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Edward Still of Votelaw [LexBlog Q & A]

Edward Still’s political blog Votelaw, started back in mid-2002, is one of the oldest law blogs around. Fitting, then, that we feature its author for today’s LexBlog Q & A.

Ed is an Alabama-based attorney who focuses his practice on employment law, election law & mediation. He has been a law professor since 1995; his most recent educational stint, which began in 2005, placed him behind the podium in the Birmingham School of Law’s “Law of Politics & Constitutional Law” course.

Our e-mail interview, during which Ed details his history in the blogosphere, is after the jump.

1. Rob La Gatta: What prompted you to start Votelaw, and when did this occur?

Ed Still: I started Votelaw after I read an article about legal blogs in Law Practice magazine (the publication of the Law Practice Management section of the ABA). Votelaw was born on July 4, 2002.

2. Rob La Gatta: The majority of your posts seem to be information you’ve found elsewhere and relayed, creating what is ultimately a handpicked mini-newspaper of political news. Was this what you set out to do at the beginning? Do you find it hard to resist throwing in your own commentary?

Ed Still: I started out by writing my own “scripts” based on what I had read in the newspaper or online, and linking to those sources. Over the years, as I tried to cover more and more, I found that quoting was quicker than summarizing.

You will notice that most of my posts are 4 paragraphs of quotation. Sometimes, that is the first four paragraphs of the story, but other times I jump around in the story to get the particular aspect of law that I find interesting. Sometimes, I do make a comment – it may be in the headline or in a snarky comment at the bottom of the post.

Where possible, I try to add documents to the story. For instance, AP might report that Judge so-and-so has issued an order in a redistricting case. If it is a federal case, Pacer makes it easy to find the document I want, if I know the court and the name of the case.

However, reporters seem to think that the name of the case is not useful information. Would they review a book without telling us the name, mention a TV show without its name? No. But cases don’t seem to have names in journalism. (Big exception – the excellent reporting of Linda Greenhouse in the NY Times or Joan Biskupic in USA Today. I love quoting the two of them.)

3. Rob La Gatta: Your blog is at the “intersection of law and politics.” I’ve seen a couple of other blogs out there covering similar issues, but not many. Are you surprised that there aren’t more blogs focusing on this legal intersection?

Ed Still: I was the first blog focusing on these issues. There are about a half dozen now.

I am not really surprised. The number of lawyers in the whole country who handle election- or voting-related cases regularly enough to mention it on their resume or website would probably be outnumbered by the delegates at either of this year’s national party conventions. For all I know, we are outnumbered by the members of Congress.

4. Rob La Gatta: In terms of site visits, do you see upswing in traffic whenever national elections are in the near future?

Ed Still: I used to look at the stats regularly, but now I forget to log in to check them. I expect that things do pick up around elections, but true legal-political junkies are going to be hunting for a good campaign finance story in the middle of an off-year.

5. Rob La Gatta: You’ve been blogging for a while. What is the most challenging and the most rewarding element of maintaining a blog?

Ed Still: Just doing it is sometimes hard. Sometimes, my personal life, or my teaching schedule, or my law practice (my “real job” ) push blogging aside. Other times, I take a break in the middle of the day, read my email, and then blog about a lead or press release someone has sent me.

Rewards? I like it when folks say, “I read your blog.” They don’t even have to add “all the time” for me to feel good. I also like it when I get a call from a reporter in another region of the country who calls for a quote about something strange happening in an election. I hope those folks become regular readers.

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