elefant said.
"I wonder a little whether attorneys who spend a lot of time on a Web log might be offering too much content and that maybe other firms are using it to their advantage," she said. "For example, if you're running a blog on employment law, perhaps another law firm--instead of referring potential clients to you--is taking the information and using it themselves."
Some lawyers say blogging lets them express their views directly to readers, without seeing their comments filtered through a reporter in the local newspaper. A blog won't be set aside because an editor feels something more newsworthy news·wor·thy
adj. news·wor·thi·er, news·wor·thi·est
Of sufficient interest or importance to the public to warrant reporting in the media.
news has come up, and the writer doesn't risk being misquoted.
Blogs are a new medium, said Palfrey. "I think it would be a shame if the outcome of blog experiments was just to become another form of journalism," he said. "To be able to compare a bunch of people's thinking on a topic--people whom yon come to trust over time--is very valuable. If you were to add editors, reviewers, and the other business modes of journalism, it would change."
Some critics question the credibility of information posted on blogs without the traditional publishing checks for accountability.
"No question, there is poor information out there, and there are real dangers for lawyers in trusting unworthy sources," said Palfrey. "Reading [blogs] takes a certain skill and something of an eye and ear--versus reading the work of a trusted journalist, when you know there have been layers of fact-checking and editing. It can be a trap for the unwary."
But bloggers say it's possible to evaluate a blog's trustworthiness. "As the Dan Rather episode [involving a discredited report about President Bush's National Guard service] recently reminded us, our trust in large media networks is not always well placed," said Svenson. "If you are good at assessing credibility on a one-to-one basis, then you can probably read a Web log for a few weeks and figure out what sort of person is writing."
Bloggers can bolster their legitimacy by posting biographical and contact information and disclosing any activities or affiliations that might influence their opinions. Bloggers may have a readership, but they generally don't have a background in journalism or follow that profession's rules regarding fairness, balance, editing, and fact-checking. Those who are familiar with journalism ethics codes can add to their credibility by following those principles. (9)
A cautious lawyer's blog will carry a disclaimer saying its content does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Considering how courts have treated other electronic communication, particularly e-mail, the libel laws that affect printed material could also apply to blogs.
"Before you jump into the blog world, see what's out there, learn the culture, and see the way people do things," said Kennedy. "There really is a specific culture, and it does make sense to try to be accepted in it."
(2.) AMANDA LENHART ET AL., PEW PEW. A seat in a church separated from all others, with a convenient space to stand therein.
2. It is an incorporeal interest in the real property. And, although a man has the exclusive right to it, yet, it seems, he cannot maintain trespass against a person INTERNET & AM. LIFE PROJECT, CONTENT CREATION ONLINE, Feb. 29, 2004, available at http://22.214.171.124/pdfs/PIP_Content_Creation _Report.pdf (last visited Dec. 2, 2004).
(3.) See Rick E. Bruner, Blogging Is Booming, IMEDIA CONNECTION, Apr. 5, 2004, at www. inmdiaconnecdon.com/content/3162.asp (last visited Dec. 2, 2004).
(4.) See www.blawg.com for a list of more than 600 law and legal-related Web sites; the Daily Whirl, www.dailywhirl.com, provides headlines from more than 100 such sites.
(9.) Check the Web sites of the Society of Professional Journalists
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ, formerly known as Sigma Delta Chi (www.spj.org/ethics_code. asp), the Associated Press Associated Press: see news agency.
Associated Press (AP)
Cooperative news agency, the oldest and largest in the U.S. and long the largest in the world. (www.apme.com/ ethics), and most major metropolitan newspapers. John Hiler's online magazine for bloggers, Microcontent News, has an interesting post comparing traditional print and broadcast journalism Broadcast journalism refers to television news and radio news, as well as the online news outlets of broadcast affiliates. ethics codes with blogger ethics (www.microcontentnews.com/articles/bloggingjournalism. htm) (last visited Dec. 2, 2004).
RELATED ARTICLE: Blogging ABCs.
The fundamentals of setting up your blog are easier than you might think. Putting together a blog is also a snap: You don't need Web-design experience or HTML HTML
in full HyperText Markup Language
Markup language derived from SGML that is used to prepare hypertext documents. Relatively easy for nonprogrammers to master, HTML is the language used for documents on the World Wide Web. code know-how, and you can set up a blog in just minutes.
All you need is a computer with Internet access See how to access the Internet. , an e-mail account e-mail account n → cuenta de correo , and a Web log program. These programs allow you to write, format, and post your content. They also provide a template into which you type your content, then click a button to "post" it on your blog.
Once you're comfortable with setting up and maintaining your blog, you can expand it--creating links to other Web sites with a single click, adding biographical and contact information, and opening a forum where readers can comment about your posts. You can add pictures, audio and video clips A short video presentation. , and more.
Exploring Google's "more features" section one day, I stumbled onto a link for "blogs" and then ended up at www.blogger.com. In five minutes and three easy steps, I had my own blog up and running.
All I did was create a user name and password, name my blog, and select the template I liked from several choices. The template, customized with my new blog name and my e-mail address See Internet address.
e-mail address - electronic mail address , opened immediately, displaying a box into which I typed a brief entry. Then I hit "Publish Post." And there it was, my blog and my first message online for all the world to see.
Blog software and service providers offer a variety of features and pricing structures; many supply basic features for free. Most services also provide Web hosting--the place to store and display your blog--and the feed you need to "syndicate," that is, to make your blog available for others to read.
A feed serves as the pipeline between the program in which you write your content and the reader program that others use to see your posts. Really Simple Syndication (RSS (Really Simple Syndication) A syndication format that was developed by Netscape in 1999 and became very popular for aggregating updates to blogs and the news sites. RSS has also stood for "Rich Site Summary" and "RDF Site Summary. ), one of the Web standards Web standards is a general term for the formal standards and other technical specifications that define and describe aspects of the World Wide Web. In recent years, the term has been more frequently associated with the trend of endorsing a set of standardized best practices for for syndication, takes what you type on your screen, converts it to an Internet data-sharing language like Extensible Markup Language See XML.
(language, text) Extensible Markup Language - (XML) An initiative from the W3C defining an "extremely simple" dialect of SGML suitable for use on the World-Wide Web.
http://w3.org/XML/. , and sends it to news reader/aggregator programs that translate it back into familiar text for your audience to read. You may already be using RSS technology, since some search engines that collect news for readers rely on it. (See http://news.yahoo. com/rss.)
But never mind the technicalities. The important thing to remember is to write because you care about your subject. Also make sure you link to other blogs, enable comments in order to build a readership and community, post regularly, and write well. Revisit re·vis·it
tr.v. re·vis·it·ed, re·vis·it·ing, re·vis·its
To visit again.
A second or repeated visit.
re the rules of composition from your freshman English copy of Strunk and White. Some essentials: Present only one topic per paragraph, use the active voice, and omit needless words.
To get started
The sites and services listed below offer what you'll need to read and write blogs. You can also find a list of resources and reviews at www.blogroots. com/resources.blog, and Microcontent News has an article on the evolution of blogging that lists many software products (www.microcontentnews.com/ articles/blogware.htm).
Web sites. These services let you set up a blog for free or a nominal fee.
* Blogger: www.blogger.com
* Bloglines: www.bloglines.com
* LiveJournal: www.livejournal.com
* TypePad: www.typepad.com
Programs to download. You can download this software to run on your computer; the vendors provide host servers.
* Movable Type movable type
Type in which each character is cast on a separate piece of metal. : www.movabletype. org
* Radio UserLand Radio UserLand is a client-side blogging software package from UserLand Software, including an RSS aggregator, outliner and scripting language. Radio was the first commercially available program to enable the "RSS enclosure" method of delivering audio or video files, the basis of : www.radiouser land.com
News readers/aggregators. Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, has a list of aggregators at www.wikipedia. org/wiki/News_aggregator. The programs are available for a variety of formats.
* Bloggo (for cell phones): ywwg. com/bloggo
* Bloglines (Web-based): www.blog lines.com
* FeedDemon (download forWindows): www.bradsoft.com/feed demon/index.asp
* NewsGator (plug-in for Outlook): www.newsgator.com
* Pluck (for Internet Explorer Microsoft's Web browser, which comes with Windows starting with Windows 98. Commonly called "IE," versions for Mac and Unix are also available. Internet Explorer is the most widely used Web browser on the market. It has also been the browser engine in AOL's Internet access software. ): www.pluck.com
* PocketFeed (for PocketPCs): www.pocketpcfreewares.com/ en/index.php?soft=918
* RssReader (download for Windows): www.rssreader.com/ download.htm
* Shrook 2 (download for Macintosh): www.fondanffancies.com/ shrook
Blogging is easy. Build it, and they will come. Write clearly and concisely, and they will stay.
REBECCA PORTER is an associate editor of TRIAL.