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What have law blogs wrought us?

January 13, 2014

20140113-223942.jpg Author, wealth management professional, and TV commentator, Barry Ritholtz (@ritholtz), had an interesting post on Bloomberg this morning regarding the impact financial blogs have had on the financial community — on markets, investing and financial journalism.

Consider the five factors that financial blogs have wrought us, writes Ritholtz. Near identical to the impact that law blogs have had on the legal community – on dialogue, citation, and legal journalism.

1. Loosened the grip of traditional players on legal information and news.

Go back 10 years and we got all legal news from traditional media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Law Journal, Lawyers Weekly, and bar association publications.

Areas of the law not covered before are now covered via blogs. In-house counsel even find blogs written by lawyers more credible than a blog written by a member of the traditional media. 53% of in-house counsel are even influenced by those blogs when hiring.

Items which traditional media may have been reluctant to cover for fear of offending large advertisers and sponsors are now blogged. If lawyers and other legal professionals believe something in the traditional media is nonsense, they’ll call it out on a blog. Look no further than the wildly popular, Above the Law.

2. Created a meritocracy.

The readership of a blog is a function of the quality of its author’s thought process and writing skills. You cannot “buy” your way into page views and exposure. Sure, there are search-engine optimization and clickbait blogs written by hired hands, but they become obvious to readers. There are currently thousands of good law blogs being read and relied on by consumers, small business people, and in-house counsel.

3. Allow for the faster and wider spread of information (and misinformation), commentary and analysis.

Items of impropriety, whether safety violations by companies or police/governmental misconduct, will be exposed and have a much longer shelf-life because of reporting and discussion on law blogs. Look at China Law Blog by Dan Harris, Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice, Ken White’s Popehat, or Bill Marler’s FSN (Food Safety News) as examples. There are many more lawyers sinking their teeth into matters, via blogging, that never saw the light of day before.

4. Forced accountability and humility on the mainstream press.

Traditional media paid little attention to bloggers ten years ago. If a reporter disagreed with something a law blogger wrote, dismissing same may have been as simple as “He’s just a blogger.” I was told by a journalism school head eight years ago that they sure weren’t going to expose their students to things like blogs, including law blogs, where people just go on the Internet to whine and complain.

Now the mainstream is calling law bloggers as expert sources and quoting law bloggers’ posts, giving full attribution and linkage.

5. Democratized legal debate and diaologue.

The entire circle of legal professionals who cover and advance the law through legal dialogue has been democratized. Until blogs, discussion was driven by those writing in legal journals, law reviews, legal periodicals, and association publications.

No more. A blogging lawyer, without an “accepted pedigree,” can report, opine, and drive discussion. In many cases, legal editors and publishers have been totally disintermediated.

The wild thing is that we are just getting started. Five years from now lawyers will be as adept at using WordPress to disseminate their insight as they are at using Word today. The mainstream media and legal publishers could possibly be playing the role of a curator and editor, as opposed to the principal creators of news and insight.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Maria Reyes McDavis

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