As a result of poor publishing practices, law firms are inadvertently hurting lawyers and the law.
The influence of their lawyers is at risk, if not severely diminished, and the advancement of the law is curtailed.
How so? Through a combination of sloppy digital publishing practices and not recognizing the role law blogs and their blogging lawyers play in both the advancement of the law and the administration of justice itself.
Law blogs have achieved the status of secondary law, sitting equal to or even ahead of law reviews and law journals.
Blogs have democratized legal publishing. Practicing lawyers, usually with niche expertise, who never published in law reviews and journals are regularly sharing their insight in blogs. Areas of law never covered before are being covered by lawyers with deep expertise obtained by practicing law.
Blogs are routinely being cited — by blogs, in social media, in law review and law journal articles, in briefs and memorandums and by courts at the trial and appellate level. In just fifteen years, blogs have become part of legal dialogue and the administration of justice.
Each time a blog is cited, the relevant post is linked to. The blogging lawyer is routinely cited and linked to as well.
With each citation, the blog’s influence and the influence of the blogging lawyer is increased. Geometrically over time.
Influence not measured subjectively, but objectively by machines and algorithms. Think search engines, legal research solutions and artificial intelligence applications.
Sounds promising until you get to the publishing practices of many law firms.
- Blogging lawyer leaves a firm and the lawyer’s name is removed from all blogs, and often replaced with the firm’s name. The parties who have cited the post and the lawyer are embarrassed when people go the citation through the link and the authority (the lawyer) is absent. Citations will dry up up as people are not going to cite a post without the authority. The lawyer’s influence takes a big hit with citations going away and search tools and social media no longer seeing the lawyer as an authority via their posts at the firm.
- Blog posts are removed when a lawyer leaves a firm. Immediate dead link from all citations and again the lawyer’s influence takes a big hit.
- Blogs are taken down altogether when a lawyer leaves. All citations gone, the lawyer’s body of work is destroyed and the lawyer’s influence takes a huge hit.
- Law firms move their blogs from one website solution to another, often software solutions not designed for legal blogging and run by web development companies not proficient in blog publishing. Url’s are destroyed, thus destroying all the citations and measures of influence for the lawyers.
I say inadvertent as I don’t believe law firms are trying to damage the influence of their lawyers and their careers nor impede the advancement of the law or the administration of justice. But it’s happening and law firm publishing practices are the reason.
Time, an open discussion about law firm publishing practices and uniform linking and citations, likely through WordPress, will correct things – or at least reduce the problem.
Law firms will not want to be know for being a firm that does not enable lawyers to grow their influence and career while publishing at the firm while other firms do. They won’t to be known for impeding the advancement of the law or the administration of justice. They’ll also not want to be known as not being tech savvy enough to run or select a proper publishing solution.
This issue is a serious one. I spoke this week with one of the authorities at the Library Innovation Lab at Harvard Law School working on Perma.cc. Recognizing the gravity of broken links in the law and the sheer number of them, Perma.cc has developed a service that helps scholars, courts and others create web citation links that will never break. We talked about systems and solutions to reduce and prevent link rot (broken citations) in more legal blogs.
Fifteen years ago, most could not have foreseen the need for uniform practices for legal blog publishing. But the day has come to begin work on it.