Bad Blogs?

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When launched 15 hyperlocal, news-based blogs last winter, the legal blogosphere took note—and aim—at the alleged “spam blogs.”

New York City-based lawyer Eric Turkewitz’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog shares the name with one sponsored by the Thomson Reuters legal information Web portal. He blasts the legal marketer for using popular law blog titles to promote lawyers in its directory rather than create legitimate forums to analyze and discuss the justice system.

The blogs—which don’t allow reader comments—are presented as local legal news websites and are not intended to serve as a platform for legal discourse, according to Thomson Reuters. But Turkewitz and fellow bloggers condemn the blogs for regurgitations of local accident reports and cases, followed by calls to action advising readers that an attorney may help them recover personal injury claims, and links to a list of lawyers that pay FindLaw for its marketing services.

Additionally, throughout the posts are keywords related to the law and injury, as well as lawyer and state names, that link to webpages in the FindLaw Internet directory where lawyers buy listings and ads.

“These ‘blogs’ are merely ads designed to dump … SEO-friendly terms onto the Web, quality be damned,” Turkewitz writes in a post titled “FindLaw’s Continuing Problems with Its ‘Blogs.’” SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization, the process of seeking ways to raise the ranking of sites in a Web search.

Consequently, Turkewitz linked references to FindLaw’s blogs as “nofollow” to “avoid giving Google juice,” in reference to the formula Google uses to determine the page ranks of websites when users conduct searches.

Marc Randazza, a San Diego lawyer and editor of law blog the Legal Satyricon, also harshly criticizes the “rip-off” blogs in a post titled “Find Law, Are You Really That Douchetastic?” He emphasizes the advice of legal blogger Scott Greenfield: “Anyone can blog, but not everyone should.”

While Greenfield’s warning might ring true for some bloggers, FindLaw defends its role as an authoritative provider of online legal resources, which include 50 legal news and information blogs.

“The names used for Find Law’s hyperlocal blogs are generic descriptor names in order to be very user friendly for the consumer seeking legal information,” says Thomson Reuters spokeswoman Michelle Croteau, who cites FindLaw’s Los Angeles Criminal Law blog as an example. “Because local legal blogs tend to have titles that are descriptive in nature, it is not unusual to find blogs with similar names.”

And though FindLaw also found itself under fire for hiring nonlawyers as blog writers, the company says its blogs are just meant to augment the more than 1 million pages of free legal information it offers.

However, the value of the news provided is questioned when, as Turkewitz points out, a post’s author confuses civil and criminal legal terms, which is what one nonlawyer “writing specialist” did in a post on the Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog.

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