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Law Blog vanity contests : ABA adds to the silliness

Whiz Law blogMaybe it’s lawyers’ low self esteem that requires their egos to be stroked by being on someone’s list of the 100 best this or that. Maybe lawyers are so bored that they love gimmicks. Maybe it’s websites and organizations that are so starved for attention or relevance that they need to have contests to get their beauty pageant contestants to tell others of the website. I don’t know.

But to get sucked into believing a contest like the ABA Journal’s 100 best lawyer blogs means something is the height folly. Why not have a contest as to which blogging lawyer looks best in a swim suit? How would they do in a talent contest or when asked about world peace? And lest we forget the Miss Congeniality award.

There are thousands of lawyer blogs offering information and engaging in discussions as diverse as the lawyers publishing them. What’s best and what’s good is determined by the value the blog offers a niche audience.

A law blog offering information to parents of special education children and engaging in discussions with lawyers, educational professionals, and others in the world is a wonderful resource. It’s also a great way to advance the law surrounding special education and to provide those in need access to a professional in the know. But God forbid we give that lawyer an ‘I’m the Whiz’ crown.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention the ABA is bringing to law blogs. And I am certain the people in the contest have done some incredible things to advance the cause of lawyer blogging. Congratulations to those who have been recognized. But to self anoint the 100 best so as to get the vain among the 100 so jazzed that they’ll promote the ABA Journal website is a little childish, and is in fact damaging to the growth of law blogs.

Law blogs represent disintermediation of publishers and gatekeepers. No more are those in supposed power and control going to screen and serve up what they think is important. A lawyer in a town with a water tower, an old grain elevator and 3 four way stops is on equal footing with a lawyer who clerked for a Supreme Court Judge. The democratization of publishing and dialogue we get through law blogs is at the very heart of what we stand for in America.

To select 100 chosen Whiz’s of lawyer blogs confuses those who do not understand blogs. Last month I was doing a tele-seminar on law blogs hosted by the National Law Journal. Very worthwhile program. But the program host presumed that the ‘good law law blogs’ were limited to those 30 blogs in the Law.com Blog Network. When I mentioned that there were some wonderful blogs not included in the network, I was asked to ‘name one.’

The ABA Journal is going to publicize this ’100 Best’ to a lot of lawyers and other folks who have no understanding of law blogs nor the depth of intellectual capital presented by the blogs. These unknowing have been told blogs are like lawyer diaries and journals filled with irrelevant and unreliable information. They’ll be seeing this ’100 Best’ and appreciating the efforts of the ABA Journal editors to screen the good stuff from the bad.

The ABA Journal should be lauded for its efforts in showcasing blogging lawyers in its law blog directory. But sending out an email to ’100 anointed lawyers’ with well trafficked blogs encouraging them to add a link to the ‘Blawg 100′ on their homepage is shallow, at best.

  • http://www.inversecondemnation.com Robert Thomas

    Have to agree with you, Kevin. Yes, I do subscribe to a lot of the blogs on the “100″ list for entertainment, practice management, or administrative purposes, but most of the law blogs I take *seriously* aren’t on the list, since I want hardcore “black letter” type content most of the time.
    I don’t read a law blog to hear whether the blogger went to Starbucks or Jamba Juice this morning on the way to court. I want to hear how they analyze substantive topics — as someone said, “to hear a lawyer think out loud.” To me, those are the “best” law blogs. Today’s decision from the Second Circuit, or the New Jersey Supreme Court, or some obscure district court in New Mexico. Reading those law blogs make me a better lawyer, and more likely to contact the author if I need some help in her areas of expertise or jurisdiction.
    And having browsed the ABA’s “100″ list, there are only a few entries fitting that criteria, sadly.

  • http://www.rushonbusiness.com Rush Nigut

    I’ll take nothing away from the blogs on the ABA’s “100″ list. Many of those blogs are excellent blogs indeed. If I were on this list I would consider it nice recognition. But I agree with you Kevin. There are so many tremendous law blogs out there on a variety of topics that a list of this nature really is rather silly.
    I couldn’t help but notice that it was the “100 Best Web sites by lawyers, for lawyers . . .” I would like to think my blog was ruled out because I write for clients and business people, not lawyers.:)
    Rush

  • http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/ Dennis Kennedy

    Kevin,
    I love this post. The paragraph beginning “Law blogs represent disintermediation of publishers and gatekeepers. . .” might be the best paragraph you’ve ever written and it perfectly encapsulates what I also think is the core of law blogging. Nicely done.
    I’m also as shocked as you were by the “name one” comment.
    Hey, I’m glad to be mentioned on the 100 list, but I’ve never understood the “best of” lists either, except that they do seem to create traffic and discussion.
    On the other hand, I’ve always enjoyed playing with the notion of awards and “democratizing” them by my annual “Blawggie” awards, which I need to start working on. You, my friend, might have locked up a Blawggie with this post.
    Looking forward to doing the upcoming blogging webinar with you in a couple of weeks. Maybe we’ll be able to come up with the name of at least one worthy non-Law.com blog by then. Sheesh.
    Dennis

  • http://www.myshingle.com Carolyn Elefant

    Kevin, I think you know that I agree with you also, and I expected this post from you. As I said in my own post, picking top blogs when there are so many out there doesn’t make much sense. Moreover, though many solo bloggers with “how to” sites like mine made the list, one true oversight are the “niche based” solo and small firm blogs that cover topics like Maryland Personal Injury Law or California Trusts and Estates or New York Business Law. These are real lawyers sharing real information and making it both accessible to lay people but sophisticated enough for lawyers. None of these blogs made the cut.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin

    Wow, it’s flattering to get comments like these from talented lawyers and bloggers like you guys.
    As I said, nothing against the lawyers cited by the ABA but by the looks of the legal blogsoshere, their goal of promoting the ABA journal website worked. Most, if not all, of the posts, I saw on the contest and the ABA were from those in the top 100 list linking back to the ABA journal cite of course. Ought to make for good ABA Journal magazine sales when the winners buy them for the friends, inlaws and clients.;)
    There is real danger in this type of thing too. Like LexisNexis which uses Newstex to screen for the ‘best blogs’ so they can be delivered to you, the publishers and gatekeepers are asking for the keys back. And we’re handing them over if we buy into this ‘best’ thing.
    The ABA has published some wonderful books, and still does. But there are tremendous gaps between the topics covered and books could can be constantly updated. Blogs focused on niche subjects fill the gaps between the topics covered by books and periodcals on a continuing basis.

  • http://www.newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/ Eric Turkewitz

    What I found interesting was that their choice of bloggers completely ignored certain areas of the law, such as personal injury. Not a single blog devoted to the subject is listed.
    So it wasn’t just an excerise is picking one good blog over another within a segment, but of the ABA deciding to simply ignore an entire segment.
    And as Carolyn notes both here and over at my joint, it wasn’t just limited to PI. Pretty much any area that a regular consumer would be interested in (as opposed to the business consumer) is missing with the exception of criminal law.
    The ABA, while doing a great job promoting their site and driving traffic, seems to have also done a pretty fair job of exposing their own biases.

  • http://www.nofaultparadise.blogspot.com David M. Gottlieb, Esq.

    For the record, it’s definitely my low self esteem that fuels my desire to be listed on the ABA Journal’s 100 best lawyer blogs. I blame it on poor parenting.

  • http://theinspiredsolo.com Sheryl Sisk Schelin

    Let me get this straight.
    I’m supposed to be offended my blog was included? I’m supposed to NOT put the code on my sidebar? I’m supposed to denounce as – what, exactly – elitist? “silly”? – a collective compliment (and that’s surely all it is) from a group of ABA editors? There is such a thing as accepting a compliment graciously, you know. And to denounce as “silly” any blogger who does so is – pardon me – just silly.
    Endeavors of this sort generate this kind of rabid vitriol on a regular basis, and it always strikes me the same – much ado about very, very little.

  • http://www.nofaultparadise.blogspot.com David M. Gottlieb, Esq.

    “I’m supposed to be offended my blog was included? I’m supposed to NOT put the code on my sidebar?”
    Exactly. I hope you’ve learned your lesson and will take down the code poste haste. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.
    –The Revolucion

  • http://theinspiredsolo.com Sheryl Sisk Schelin

    David – thank you for a fresh-air dose of snarky humor, which at times is really the ONLY way to go, isn’t it?

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin

    Sheryl, take a peak at my post. Never said you were to be offended by being on the list. I congratulated all that were selected. Accept the compliment. Wear the crown.
    But someone has an obligation to call this thing for what it is – it’s nothing more than a beauty contest by the ABA Journal editors to draw attention to their site by getting you to wear their 4-H ribbon on your blog and boast about it. That’s silly.
    What the hell is a ‘best blog’ anyway? What’s the best highway? It depends where you want to go. For blogs – What are you looking for? What conversartion do you want to participate in? That will tell you whats best.

  • http://theinspiredsolo.com Sheryl Sisk Schelin

    Kevin: You wrote: “But sending out an email to ’100 anointed lawyers’ with well trafficked blogs encouraging them to add a link to the ‘Blawg 100′ on their homepage is shallow, at best.” That clearly implies that anyone who does add that link has, at a minimum, approved of something “shallow.” You wrote as well that you suppose we may have “low self esteem” and need our egos “stroked.” Perhaps the real offense is in the post!
    I think you miss my point. Sure, it’s a beauty contest. So are the Oscars. So is the Presidential election every four years. Does that invalidate the results? Who knows? But to even ask the question misconstrues the nature of the thing – it’s just someone’s list. If you don’t appreciate it, agree with it, or approve of it, offer your own and call it whatever you like.
    But to spend so much energy blasting it and – sorry, but this is true – casting aspersions on the people who are on the list and appreciate their placement is a bit of an overreaction.

  • http://fluentsimplicity.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Kash

    It’s not a surprise to me that Kevin nailed this on the head. Someone at my firm emailed me the link this morning. My response:
    “I had seen some chatter on this yesterday. I think it’s great that blogs are getting more attention, although some people are upset that the limit was 100. Rightfully so. It’s like looking at the Web with glasses from the 1990′s (showing how long I’ve been doing this). As the number of Web sites increased, lists were created to show people what was hot. This was the origin of Yahoo — long before it was a commercial venture.”
    Lists = global authority.
    Social media = individual & network authority.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin

    Sheryl you did not win an Oscar, nor the presidential election.
    I’ve said this contest and asking you to wear the badge is shallow – it is. To the extent you do some free advertising for the ABA Journal’s lame beauty contest, anyone’s call as to waht that is. Play to ego and vanity of lawyers? I don’t know.
    It’s my job to call things as I see them. That’s why I blog.

  • http://theinspiredsolo.com Sheryl Sisk Schelin

    Oh my goodness. Are you being deliberately obtuse, Kevin? I never equated the Blawg 100 to the Oscars or Presidential campaigns. I simply said that all three have aspects of beauty contests.

  • http://www.thedreamsofasolo.blogspot.com Nathan Dosch

    Kevin, I agree 100% with you on this topic and I am very glad that you called this one as you saw it. I am a bit shocked by Sheryl’s reaction to your post though especially considering that both Carolyn and Dennis, who are both included in the Blawg 100, did not seem to take offense to the way you presented your position.
    As I mentioned in a recent post I am happy to see that a number of solo bloggers such as Carolyn, Grant Griffiths, Susan Cartier-Liebel, and Sheryl are included on the list. The point to me is that ranking anything including blogs is not useful. How did they determine the best? Objective criteria? It is like arguing with friends about the top 10 QBs of all time. It is great fodder for conversation over a pint, but at the end of the day we will not have accomplished much.
    I’m happy for all the bloggers that are included in the Blawg 100. Just don’t let it go to your heads.

  • http://www.marlerblog.com Bill Marler
  • http://ruthieslaw.wordpress.com/ VM

    Speaking personally I am offended by the very idea of a list. It implies that life, in all its wonderous bounty is reducible to a series of collections. Not only that but the list barely peers over the Atlantic and we are not on it. It must therefore be illegitimate.
    However, I do believe I would look wonderful in a swimming costume. Please advise me of the date of your competition.
    If you are puzzled check out the site.

  • http://lawminx.blogspot.com lawminx

    I must concur with the utterly fabulous VM – you’d think no one existed this side of the pond!!!

  • http://blog.simplejustice.us/2007/12/02/the-secret-award-for-best-blawg.aspx Simple Justice

    The Secret Award For Best Blawg

    Last week, a new Blawg award came on the scene, the ABA Blawg 100.

  • http://www.gerryriskin.com/up-close-and-personal-thanks-for-the-nomination-but-i-am-not-running-for-office.html Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices

    Thanks for the nomination but I am not running for office

    I liked this: Your legal blog has been selected by the ABA Journal as one of the 100 best websites for lawyers, by lawyers. Congratulations! I liked this even more: “Our list of the 100 best lawyer blogs is the…

  • http://www.gerryriskin.com Gerry Riskin

    I was honored to be included in the ABA top 100 but have a look at my blog post – I think it says it all.

  • http://www.employmentblawg.com George Lenard

    Great post, Kevin. I was mostly just thrilled to see blogs as the cover story. It was the ABA’s story about blawgs in early 2003 that got me blogging.
    I was also excited to think about the fact that there could even be a top 100 that is being viewed as an elitist and controversial selection, because this represents the exponential growth in blawging. A few years ago, there were scarcely 100 blawgs in existence.
    The “name one” comment is a riot. The best answer might be: “Type ‘blawg’ in Google and start reading; while you’re at it, follow every link in Blawg Review. We’ll talk when you’ve looked at them all — if we should live so long!”
    I’m with Dennis on the “disintermediation” point being key to your post. Nobody decides who is “best” except the readers (and maybe Technorati and Google, which in their own way represent the “votes” of readers).

  • http://jimcalloway.typepad.com/ Jim Calloway

    Hey Kevin,
    I’ll add a comment encouraging you to lighten up a little. (Grin) It may not be the Academy Awards, but the ABA Journal staff has as much right as anyone to name a top Blawg 100. Almost every blogger lists their favorite blogs in a blog roll. It doesn’t seem that much different for any group to organize their opinions on what is interesting and post them. It fact, it sort of sounds like blogging.
    What would have been the pity would have been if the ABA Journal had done this massive site redesign and ignored law blogs. Instead they created a directory of over 1500 blogs and built pages incorporating their feeds and giving brief descriptions, allowing Net users to scan many blogs they have never been exposed to before. They feature a new blog every week. They select a Blawg 100 and make it the cover story of the ABA Journal!
    Do you have any idea of the number of lawyers who will read about blogs in depth for the first time, discover new blogs of interest or decide that there must be more to blogs than they thought before because of this cover story?
    Sure, if you or I had picked a Top 100 or a Top Ten, we might have selected different blogs. But I do not really get why it is “wrong” for anyone or any group to pick their favorites. People love lists, whether it is Ten Favorite products or the BCS bowl ranking. They love to agree and disagree and argue and debate the selections.
    All in all, IMHO by the beginning of 2008, there will be more lawyers reading blogs, creating blogs and subscribing to blog feeds as a result of the ABA Journal’s efforts the second half of this year and that seems to be a good thing. And, for the record, this is the ABA Journal, not the ABA. You’d be surprised how little control the latter has over the content produced by the former.
    P.S. Sure it is self serving to have an online popularity contest to drive traffic to their site after the winners have already been selected. But who really cares? Online polls add another bit of information, even disintermediation, if you will. And there may be vanity involved, but the ABA Journal didn’t create lawyer’s egos.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin

    Fair enough Jim, the ABA’s contest will bring some positive attention to blogging. And I have commented favorably on what the ABA did to highlight blogs in the new ABA Journal site.
    I’m just playing a role in pointing out the downsides of such contests. We have a nation of lawyers who are clueless when it comes to blogs. Not far fetched for them to conclude most blogs are crap and that only those screened by the gatekeepers are worth reading.
    I may be viewed as picking fights and criticizing too often. I view that as part of my job – to provide insight and commentary on such subjects. To the extent it stirs up some healthy debate that’s a plus. The legal profession needs more debate if we’re ever going to un-lap ourselves when it comes to being behind other industries when it comes to innovation.
    Debate in the legal profession pales in comparison to the tech and development industry – and they are the one’s driving innovation in this country.

  • http://www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog/ Steve Matthews

    Jim Calloway: “there may be vanity involved, but the ABA Journal didn’t create lawyer’s egos” :-)
    Forget the blog100. How about a top-10 quotes from this post?