7th Annual Blawg 100
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? You can peruse an alphabetical list below. To vote for your favorites by category, click here. 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.
If you’re suing because your yoga pants are see-through, or because hoisting up the back end of a running snowmobile left you short one leg, chances are your case could end up analyzed by the bloggers at Abnormal Use. Strictly speaking, Abnormal Use is a product-liability blog, but the writers are also interested in technology issues like social media discovery. Be sure to stop in for their “Friday Links” column, a roundup of offbeat and quirky legal news blurbs.
Adam Smith, Esq.
New York City-based lawyer and consultant Bruce MacEwen pores over large law firms’ metrics and writes about BigLaw as an industry (rather than about specific law firms). He discusses the pros and cons of existing firm structures and the actual health of the market for legal services, and he laments law firms’ widespread reluctance to seek advice or leadership from nonlawyers.
Adams on Contract Drafting
“I love the detailed analysis of common contract provisions. The analysis helps me when drafting contracts on a daily basis. I often remove and/or revise language that weakens a contract based on the blog posts. It’s also witty and fun to read!” —Stephanie Gilliard, associate corporate counsel, Inovalon, Bowie, Md.
“This is a great, in-depth, thoughtful analysis not just of case law concerning arbitration decisions from all over the U.S., but it has practical takeaways of interest to litigators, which is especially important for me, as an arbitrator, to be cognizant of.” —Deborah Rothman, Los Angeles
Arms Control Law
NEW We are highly impressed by this freshman blog—even if its matter-of-fact posts on bioterrorism and nuclear proliferation keep us up at night. The bloggers have their fingers on the pulse of the sometimes-clandestine international arms race and the treaties that aim to stop it. Columns have examined fallout from the NSA surveillance scandal and legal implications for chemical weapon attacks in Syria. It’s a must-read for foreign policymakers, but also easily accessible to the layperson.
At Counsel Table
Los Angeles trial attorney Alex Craigie doesn’t just tell his readers about how to wow a jury. He does a couple of posts a week covering all aspects and avenues of litigation: mediation, arbitration, depositions, settlement negotiations and legal writing.
Attorney at Work
This blog’s “Ask the Experts” feature takes questions from readers about management or marketing and then finds a panel of professionals to weigh in. Even when left to their own devices when writing posts, the editors and bloggers know how to home in on career and technology topics that are interesting and relevant. They have a conversational style that keeps you reeled in.
NEW Mountain View, Calif., solo Cathy Moran writes about bankruptcy practice rather than cold, hard bankruptcy law. She shares anecdotes from her practice with the aim of helping readers troubleshoot problems encountered while consulting with clients. She also shares quirks she’s discovered in the bankruptcy code or when, say, converting a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case to a Chapter 7.
The Becker-Posner Blog
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.
NEW Students at Southwestern Law School’s Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute analyze recent copyright cases in the worlds of mass media, fine art and fashion—usually with an eye toward emerging issues in copyright law.
The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times
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.
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.
Center for Law and Religion Forum
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
Lawyers from Ballard Spahr study the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s news releases, white papers and litigation filings, analyzing their impact—and assessing whether the bureau is right on the law. The bloggers, who represent clients in class actions and regulatory proceedings, often find fault with the bureau’s moves and pull no punches.
Chasing Truth. Catching Hell.
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.”
China Law Blog
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.)
NEW Hopefully, if you’re a civil litigator, you already know about this blog. But if you’ve missed its first year and a half, you need to acquaint yourself with it posthaste. With the liberal use of real trial transcripts, Michael Lowry discusses advantageous ways to gather evidentiary documents and extract info from witnesses, expert or otherwise. Lowry practices in Las Vegas, so much of the info is tailored to Nevada, but there’s plenty to glean about discovery in general.
Connecticut Employment Law Blog
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.)
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 You’ve seen his work during his three decades as a courtroom artist for NBC News. Now you can get a glimpse of his sketch pad. Arthur Lien, who covers the U.S. Supreme Court, offers both his wonderful artwork and little courtroom tidbits from some of the biggest trials of the day.
Crime & Consequences
The bloggers of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation are tireless victims’ advocates and staunch supporters of the death penalty. They argue vociferously against sentence reductions and decriminalization of drugs. Defenders of political correctness shall find no succor here. But if you’re looking for legal analysis with a tough-on-crime perspective, this is a great place to come.
The D&O Diary
“I follow D&O Diary religiously, even though I no longer defend directors and officers. This blog is not one of the best legal blogs—it is the best. Kevin LaCroix’s blawg isn’t merely a link aggregator; he writes thoughtful posts in clear prose, covering the waterfront on directors and officers insurance and securities law. D&O Diary should be required reading for blawggers and bloggers alike.” —John Kane, Decatur, Ga.
Criminal defense work and zen serenity are not mutually exclusive in Mark Bennett’s opinion. Defending People’s tagline is “The tao of criminal-defense trial lawyering.” Bennett—who graduated from high school in New Delhi, majored in religious studies in college and practices out of Houston—offers his raw, matter-of-fact commentary and level-headed analysis of cases, politics and criminal justice-related news as it draws his interest.
Defrosting Cold Cases
NEW If there’s a dog-eared manuscript to a legal thriller gathering dust in your back drawer, wipe that sucker off and turn to cold-case consultant Alice de Sturler’s blog. A mixture of interviews with true-crime authors and profiles of real cold cases, Defrosting Cold Cases is both fascinating and heartbreaking.
The Delaware Employment Law Blog
Delaware’s corporate-friendly laws and chancery courts mean that a large number of the nation’s corporations keep their headquarters there. Corporate lawyers ignore Delaware courts at their peril, and the Delaware Employment Law Blog by Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor is a useful primer on the latest news to come out of the state’s courts.
Dewey B Strategic
Jean O’Grady—library director at DLA Piper, the highest-grossing law firm in the world at the moment—says that she’s “thought in Boolean” for decades now. In her blog, O’Grady ponders the future of knowledge management, covers the major players in legal publishing and sometimes writes about practice management issues facing leaders of large law firms.
Aimed not at clients but at family law practitioners, this blog is particularly useful for marketing and management advice. It’s written by Lee Rosen, who served as the law practice management editor of the ABA’s Family Advocate for more than a decade. Accordingly, his writing is quite clear and concise, and his LPM tips for family law firms are not to be missed.
The Droid Lawyer
“The Droid Lawyer provides practical tips that help attorneys sort through the ever-growing mountain of apps and hardware upgrades and identify those that can actually make life easier. Whether I’m making a checklist of documents for closing a deal or a list of books that I want to read on my tablet during vacation, the Droid Lawyer helps me find the right tool for the job.” —Jim Singer, Fox Rothschild, Pittsburgh
Drug and Device Law
“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.
Election Law Blog
“As a political sociologist … I am impressed with the scope of coverage of [Rick] Hasen’s blog, the timeliness of the posts, the effort Hasen makes to keep discussions nonpartisan and civil, and the wide range of knowledgeable contributors.” —Chandler Davidson, professor emeritus, Rice University
The Employer Handbook
Eric Meyer, a partner at Dilworth Paxson in Philadelphia, “is candid yet informative,” human resources professional Lonniece Senior writes. “His humor and sarcasm help ease away some of the employment law pain he dissects for us. I never open this blog and not chuckle! I am so selfish I don’t want others to see the URL for fear they will catch on to where I get a good portion of my info!”
FDA Law Blog
“I really enjoy posts from this blog as the authors manage to extract the essentials and present them in layman’s words for all to understand. We all have access to similar information from the government (e.g., FDA draft guidances, etc.) but this blog not only explains the changes well, it also analyzes the parallels with similar previous situations—and references! This is the one blog that I read every day.” —Jennifer Ng, Abbott Point of Care, Ottawa, Canada
The Federal Criminal Appeals Blog
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.
“I enjoy the fact that Jeff [Nowak] uses not just recent court decisions but also recent current events (such as the birth of the next heir to the British throne) to teach FMLA concepts. He’s also a very engaging writer; it’s a bright spot in my day when I receive a link to a new post.” —Johanna Ellison, Fogle Keller Purdy, Lexington, Ky.
Gavel to Gavel
“This blawg, produced by the National Center for State Courts, is the only online source for comprehensive information on legislation affecting the 50 state court systems in the United States. While information on the federal court system can be accessed relatively easily via the federal court site, Gavel to Gavel gathers data that makes research on state courts possible.” —Michele DeMary, professor and prelaw adviser, Susquehanna University
The Girl’s Guide to Law School
“I like this blog for several reasons: (1) It’s very well-written; (2) it provides real insight and good advice for would-be and current law students; (3) it has a clear and strong female perspective that is still too rare in the blawgosphere; and (4) it balances warnings about the pitfalls of law with a real enthusiasm for the profession that other school- or youth-related law blogs have lost, or never had.” —Jordan Furlong, Law21, and a legal consultant in Ottawa, Canada
Hercules and the umpire.
NEW A unique view from the bench has opened with the new blog Hercules and the Umpire, in which Richard Kopf, who has assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, shares his thoughts on life as a federal judge. Kopf’s posts are often unexpectedly poignant, such as an August post in which he admitted that his sentencing instincts were proven wrong by a former convict who redeemed himself.
As long as there are new films and television shows being made, intellectual property rights will do battle with the First Amendment in the posts of the Hollywood Reporter’s legal blog. The other legal foibles of celebrities and Tinseltown counsel get attention here as well.
The Illustrated Guide to Law
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.
New Orleans lawyer Jeff Richardson lines up to get his hands on the latest Apple products on the day they are released, shares his experiences in great detail (focusing on the lawyerly uses of these devices) and rounds up Apple coverage from all over the Web. So if you want the skinny on iOS 7, the iPhone 5S, and the recently released iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina display, this is the blog to visit.
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
JD Careers Out There
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
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.
Josh Blackman’s Blog
Bringing the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court to the masses seems to be where Blackman’s heart lies. He co-founded the Harlan Institute, which aims to create online law courses for high school students, and runs FantasySCOTUS for predicting decisions. Many posts align with the content of his new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare, or cover Texas, where he teaches at South Texas College of Law.
NEW A true smorgasbord of legal news and commentary, the name of this blog stands —more or less—for Journal of Things We Like (Lots), and that’s about as focused as it gets. But we find the variety charming and the analysis strong. Jotwell is sponsored by the University of Miami School of Law and has more than 200 contributing editors. New posts go up daily during the school year, and the blog takes a brief summer hiatus.
The Jury Room
Written by Austin, Texas-based jury consultants Rita Handrich and Douglas Keene of Keene Trial Consulting, this is a useful one for litigators and anyone interested in getting some insight into jury psychology. We particularly enjoy the bits about how conspiracy theorists function—and how you can use their participation in mock trials to strengthen your case.
Criminal defense lawyer Jamison Koehler jots down short, reflective posts describing how he prepares for trial, how he handles setbacks, how he handles his clients (he gives them his cellphone number) and how he runs his D.C.-based practice (he’s solo and likes it that way). Many other posts focus on defending DUI cases.
Lady (Legal) Writer
NEW Tips on legal writing are always fantastic, but this blog by Megan E. Boyd also includes real-life cautionary tales of the pitfalls of poor legal writing. Polish your punctuation with her guidance. Boyd is an adjunct professor of legal writing at Mercer University School of Law.
Law and the Multiverse
With the superhero genre surging in Hollywood right now, you don’t necessarily have to be a comic book geek to appreciate posts at this blog, which covers the legal issues that superheroes would be facing if their storylines had to mix with the law in the real world. Search this year’s archives to read about Man of Steel, The Wolverine and Pacific Rim. The bloggers’ posts are sharply focused on their legal angle.
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.
While the title of this blog is not a word in any dictionary, we’ll give Black’s Law Dictionary editor Bryan Garner a pass. Garner writes a comprehensive column “on words” for the ABA Journal, but his blog posts are short and to the point. He writes daily word usage tips and “LawProse Lessons” every Tuesday that tackle nagging style questions that we guarantee you’ve asked yourself.
Law School Cafe
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.
The Law School Tuition Bubble
NEW New York City-based JD and writer Matt Leichter combats rhetoric about the cost-benefit analysis of a legal education—particularly for those who have to borrow vast sums of money for school—with research, which he archives. Leichter devours enrollment data and employment data, finds what’s interesting and lays it out. He also finds other news articles and op-eds on his chosen topic, links to them and picks them apart.
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.
Check in with this blog every weekday and you won’t regret it. Regular contributors write very specific and conversational posts about running a law practice, legal writing, legal ethics or whatever is buzzing around the legal blogosphere at the moment. It also curates great contributed posts from other bloggers who have Lawyerist-worthy topics to write about.
Legal As She Is Spoke
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
The Legal Geeks
NEW Jessica Mederson and Josh Gilliland— lawyers and lovers of pop culture—are perhaps the nation’s foremost experts on the legal issues that can be studied from John Cusack movies. Don’t miss their irreverent video and audio podcasts, in which you can learn about everything from Renaissance fairs and comic-cons to torts and tortes. (You may remember Gilliland from past Blawg 100s as the author of Bow Tie Law’s Blog. The bow ties still make an appearance.)
The Legal Genealogist
NEW Pharaohs aside, the tangible remnants of most people’s lives are not desert pyramids, but legal documents. Genealogists use wills, contracts, census reports, court documents and even criminal records to build a picture of ancestors’ lives. Blogger and lecturer Judy G. Russell uses her law degree and genealogy training to help people decipher the meaning behind the legal documents they find, and to give tantalizing tips for further exploration.
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.
The Legal Watercooler
NEW Barger & Wolen’s marketing director gets to the point on how someone marketing a law practice should focus his or her energies—and how, bluntly, they should not. “Heather Morse more than anyone I can think of is unafraid to say what she is thinking and to call out bad/strange/ineffective practices,” Anne Core, director of marketing at Lerch Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Md., told us. “She has a fantastic voice, and virtually every post really makes me think.”
The Legal Whiteboard
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.
Legal Writing Prof Blog
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.
Litigation & Trial
This blog by Philadelphia plaintiffs lawyer Max Kennerly is a little more tort than litigation this year, and we like it just as much. Kennerly addresses what he sees as misinformation disseminated by the media—and sometimes legal scholars—about medical-malpractice law and mass torts. Some litigation practice posts are mixed in as well.
The Litigation Consulting Report
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.
Lowering the Bar
Kevin Underhill doesn’t have to rely on Onion-style satire for laughs. The San Francisco-based Shook, Hardy & Bacon partner finds plenty of absurd real-life cases and current events to make his blog an entertaining standard of the legal humor genre. He must be doing something readers like, because Lowering the Bar has been voted a Blawg 100 fan favorite the past two years.
The Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog
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.”
Medical Futility Blog
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.
Despite advances, female lawyers face unique challenges in getting ahead in the profession, particularly women of color. Founded seven years ago by a group of female law students, Ms. JD continues to be a place where law students and recent grads can go to find inspiration from successful women in the field. The blog (affiliated with the National Women Law Students’ Organization) contains a wealth of practical tips on financing a legal education and launching a professional career.
The Not-So Private Parts
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.
Ohio Employer’s Law Blog
Cleveland attorney Jon Hyman’s blog provides practical guidelines for employers in labor and employment disputes. What sets his blog apart in our eyes from the cavalcade of other L&E blogs out there is the frank and conversational style of the writing, the frequency with which he posts, and the quality of his analysis. We are quite fond of his weekly Friday roundups, “What I Read This Week,” a feature that should celebrate its 300th edition this month.
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.)
At this blog, lawyers from McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago cover the latest decisions from the Federal Circuit and news from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, evaluate the impacts of the 2-year-old America Invents Act and take note of conferences, CLE, symposia and webinars for readers who crave even more patent intel.
Fellow trial consultant Alice M. Adams of Atlanta recommends Ken Broda-Bahm’s posts to the lawyers she consults with. “His information is equally applicable to defense and plaintiffs attorneys; he is erudite and authoritative without being overbearing. He should be writing opening statements and closing arguments,” she says. Smithtown, N.Y.-based litigator Ray Grasing is also a fan: “I don’t always agree with the author or the points he’s making, but I’m always better off for having read them and challenged my opinions.”
Philly Law Blog
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.
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.
NEW Charles Ponzi’s house of cards collapsed spectacularly in 1920, so one would think that by now people would be able to recognize a Ponzi scheme and avoid it. One would be wrong, according to Tampa, Fla., attorney Jordan Maglich’s Ponzitracker blog. From criminal plots like Bernie Madoff’s to those of lesser-known hucksters, people seem to be falling for them left and right, to the tune of billions (no, really: billions). Keep track of the latest flimflam scams here.
Abnormal Use blogger Jim Dedman admires blogger and LA lawyer Ken White’s “fierce commitment to freedom of expression. He often highlights in his posts attempts by lawyers—or others—to silence online speech, and I would never want to find myself the target of his commentary.” But it’s more than just a blog, says New York Personal Injury Law Blog’s Eric Turkewitz, noting the signature “Batman-like Popehat signal to seek out pro bono assistance around the country for First Amendment defense.”
A Public Defender
“The pseudonymous ‘Gideon’ is a public defender who writes about the way we do criminal justice in America. His posts are well-informed yet easy to read, impassioned yet cogent. He’s at the top of my must-read list every day.” —Mark Draughn, a Chicago-based blogger at Windypundit
Real Lawyers Have Blogs
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.
Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log
This Georgetown University law professor’s blog has been going strong for 10 years. Her posts cover rulings in false advertising and trademark cases in federal courts, complete with helpful photos and explanations of the significance of each ruling. She also takes on advertising law questions raised in mainstream media articles and parses them more finely.
This blog by Howard Friedman, professor of law emeritus at the University of Toledo, is the Volokh Conspiracy’s Eugene Volokh’s “main news source on the law of government and religion, with prompt coverage of foreign and domestic news stories, and prompt links to pretty much all new American court decisions.” Author and blogger Hemant Mehta keeps up with Friedman’s blog as well. “He covers the big cases as well as the small ones that never make it into the mainstream media,” Mehta writes.
Ride the Lightning
Electronic evidence law expert Sharon Nelson of Sensei Enterprises in Fairfax, Va., watches the mainstream media, security professional trade pubs and other corners of the Internet for coverage of the latest threats to your data security, often highlighting recent opinions in which parties are undone by their careless attitudes toward data privacy.
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.
Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home
Plaintiffs employment lawyer Donna Ballman of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., breaks down how employers deceive workers to further their own interests, but she also explores legitimate misunderstandings that workers and employers have about the other’s intentions. Many posts answer questions she receives from readers in the comments of other posts. “This is a great blog on a topic that is difficult for employers and employees to be honest and correct about,” says Gary Hills, a senior consultant at Eos Group in Boston.
Small Firm Innovation
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.
Stop Asking Where I’m From
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.
Supreme Court Haiku Reporter
What can we say that
Has not already been said?
You should read this blog.
Providing us with
SCOTUS cases in haiku
Is a true service.
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?
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.
NEW This blog has a constant stream of chatty posts telling readers which gadgets and apps are actually worthwhile for one’s law practice or law school existence. Readers also like the weekly columns by Eric Sinrod, a partner at Duane Morris in San Francisco. Lawrence Huff of Philadelphia wrote that Sinrod “does an excellent job of picking emerging issues of technology and explaining in clear terms existing law and its application.”
Technology & Marketing Law Blog
Santa Clara University law prof Eric Goldman and Seattle lawyer Venkat Balasubramani (and some new contributors this year, it appears) cover technology cases involving laws that have only existed for the past decade or two. For jurisprudence involving search engines, website user agreements, emails and text messages, pay this blog a visit.
Tempe Criminal Defense
Arizona criminal defense lawyer Matt Brown is a blogger’s blogger. A post he wrote about an inmate’s execution after our last Blawg 100 came out was named “best criminal law blawg post of 2012” by Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice blog. As for us, we enjoy his anecdotes and his prose, and maybe even particularly enjoy his posts on the downside of having a high Avvo rating (even though he admits to being tired of writing them).
3 Geeks and a Law Blog
Nope, it’s not another comic book blog—although we love those. Check this out if you’re interested in information management, law libraries, Internet marketing or the role of technology in law practice management. The 3 Geeks (lesser-seen founder Sophia Lisa Salazar, Greg Lambert and Toby Brown) get fruitful reader discussions going with their “Elephant Posts,” which ask for multiple views on a single issue or question.
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.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been both reviled and celebrated for its controversial opinions, but no one can deny that the legal issues it takes up are interesting. Trial Insider, which covers the 9th Circuit and federal courts in Northern California, is written by longtime legal journalist Pamela MacLean. Its glimpses into the civil and criminal cases of the region are sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving and sometimes downright shocking.
The Velvet Hammer
“Karen Koehler gives voice to the realities of being a hard-driving trial attorney and a stretched-thin working mom. She writes with an off-the-cuff, candid style that is likable and revealing. Her post on the day after a crappy jury verdict went viral because so many attorneys, myself included, can relate.” —Morgan Smith, Cogent Legal Blog, and a lawyer in Oakland, Calif.
Justia’s Verdict blog provides consistently thoughtful and in-depth analysis and commentary on an expansive range of legal issues before the courts. If back in the day you read FindLaw’s defunct commentary blog Writ, you will recognize many alumni, including Marci Hamilton, Sherry Colb and Vikram David Amar. Hamilton in particular covers child-abuse laws and cases before higher courts with a dogged thoroughness.
What the Public Defender?
NEW This microblog, born in March, has caught fire and spawned imitators. “With nothing but Tumblr and impeccable taste in celebrity GIFs,” this blog “transports readers directly into the id of public defenders everywhere,” writes Litigation & Trial’s Max Kennerly.
“You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll want a drink.”
Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog
El Paso, Texas, lawyer Richard Mattersdorff writes that he’s learned a lot about estate planning for digital assets from law professor Gerry Beyer’s blog. “Professor Beyer is also accessible,” Mattersdorff writes. “Sporadically, I have emailed him, and he always answers helpfully, privately and/or in the blog itself.”
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.
Fearing NSA surveillance puts sources at risk, Groklaw shutters
The founder of Groklaw, a Blawg 100 fan favorite last year, has decided to shut down the technology blog because of fears its email communications could be subject to government surveillance.
Former paralegal Pamela Jones founded Groklaw in 2003 to cover legal news of interest to the free software and open-source community. In her final post at Groklaw on Aug. 20, Jones said she made the decision after learning that the government captures emails sent to and from foreign countries.
“The foundation of Groklaw is over,” she wrote. “I can’t do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.”
Jones recalled the time her New York City apartment was burglarized. “Everything had been pawed through and thrown about,” she wrote. “I can’t tell how deeply disturbing it is to know that someone, some stranger, has gone through and touched all your underwear, looked at all your photographs of your family, and taken some small piece of jewelry that’s been in your family for generations. … I feel like that now, knowing that persons I don’t know can paw through all my thoughts and hopes and plans in my emails with you.”
Groklaw won the most reader votes for its legal technology niche in the ABA Journal’s 2012 Blawg 100. Jones said in the final post that for email she is now using Kolab, which is located in Switzerland, where the laws offer citizens more privacy.
Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites blog expressed skepticism that Groklaw would stay dark, noting Jones shut it down once before in 2011. She revived the blog in response to reader demand that she bring it back.
However, Jones tells the ABA Journal that she believes shutting down Groklaw is the right decision, though she acknowledges missing it. Asked if Groklaw could continue, possibly under a different editor, Jones says she feels a responsibility to look out for the volunteers who supply the technical knowledge, and there is no way to do Groklaw without them.
“I only know what I read,” Jones says, “and what I read is that any email going in or out of the U.S. that is encrypted is saved for years. I need to use encryption sometimes, with the inner core of volunteers, and some of them are outside the U.S. I worry about liability for Groklaw if I continue as is.”
Jones says her decision to end Groklaw wasn’t staged to spur change, though she hopes that will happen.
“I really hope that change will ensue, and I have faith that it is possible that it will and then we’ll be able to pick up again.
“I live in hope.”
—Debra Cassens Weiss
CorrectionPrint and initial online versions of "The 7th Annual Blawg 100" misstated the number of contributors to the legal blog Jotwell. The blog has more than 250 contributing editors.
The Journal regrets the error.