It's our lucky seventh time at this blog-ranking rodeo. Does luck come into play as we assemble our list? Perhaps. Maybe it's a lucky break for a blogger when one of its readers takes the time to write to us to make sure we give it serious consideration. There are thousands of legal blogs, after all.
But really, it's a blogger's dedication, creativity and engagement with readers and the other minds of the legal blogosphere that make us take notice. We think our familiarity with these blogs ultimately makes us better legal journalists—and getting to know them might make you a better lawyer. At the very least, you might find kindred spirits who articulate the highs and lows of practice with wit and empathy.
What do you think of our picks? Click here to peruse an alphabetical list. The polls open Nov. 25 and shut down at close of business Dec. 20. Each person gets a total of 13 votes, to distribute as they see fit among the blogs they like, with a limit of 1 vote per person, per blog. Once you've used all 13 votes, you'll notice the "Vote Now!" buttons will disappear. If you have trouble voting or questions about anything else, please see our Blawg 100 FAQ.
And click here for a list of these bloggers' Twitter handles to help you track their latest posts and musings.
Congrats to the writers who made this year's list—and especially to those we added to the hall of fame this year. We salute you.
NEW In this blog's latest incarnation, Huma Rashid writes with seemingly unflagging optimism about her experiences as a newbie criminal defense attorney in the Chicago metropolitan area. In many posts, she writes about her life—past and present—in her Sunni Muslim household and how she continues to reconcile her family's expectations with her dreams.
NEW California-based 30-something public defender "Norm DeGuerre" sincerely attempts to see the justice system from his client's point of view and sees value in what he does as both a lawyer and a blogger. Posts are written carefully and clearly. "Norm captures the life of the PD like nobody's business, without all the hand-wringing and overwrought emotions," writes Simple Justice's Scott Greenfield. "And yet, you can't help but feel his pain."
D.C. lawyer Matt Kaiser's blog is devoted to covering criminal defense wins in federal appellate courts. "The posts are well-written and amusing, and it's always useful for future briefs for examples of defense wins," writes Sarah Howard, a partner at Warner Norcross & Judd in Grand Rapids, Mich. The blog "makes for easy circuit-to-circuit comparisons as well," writes Winter Park, Fla., appellate lawyer Michael Brownlee.
Blogger Matt Brown has a front-row seat at the counsel table for the war on drugs. He writes affectingly about his experiences defending clients on criminal drug and DUI charges, along with a secondary focus on the ethics and effectiveness of legal marketing.
The writers of Crime & Consequences are unapologetic advocates for prosecutors and victims and provide an important perspective on the criminal justice system. The blog, sponsored by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, contains blurbs about sentencing news, discussions about the death penalty (they're in favor of it), and information on how court decisions regarding defendants' rights will affect prosecutors and law enforcement.
HALL OF FAME Houston criminal defense attorney Mark Bennett has been at the legal blogging game for more than 10 years. In his posts, he sides against creating new laws and policies that might protect some but chip away at the First Amendment for all; calls out questionable ethical moves by fellow lawyers and judges in Texas; and shares random tidbits about little things he does to boost his advocacy—like taking improv classes and filing pleadings on quality paper stock.
Jamison Koehler writes that he decided to live in Baltimore "not despite The Wire but because of it." As a criminal defense attorney and former public defender, he uses his blog to argue against the sort of corruption and injustice seen in that TV show, and to advocate for the rights of criminal defendants.
Jordan Maglich is committed to covering Ponzi crimes. This year, he spent his own money to liveblog and post audio recordings of the bankruptcy hearings of an international company charged with operating as a Ponzi scheme. Ponzitracker graphically illustrates how widespread and devastating this brand of financial crime is. Maglich reports that Ponzi schemes uncovered in the first six months of 2014 alone represented more than $1 billion in potential losses.
Alice de Sturler used to investigate cold cases for the Champaign, Illinois, police department. Now, she gives victims of unsolved cases a Web presence—well over 100 victims so far—and also speaks out for defendants she thinks have been wrongfully convicted. If readers are able to find and send her more information about a case she's written about, she'll file follow-up posts. Other posts contain interviews with evidence experts and crime novelists about their work.
"The Drug and Device Law blog is the most timely, comprehensive blog I have found on prescription drug and medical device litigation. For recurring issues, the blog updates its scorecards and cheat sheets. For other issues, it offers in-depth summaries with thoughtful analysis. The quality of writing is excellent. As a result, despite its defense slant, the blog has garnered a diverse readership." —James M. Sullivan, Hollingsworth, Washington, D.C.
HALL OF FAME Warning labels on products generally result from someone, somewhere trying something boneheaded, whether it be the consumer or the company itself. At Abnormal Use, breathtaking examples of the tort cases that result from such failures of judgment are cataloged and analyzed. If you're a comic book fan, you'll also enjoy the classic covers used to illustrate the Friday Links posts.
"I do not practice law, but as a con-sultant working in the highly regulated pharmaceu-tical industry, I have found [Hyman, Phelps & McNamara]'s FDA Law Blog invaluable. More than once, I have seen a news item regarding an FDA action or guidance and thought: 'I hope FDA Law Blog reports on this so I can understand all the ramifications.' I have also recommended FDA Law Blog to many colleagues. It's enjoyable to read, and it's a great help to me in my work." —Faith Pomeroy-Ward, communications consultant, Santa Fe, New Mexico
HALL OF FAME Whether or not you're sympathetic to tort reform and the idea that the government overregulates, Overlawyered is a little hair-raising and eye-opening. Its stated mission is to bring to light abuses of the legal system that raise costs and inhibit justice. Acquired this year by the Cato Institute, the blog is the project of Walter Olson, a senior Cato fellow. Having celebrated its 15th anniversary in July, Overlawyered says it may be the oldest legal blog: "At least, no one seems to be able to name one that's older." (Editor's note: After this issue went to press, Robert Ambrogi's Lawsites reported that Olson was not the first blogger: It was Greg Siskind.)
We never like deciding how to slip this blog into a category, but do—for the third year now—like to include it. Philadelphia plaintiffs lawyer Maxwell Kennerly's insights into work as a civil litigator range from very big-picture to calling out tort defendants and their BigLaw representation (and media outlets that don't question them) on their ethically questionable practices. "Deposition misconduct and discovery obstructionism are subjects I'm keenly interested in," he writes.
Solos and small-firm practitioners—many of whom are established bloggers—write from personal experience at this group blog where posts are loosely centered on a monthly theme. The lawyers share specific problems they've encountered (and how they solved them) as well as pet peeves, favorite books and tech tips. Some themes from this year have delved into inspiring books, "outsourcing the small stuff" and the grating pop jargon of law practice management.
We love the listy posts by the deep bench of contributors for Attorney at Work, the blog with the mission of sharing "one really good idea every day" about technology, law practice management, career development, ethics—you name it. One fun occasional column we noticed this year is the Curmudgeon's Perspective. Blogger "Otto Sorts" contributes "when he gets really cranky about something." Also, with a free site registration, extra downloads are available, and readers are able to buy a number of law practice books directly from the site.
Tagline: "Represent." Written by Jordan Rushie and Leo Mulvihill, attorneys in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, this witty blog gives a glimpse into the daily lives of some SmallLaw practioners. Notable events in their practice's past year include Rushie's participation in Malibu Media v. Does, which offers lessons learned in what he says is the first BitTorrent case to reach a verdict.
HALL OF FAME Law firm consultant Bruce MacEwen's "synthesis of economics and the law is especially interesting in the work I do and because both topics, separately and combined, make for great reading post-2008. Moreover, MacEwen is a careful writer, and his articles reflect that." —Mark Reber, senior marketing manager at Bullivant Houser Bailey in Portland, Oregon
HALL OF FAME If you like your law-practice-management advice tinged with humor and real talk, Lawyerist may be the blog for you. Though its format has changed a good deal since we first added it to the Blawg 100 in 2009, it's maintained its place on our list through its thoughtful-yet-humorous takes on a wide range of LPM topics, from marketing to technology to rainmaking.
Los Angeles law firm marketing director Heather Morse gives readers a nonlawyer's insider perspective into law firm dynamics. Her thoughts on shifts in her law firm's culture as Generation X lawyers inherit power positions from the baby boomers caught our eye this year. And once it was announced that her firm would become part of Hinshaw & Culbertson, her blog's readers got a glimpse of the work going on behind the scenes of an impending merger.
Though titularly aimed at family law practitioners, Lee Rosen's Divorce Discourse is a law practice management and marketing blog with ideas that are broadly applicable across many practice areas. Using his personal experience in running the four North Carolina offices of his Rosen Law Firm, he spins out larger lessons for attorneys looking to better manage their small and midsize shops.
The 21st century has been tough on traditional legal business models, and it's widely felt that law firms need to innovate or die. But what, exactly, do these lawyers have to do? And why aren't they doing it? Canadian management consultant Jordan Furlong tackles these questions at his blog and in a new e-book: Evolutionary Road: A Strategic Guide to Your Law Firm's Future. Some interesting posts from this year look at how law firms' values and culture contribute to their woes.
HALL OF FAME While some of our other "geeky" blogs focus on analyzing pop culture in terms of the law, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog devotes itself to actual technology and how it affects one's law practice. Visit it for tips on information management, discussions of new legal tech and analysis about the future of legal services.
Megan E. Boyd, an adjunct legal writing prof at Mercer University, gives her readers pointers on brief writing and notes memorably written snippets from federal appellate and U.S. Supreme Court opinions. Sometimes, too, she'll tackle ways to cut back on excessive wordiness.
Lovers of legal language are surely already aware of Black's Law Dictionary editor Bryan Garner's blog. His "Usage Tip of the Day" posts will make sure you never confuse "yoke" with "yolk" or wreak havoc by writing "wreck havoc." If you find yourself in a grammatical quandary, search the LawProse archive; your dilemma has probably already been addressed.
We're a big fan of Ken Adams' blog. It provides clear and approachable discussions of a topic that was not a favorite for many law school students. An enemy of "pomposity in drafting," Adams provides tips for streamlining contracts and providing clarity for all parties involved.
NEW Proud "libpunk" Glassmeyer's posts have admittedly been a little thin on the ground in 2013—but what we see, we like. We're nodding to her librarian status by placing her in this category, but many posts by Glassmeyer, who works at the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, focus on law schools: sometimes about where they should be going with their libraries and sometimes on legal education more generally.
These professors of legal writing and lawyering skills don't post legal writing facts and tips, but rather point readers to other published articles, scholarship and blog posts relevant to legal writing. They also note contests, webinars, conferences and job openings for legal writing professors.
Legal research services—Bloomberg BNA, LexisNexis, Westlaw—are a big part of law firm library director Jean O'Grady's blog beat. But O'Grady also takes close looks at new legal research platforms such as Ravel, interviews legal publishing leaders, and explores the evolving role of law librarians as the profession absorbs new technology and law firms rethink how they serve clients.
There's plenty of advice out there for trial attorneys, but what makes the Persuasive Litigator stand out is its use of data and statistical studies on jury behavior. Ken Broda-Bahm writes in a concise and readable style, and his posts are interesting not only for litigators, but also for anyone with an interest in jury psychology.
Seasoned litigator Karen Koehler's blog combines tips gleaned from her career as a trial attorney and glimpses from her daily interactions—all written like trial transcripts. We especially appreciate her legal writing advice, focusing on precision and the elision of unnecessary verbiage.
NEW The sales pitches for A2L Consulting products within posts and the branding at the bottom of each post are excessive to say the least. But it's hard to resist the infectious numbered-list headlines ("21 Ingenious Ways to Research Your Judge," "10 Signs of a Good Jury Questionnaire") that keep us reading their chatty, first-person posts answering questions we hadn't yet thought to ask.
Posts cover securities litigation insofar as how the victorious plaintiffs, their law firms and the contract attorneys hired by those law firms get paid—and explore the fairness of it all. "It is one of the most insightful, well-written blogs around that gives a voice to constitutional conservatives who believe in our founding documents' limits on federal and state government overreach," DePaul University law student Rafael Mangual wrote to us.
"Simple, practical and succinct," writes Jorge Marquez of the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. Las Vegas lawyer Michael Lowry "takes issues that every litigator has to deal with and gives a detailed analysis on how he has had to address these obstacles. Great starting point for issue spotting, regardless of what jurisdiction you practice in."
The bloggers of Keene Trial Consulting offer an interesting overview of many psychological and sociological elements to consider when crafting an argument to appeal to specific juror demographics. We especially appreciate how they explicitly tailor their advice to address the concerns of both plaintiffs attorneys and defense attorneys.
Liz Kramer, a Minneapolis lawyer, tracks how well arbitration agreements are passing scrutiny in appellate court decisions nationwide—paying special attention to rulings that define the limits of arbitrators' power and giving frank opinions on this jurisprudence. And she's not above using her posts to answer her loyal readers' burning questions about rules hidden inside the Federal Arbitration Act.
Most people who want to uncover their family backgrounds generally have to rely on legal records to piece together their ancestors' lives. Genealogist Judy G. Russell puts her JD to work explaining what legal terms may have meant in various time periods, what kind of legal documents your ancestors would be likely to appear in, and how to gain access to obscure court and military records.
"It keeps me very well-informed with respect to the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]'s regulations, enforcement actions, plans and other insight. It is a key element of our compliance management process because we are so remote from Washington. This blog serves as our 'ear on the ground' to know what's coming next." —Germán Salazar, general counsel at AmeriFirst Financial in Scottsdale, Arizona
HALL OF FAME Paul Caron, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, covers tax reform in the news and scholarship related to U.S. tax law, and he notes celebrity tax disasters. But we like TaxProf at least as much for Caron's exhaustive coverage of news and debates covering legal education. He became the sole owner of the Law Professor Blogs Network and a makeover of that group of blogs soon followed.
Mountain View, California, solo Cathy Moran, who's been in the bankruptcy game for 35 years, writes her blog for "less experienced bankruptcy practitioners," sharing best practices on such things as hiring accountants, dealing with clients who obscure important information and finding things in the Internal Revenue Code that can come to your clients' financial rescue.
NEW Hamline University law professor Thaddeus Pope "posts links to stories about medical futility cases from around the world. Different cultures respond in different ways to similar issues. The interplay of ethics, religion, insurance coverage and medical competency are covered regularly. It's all very thought-provoking treatment of what some folks would think is a black-and-white topic." —Ruth E. Ratzlaff, Kingsburg, Calif.
Death and taxes are certainties for which we may plan. But quite a few of life's uncertainties can be faced with equanimity as well, if we just make some prudent preparations, Texas Tech law professor Gerry W. Beyer tells us. His blog provides useful advice on doing so, along with book and article summaries and thoughtful news analysis. Entries are concise and accessible, even to those who are unversed in estate law topics.
"The most comprehensive coverage of issues related to election law, including campaign finance and disclosure laws and litigation; voting rights; tax laws governing nonprofit electoral activity; and election administration. Indispensable, with top-flight contributors and readers. Don't miss the associated Listserv, where the smartest academics and practitioners in the country duke it out on these issues." —John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg in Washington, D.C.
Greg Myers, who works for risk management broker Beecher Carlson in New York City, says he checks the D&O Diary "every day for relevant news in the executive liability insurance world." Beachwood, Ohio, lawyer Kevin LaCroix's blog notes critical court rulings and litigation highlighting issues that could lead to directors and officers insurance liability exposures.
HALL OF FAME This is a highly specific niche blog that nonetheless deserves its spot in the top 100 because of how utterly indispensable it is for its demographic. If you practice law in or around China or if you do any business with Chinese companies, you probably already have this bookmarked. Heck, if you're even visiting China, give it a read because the bloggers provide excellent practical advice on not getting kidnapped. (We admit being fascinated by the anti-kidnapping advice.)
HALL OF FAME "Religion Clause is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in religion in the law. It handles controversial issues in an extraordinarily evenhanded and useful manner. As a litigator working in this area of the law, I read it every morning to keep abreast of new cases and scholarship." —Charles Gokey, the Steven Gey fellow at Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C.
"This is by far the best blog for impartial, yet critical, discussion of important legal issues about arms control law and its application. The posts debunk the simplistic analysis one reads in the news media." —Nader Entessar, a professor at the University of South Alabama
Affiliated with the Brookings Institution, Lawfare is devoted both to "the use of law as a weapon of conflict" and the internal national debate over what methods of defense are appropriate for the U.S. to use against others. Enjoy—is enjoy the right word?—Lawfare's steadily more gloomy series on NSA surveillance revelations. Also of interest: the job board and the irregularly scheduled Lawfare podcast.
HALL OF FAME Philadelphia lawyer Kelly Phillips Erb finds the tax angles of the day's major stories, sometimes consulting experts and sometimes sharing her own opinions on U.S. tax policy. Celebrities' tax woes often make appearances. This year, she also did a series of "back to school" posts that answered tax questions tied to the beginning of the academic year: Are tutoring services deductible? How do you document school-supply donations for tax purposes? Can you deduct expenses related to kids' sports?
NEW "This blawg highlights interesting news in law and religion that no other such blawg highlights. Its commentary is incisive and fair. Its point of view is unique among blawgs for taking seriously varied religious traditions rather than mocking them or treating them in a lowest-common-denominator fashion." —Andrew Kloster, legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation
Posts from this blog "come up every time I Google a real estate issue I am working on," writes Alliance for Affordable Housing staff attorney Adam Sherwin. "The blog often reports important Massachusetts cases before anyone else." Realtors are readers, too. Broker Gayle Sabol writes that she prides herself "on staying current with real estate laws and trends" and says blog author Richard Vetstein "is my secret edge."
HALL OF FAME With this year's revelations about NSA surveillance, Kashmir Hill's privacy blog on Forbes.com should find itself with even more readers. While many posts are labeled "Headline Grab" and are more akin to tweets, Hill also composes substantive posts about topics such as how long-forgotten Facebook posts might come back to haunt you and why your baby monitor's webcam should be password-protected.
Sometimes inspiring, sometimes infuriating and always irreverent, Popehat is one of the most stalwart blogs out there. A tireless champion of freedom of speech and civil liberties, this group blog delights in tweaking the noses of those it considers copyright trolls. Though its authors have always argued that Popehat is not strictly a law blog, so much of its content centers around legal matters that it easily meets our criteria.
Jotwell—which stands for Journal of Things We Like (Lots)—features relatively brief law prof-authored reviews of recent scholarly articles in plain English. Its scope is vast: This blog sponsored by the University of Miami School of Law has well over 250 contributing editors in 18 active categories—several of whom have blogs of their own on this list. Jotwell even sponsored a two-day conference in November: Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters.
The long-form commentary from Justia's Verdict blog is much meatier than most legal blogs' offerings. Verdict provides a full meal, rather than a quick bite. If you want to delve deep into a legal issue, check out these thoughtful pieces written by the rotating contributors.
You can now read 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner's Reflections on Judging in hardcover. But you can read his takes on almost anything else—from law school reform to population growth to patent trolls—at this blog. And, of course, Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist Gary Becker logs in his own thoughts on the same subjects.
HALL OF FAME George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley draws on his own experience in high-profile litigation as he analyzes breaking news items that raise legal questions. His posts, and those of his guests, show a particular interest in the First Amendment, rights of consumers, the rights of criminal defendants and the patently bizarre.
This blog is indispensable to us for its exhaustive District of Columbia coverage: from happenings at the U.S. Supreme Court (and news about individual justices) to rulings from the District of Columbia Circuit to BigLaw churn in the Beltway.
This blog is a product of the Program in Law and Journalism at New York Law School, and reports on the state of legal journalism. "It's entertaining and gives quick takes on how the news media get the legal stories wrong. Always interesting, always remarkable. Especially because it's done by students." —Fred Stone, Millennium Partners, New York City
Law prof Josh Blackman caused a stir on April Fool's Day this year when he announced on his blog that he and his colleagues had created a computer algorithm that could predict U.S. Supreme Court outcomes. The next day, the co-founder of FantasySCOTUS swore it wasn't a joke. In July, he announced that the computer model actually existed and had proved to have about a 70 percent accuracy rate based on past cases. We can't wait to see the results in upcoming Supreme Court terms as he pits his algorithm against the dedicated players of FantasySCOTUS.
NEW If employers ever need a reminder to stay vigilant about data security, this Seyfarth Shaw blog can easily provide it. Devoted to cases of corporate espionage and computer fraud, Trading Secrets is a definitive source for anyone with an interest in trade secrets and the lengths to which businesses will go to gain access to them. Litigants range from the high-powered drug companies you might expect to battling hot dog manufacturers and their special sauces.
Cleveland lawyer Jon Hyman "always provides good advice and discusses relevant issues. And despite being a management-side attorney, he is an advocate for workers' rights as well." —Casey Sipe, Scaringi & Scaringi in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
While plenty of employment-law blogs are available to advise business owners, pickings are much more slim for employees. Fortunately, the blog Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home is available to anyone facing an issue with an employer. Offering plainspoken wisdom about just what an employee's rights may be, Donna Ballman's blog can help workers learn how to avoid being fired—or how to safely quit their jobs.
As you may have gleaned from the name, this blog looks at labor and employment issues from the perspective of business owners. Topics covered range from accommodating employees' service animals to figuring out how to deal with Facebook posts insulting the boss. Eric B. Meyer, who is an attorney in Philadelphia, is most familiar with Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws. But even employers in other states can find useful tips and tricks.
"I work on consulting teams that help large clients with their FMLA and disability administration," writes Liz Miller, a health and benefits analyst at Mercer in Washington, D.C. She says Chicago lawyer Jeff Nowak's "consistent updates not only make me look smart on the job; they are also entertaining and fascinating. Reading his posts feels like a form of procrastination because of the instant gratification factor, but they actually help me in my career. If that's not a win-win, I don't know what is."
HALL OF FAME How technology and social media affect modern employers and employment law has been a particular focus of Molly DiBianca, although she ably covers other topics as well. The blog is full of thoughtful and well-reasoned advice to employers and their attorneys; while the laws cited may be specific to Delaware, the broader principles are applicable across the country.
HALL OF FAME Why are we featuring an employment law blog for Connecticut and not a state with a higher population? Because Hartford-based blogger (and '09 Legal Rebel) Daniel Schwartz consistently impresses us with concise and incisive analysis of the latest cases and issues to arise in employment law, although occasionally venturing into more lighthearted territory. ("Ten of the Best Workplace Songs for Labor Day," for example.)
HALL OF FAME "Gene Quinn is fearless. He is not hesitant to point out what he perceives to be injustices spawned by particular court decisions or other developments. Furthermore, when reporting on statistics concerning patents, he drills down to discuss the reasons why the numbers read as they do, or why there may be more to the statistics than meets the eye. IPWatchdog also hosts excellent guest posts on patent law developments." —Mike Cicero, Atlanta
If you like your celebrity news with a legal twist, the Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq., is for you. Intellectual property battles, contract disputes, divorce cases—if it happens in the entertainment industry, these bloggers are on it. These are not just puff pieces; the blog offers some very decent legal analysis, raising itself above the pack of your average celebrity news blogs.
Lawyers from Chicago's McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff keep track of patent rulings by the Federal Circuit and foreign jurisdictions, file a weekly report on new biotech and pharma cases that have been filed, note upcoming conferences and CLEs, and follow the progress of the Federal Trade Commission's "crusade against the pharmaceutical industry." Any editorializing is kept to a minimum.
You can actually take a law blogging class at Southwestern Law School, believe it or not. And readers everywhere can benefit from these students' classwork at Biederman Blog, which largely focuses on copyright law cases ripped from entertainment news headlines. The blog also relaunched in recent months with a responsive design that's easier to view on mobile devices.
By sheer demonstration of both a fervor for the intricacies of intellectual property and a deep interest in false advertising law, this blog offers thorough discussions of how the Internet age affects both these topics, as well as analysis of recent related cases. As might be expected from the legal work Tushnet has done for the nonprofit Organization of Transformative Works, she also has interesting commentary on fan-created artwork and fan fiction.
This blog, for aspiring law students, current law students and newbie lawyers, is less about finding inspiration and more about finding answers to specific questions. Expert guest posters (FYI, not all of them women) are brought in to take on specific topics—such as preparing for the LSAT, writing a law review note or applying for a clerkship. But this blog isn't only useful for those breaking into law. Those trying to break out of the profession will also find acceptance and words of wisdom.
HALL OF FAME American Lawyer reporter Vivia Chen writes graceful prose without dancing around the issues near and dear to her readers, who want to succeed in law on their own terms. Some choice questions from her posts this year: Should men be gagged, tied up and forced to take paternity leave? Do you ever feel like wringing the necks of underlings who seem incapable of following your directives? Keep telling us how you really feel, Vivia, and we'll keep reading.
NEW This is a hub for all those who are dissatisfied with the current state of legal ed and have ideas on how to change it. Deborah J. Merritt, a professor at Ohio State University, and Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, are the moderators and curators. For facts to back up your opinions, be sure to click on the blog's "Useful Data" tab.
At this blog, law professors take the temperature of the state of American law schools and write, not without criticism, from their insiders' perspective. They crunch the numbers on application rates and law schools' financials, link to relevant scholarship and weigh in on it, and take note of certificate programs and panel discussions for new lawyers who want to stay on the cutting edge.
NEW This blog may not be for those who went to law school hoping that math would never be required. But for anyone with an interest in the tech industry, Witnesseth is a must. Robert Anderson of the Pepperdine University School of Law produces a weekly "Startup Financing Report" in clear and easily understandable charts that show industry trends and venture-capital investments. In addition (math pun!), the blog provides data and analysis of legal employment and law schools.
HALL OF FAME Ms. JD's blog is one way its namesake organization builds community among new or aspiring female lawyers. Some posts are written by Ms. JD's "writers in residence," who each commit to blogging on a particular topic—legal research or mentoring, for instance—every month for a year. Other posters, some anonymous, write about their experiences in the legal profession and offer advice or moral support.
While this blog's most popular posts help female readers steer clear of the fashion police, former Wall Street lawyer Kat Griffin also takes questions from young lawyers and others about how to avoid career pitfalls. Posts written with empathy cover business etiquette, troubles with co-workers, interviewing, networking and more.
NEW "The site highlights interesting and alternative career paths for lawyers. The writing is approachable and the posts are always full of links to additional resources. As an adjunct law professor I routinely hear from students that they are not sure what to do after graduation and the bar exam. This blog is a great reference point for students and young lawyers who are struggling with career and lifestyle choices." —Barbara Siegel, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
Matt Leichter makes data-driven arguments in favor of changes to the legal education system. Anyone concerned about the levels of student debt and the state of employment in the legal industry would do well to visit his blog and examine his data firsthand.
NEW Imagine reading a comic book hidden inside your textbook during Crim Law I class. Now imagine that the comic book is your criminal law textbook. New York City criminal defense lawyer Nathaniel Burney is methodically working his way through all the courses a 1L would take and illustrating the legal concepts with cartoon characters. His first volume, the Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law, was published last year, and you can follow along as he creates the next volume, covering criminal procedure.
NBC News courtroom sketch artist Arthur Lien uses his blog to post both his sketches of federal court proceedings—including those of the U.S. Supreme Court—and his takes on how arguments are going. He also offers insights on how he manages to complete his elegant sketches in tight time frames.
This National Center for State Courts blog covers new legislation affecting the courts in all 50 states. It also has a helpful database that allows a reader to search bills affecting courts by state, type or year. Posts also identify legislative trends among the states. The blog strives for thoroughness and excellence: If you see a bill that you think Gavel to Gavel should cover, blog editor Bill Raftery encourages you to let him know.
For better or for worse, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tends to find itself confronting some of the nation's most divisive legal issues. We appreciate legal journalist Pamela MacLean's blog for her exhaustive coverage of the trials and court opinions emerging from the 9th Circuit, as well as the federal courts in Northern California.
It's been a whirlwind year for Richard Kopf, a federal judge for the District of Nebraska. In January, he briefly decided to give up his blog, saying, "I have written all that I want to write and then some." But he returned in March, after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Despite his cancer treatments, Kopf has kept up a steady stream of wry and reasoned posts on the role of the federal judiciary. Though he has several times steered into controversy, he's always worth reading.
With increased law firm reports of cyber-security breaches, it's clear to us that not enough people have been reading Sharon D. Nelson's blog. An expert in digital forensics and information security, Nelson has plenty to say about how to keep your firm safe and your client info encrypted.
HALL OF FAME "Man is only as good as the tool he uses. Mobile computing has fundamentally changed the way lawyers practice law. Jeff Richardson writes about those tools and tells us how they can be used to make us better lawyers. His reviews of apps and accessories explain critical features and limitations in the context of how a lawyer would use those professionally and in personal life beyond work." —Ron Schultz, senior counsel at ConocoPhillips in Houston
"My first smartphone was an Android device, but then I got caught up in the hype and hoopla of Apple's iPhone and iPad. I switched and jumped quickly on board. I switched back to Android a year and a half ago and could not be happier. This blog is the pre-eminent Android legal blog. I anxiously await the weekly news roundup and utilize many of the apps and techniques provided. This is the go-to place for my tech questions." —Stephen D. Sciple from the Sciple Firm in Mobile, Alabama
The bloggers here not only give readers the skinny on the latest smartphones and "phablets" but also talk cybercrime. They try to pin down which parts of cyberspace are public and which are private in these techy times. They also raise compelling questions related to emerging technology and the law and attempt to answer them based on existing statutes.
One could be forgiven for assuming that this blog, founded by Eric Goldman, is a collection of law practice management tips. Instead, it's an intelligent discussion of broadly ranging areas of the law, including privacy, e-commerce, Internet security, intellectual property and advertising.
HALL OF FAME LexBlog founder Kevin O'Keefe of Seattle blogs for a tech-savvy lawyer audience about how to make the most of their legal blogs and presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But don't misunderstand—blogging isn't all about marketing to O'Keefe. "Search results may not be the be-all and end-all for good law blogs," he writes. He thinks it's great how blogs have democratized publishing for lawyers who can now avoid gatekeepers for law reviews and trade industry publications.
NEW Legally Weird is a new addition for us, though not for the blogosphere. Run by FindLaw, Legally Weird's mission is to hunt out the strangest and most ridiculous current events with a legal angle. If you find yourself with some free time and an over-elevated regard for the intelligence of the criminal underworld, click on the "Dumb Crime" category and prepare to laugh and wince in equal measure.
HALL OF FAME Lowering the Bar's Kevin Underhill has been making us laugh—and earning a slot in the Blawg 100—since 2010 with his legal musings. Also, check out a book Underhill published this year that stemmed from some of his writing on the blog: The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance: and Other Real Laws that Human Beings Actually Dreamed Up, Enacted, and Have Sometimes Enforced.
WTPD proves that a picture can indeed be worth a thousand words. This Tumblr blog has provided a venting space for public defenders and winces and laughs for the rest of us. The format is this: The moderator of the blog receives a prompt from an anonymous PD about a situation faced, such as "when the prosecutor asks me when I'm going to switch over to the good side." WTPD responds with an appropriate animated GIF.
The dictionary may define a "geek" as someone with "excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity," but we would quibble about the word excessive. We hope that Josh Gilliland and Jessica Mederson never stop sharing their pop-culture enthusiasm with us. This year, we especially enjoyed the series of posts that coincided with the movie release of Guardians of the Galaxy. Their podcasts also should not be missed.
Using the world of superheroes to explore legal theory is this blog's raison d'être. Although the concept may seem gimmicky, the analysis is absorbing. If presented with sentient aliens, clones and mutants, how would our justice system apply its current laws? Authors James Daily and Ryan Davidson look at comic book, movie and TV show scenarios and then play out the potential real-world legal consequences.