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FindLaw blogs an embarrassment to the legal profession

January 6, 2010

FindLaw BlogsWest Publishing, founded in 1872 in St. Paul, Minnesota by John West, has been one of, if not the, most prominent legal publishers in the United States for over a century.

West established itself as the nationwide de facto standard used by all federal courts and most state courts for the reporting of legal decisions. The company published countless legal treatises authored by the leading legal scholars of our time. Black’s Law Dictionary published by West and the first law book I bought in law school, had a place in every courtroom and law office the entire time I practiced law.

But boy has West Publishing, now part of Thomson Reuters, fallen. West, under the FindLaw brand, is now publishing spam law blogs full of little more than mindless crap, all in the name of selling Internet marketing services to unknowing lawyers. Shameless.

West’s slide has come with the roll up of West into what’s now known as the global legal division of Toronto based Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters (then known as Thomson) purchased West in 1996 and consolidated West and a number of other law book companies into what became know as Thomson West. In 2001, Thomson West acquired, a free legal information web portal, founded by Stacy Stern and Tim Stanley. Thomson Reuters – West – FindLaw, however they may be now branded, make up this global legal division of Thomson Reuters.

As way of background, spam blogs are blog sites with inauthentic text or or text merely stolen or paraphrased (blog scraping) from other websites. The purpose of such a blog is to get high google search results in order to sell ads on the spam blog or to link to other websites in an attempt to improve the search engine performance of the site being linked to so you may sell ads or services on this second site.

Spam blogs are the rage among two bit scheme artists out hustling a buck. Unfortunately West, under the FindLaw brand, has become one these two bit scheme artists.

Let’s look at one of FindLaw’s new law blogs, The New York Personal Injury Law Blog, and in particular a blog post about a fatal auto crash reported by WCBS News in New York. The blog post is authored by a Emily Grube, a writing specialist, not a lawyer. Grube also authors other spam blogs for FindLaw.

In this blog post FindLaw regurgitates the facts of a local accident, including listing the names of four people killed in the accident. The post goes on to strategically link keywords related to the law, injury, lawyer, and New York to web pages in the FindLaw Internet directory in which lawyers buy listings and ads.

Grube then has the gall to write if you’ve suffered a personal injury you can contact a New York personal injury lawyer, of course linking the text ‘personal injury lawyer’ to FindLaw’s directory. The post does not allow for comments, nor is there any attempt at creativity or analysis.

Imagine scraping the names of four of someone’s loved ones killed in an accident from a news website story for a blog post so you can use the term ‘wrongful death.’ Your goal being to link the term ‘wrongful death’ to a FindLaw website page where people may search for injury lawyers who pay to pay to be in the FindLaw directory. Ambulance chasing at its worst. But FindLaw did it.

Imagine scraping the names of four of someone’s loved ones killed in an accident from a news website story for a blog post so you can say ‘can still sue that man’s estate.’ Your goal being to link the phrase ‘can still sue that man’s estate’ (also done in the subject post) to a FindLaw website page where people may search for probate lawyers who pay to be in the FindLaw directory. Disgusting. But FindLaw did it.

There’s even more garbage in this FindLaw spam blog. Look in the about section in the right hand column where out of 97 words 37 words are keywords related to New York and injury law. It takes a real ‘writing specialist’ to write crap like this:

The New York Personal Injury Law Blog covers news and developments in the area of personal injury and tort law in New York state, and New York City specifically, and helps to connect people with New York injury lawyers. The New York Personal Injury Law Blog is intended to serve as a resource for people working through a personal injury issue in New York, or those who are interested in New York personal injury and tort law generally, including New York personal injury attorneys who wish to keep up with the latest news developments.

I’m not alone in my criticism of FindLaw. Leading New York Attorney Eric Turkewitz labels the blog publishers on spam blogs, and in this case FindLaw’s blogs, as dreck-bloggers. (dreck defined as “excrement; dung”)

[They] aren’t interested in creating good content, they simply regurgitate local accident or arrest stories and place a call-to-action link at the bottom. Posts are filled with buzzwords to game Google that, if coupled with the call-to-action for a recent event, places them firmly in the camp of Solicitation 2.0, a subject I dealt with two years ago. Put bluntly, many of these dung-blogs are electronically soliciting clients. E-chasing, for lack of a better word.

Widely respected blogger and New York Attorney, Scott Greenfield, commenting on FindLaw’s blogs:

These aren’t blogs, of course, in the sense that we understand them. There are mere names designed to trade in on search engine keywords, and capitalize on FindLaw’s SEO ability to get their scam blogs higher than yours on the search engine’s first page.

San Diego Attorney Marc Randazza asked ‘FindLaw, are you really that douchetastic?’

They hired a milquetoast writer to author a milquetoast blawg for the sole purpose of selling ad space to sh*tty lawyers who can’t develop a reputation on their own.

FindLaw’s conduct is beneath everything we have the right to expect from companies serving the legal profession. Rather than conduct itself in a way that improves the image of lawyers and upholds the dignity of our profession, FindLaw gets down in the gutter so it can sell marketing services to lawyers who have not a clue what FindLaw is doing to trash our profession. A profession in which West Publishing once played a proud role.

Boy has a first class legal publishing company once held in esteem by lawyers, judges, and law schools fallen. All in the name of greed.

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