Notes from the Technology Trenches – Legal Weblogs Revisited

Cindy Carlson is the Electronic Resources Librarian at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson in Washington, D.C., a web committee member for the Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C. , and organizer of its Legal Research Training Focus Group.

The last time I visited the issue of Web logs, very few legal folks had jumped on the blogging band wagon. Well, that was a year ago, and my how 12 short months can make for change. Not only are there now a slew of law-oriented blogs, but they have their own cutesy name — blawgs. I don’t often view the development of cutesy names as a good sign, but in this instance it’s positive in the sense that enough people have begun to publish blawgs on legal issues that they’ve begun to get clever about it. Certainly it’s a sign that it’s worth a little time to review the field and see what has cropped up that’s new and good.

In case you have somehow missed discovering Web logs altogether, they are usually chronological logs of references on some topic of personal or professional interest to the author, and also tend to be run by a single individual (although there are community weblogs such as GrepLaw and LawMem). This never ceases to amaze me because even with the tools available at places like BlogSpot, a decent Web log takes some time and effort to produce, and most of the blog authors whose work I read and respect are fully employed. Nonetheless, they still manage to find, digest and publish enough useful and new information that their sites are worth a visit.

Librarian Blawgs

I’ve decided to give blogging a pass in order to save my own sanity as a new parent, but several of my peers are obviously better organized. One new offering is beSpacific, published by principal editor and publisher Sabrina I. Pacifici, who launched on January 4, 2003 with an archive of postings back to September 2002. While Sabrina’s blawg isn’t as personally expressive as those of some others out there, frankly, I find that a relief. The double-edged sword of blogging is that many authors bring a highly personal slant to what they report. This can be great (see Tara Calishain’s ResearchBuzz for an excellent example), or it can be very annoying, especially if you are reading blogs for their news value and can do without reading someone else’s constant commentary on political issues. Sabrina’s blog offers a focused, well organized, easy to read content that doesn’t beat you over the head with her personal beliefs, though she’s obviously concerned about freedom of information, privacy, and some other matters near and dear to librarians everywhere. Her reporting is clear and succinct and the best part is that she makes the news on the site available for free each weekday via an e-mail subscription. I don’t know about you, but I have some trouble remembering to check sites, even ones that I like and find useful like Gary Price’s Resourceshelf, on a regular basis. While they are not related, beSpacific takes up where her LLRX Newstand left off, and delivers law and technology news daily to your inbox. It looks like beSpacific will be a nice competitor to Genie Tyburski’s TVC Alert.

Lawyer Blogs

Here’s another demographic you’d think would have trouble finding the time to log, but no, if anything they are even more prolific as a group than librarians. Partly this is because attorneys are more likely to have a specialty area to write about, but even here there are some great generalists. One, Tom Mighell, has been writing a weekly legal research newsletter for some time, but has recently also begun publishing a blawg on the same, Inter alia. I was really excited to see this blawg for two reasons: 1) it expands on the Mighell’s newsletter and offers more news more frequently, and 2) it offers an archive of the newsletter which was previously unavailable. Mighell’s site is a nice, low-key resource with a sense of humor aimed at legal researchers — and hey, we often need the laugh.

Two other blawgs that have been helpful to me for more than just the news they offer are Ernie the Attorney and How Appealing. Ernie, by Ernest Svenson, is an intelligent log on law with a technology bent that’s also personal without being cloying. There’s a whole lot about his blawg that I enjoy, but one of the nicest features is his Law Blog Outline. If you’re looking for a blog by topic or by author type (academic, student, practicing, etc.), his is the best I’ve seen so far. Of course, if you’ve seen better, please let me know. How Appealing, Howard Bashman’s blawg on appellate litigation, has gotten a load of attention in the press and deservedly so — it’s a nice treatment of the topic. What I find handy, though, is that beyond the news, Bashman actually links to the original documents he discusses, dependably and quickly.

Embrace the Blawg!

So many new blawgs were started over the last year that I can’t really do more than begin to give you flavor of what’s available in this short monthly column. I fully expect that some enterprising person out there will be creating a metablawg any day now — there are certainly enough new blawgs appearing regularly these days that just reporting on them could keep somebody busy — if no one has tackled it already. If you see it happen, please tell me know about it. In the meanwhile, check out the blawgs above. Another common feature of blogs generally is that they constantly cross-reference one another, and often list other blogs that are the author’s favorite reads. Just the few I’ve listed will provide you with links to a huge community of legal Web loggers. You won’t like everything you see, but some of it you won’t want to miss.

Posted in: Blogs, Notes from the Technology Trenches