Blogging

It’s tough being the managing partner of Bigg & Mediocre. All of the hard issues land on my desk. We’ve hired a new Chief Marketing Officer, and this guy recommends that we launch some firm-branded blogs. Press reports say that 94 percent of the AmLaw 100 plan to use blogs as part of their marketing efforts. I guess I have to make a decision; what should we do?

I’ve never actually visited a legal blog. I’ve certainly never subscribed to a good one (if there is such a thing, which I doubt). Someone once sent me a link to something called “Above the Law,” but that was just a post discussing our year-end bonuses.

To blog or not to blog: What’s a managing partner to do?

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It’s hard to believe that another year has passed, but here we are. It’s December 31st, New Year’s Eve. The weather is turning cold, the Republican presidential contest is heating up, and it’s time to review this year’s biggest stories on Above the Law.

Consistent with past practice, we will refrain from offering our subjective judgments on the most important stories of the year. Instead, just as we did back in 2010 and 2009, we’ll identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of our friends at Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2011, based on traffic.

In terms of overall topics, the most popular category page for the year was Law Schools, for the second year in a row. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the year was an eventful one for the legal academy. It would be fair to describe 2011 as an annus horribilis for the law school world, with various forces laying siege to the ivory tower. The attackers include not just unemployed lawyers turned scambloggers, but the mainstream media, led by David Segal of the New York Times; plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have already sued several law schools (and have announced plans to sue at least 15 more in 2012); and even a tenured law professor calling for reform (Paul Campos, currently in the lead for 2011 Lawyer of the Year).

The second most-popular category at ATL: Biglaw. Although we’ve expanded our small-firm and in-house coverage dramatically here at Above the Law, adding multiple columnists in each space, our coverage of large law firms still draws major traffic and drives discussions.

Now, on to the ten most popular individual posts on Above the Law in 2011….

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Thoreau admonished us that we cannot “kill time without injuring eternity.” But what did he know? That proto-hippie pond-fetishist could not have imagined today’s world, where our collective attention spans have shriveled to goldfish levels and so much actual productive white-collar labor can be, to an observer, indistinguishable from simply loitering in front of a computer screen. Unless someone is looking over your shoulder, nobody knows whether you’re on PACER or playing Angry Birds.

We asked you, the ATL readership, where you turn for distraction when you don’t feel like billing or studying. The results of our research poll, after the jump….

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Herman Cain: Do you miss him yet?

* It’d be easy to say “a former Tea Party candidate posted about assassinating the President.” But it’s probably more accurate to say a crazy, racist, loony person scrawled something naughty on Facebook and is now in trouble. [Huffington Post]

* I’d like to buy this, and then use it to TP Herman Cain’s house while screaming, “It’s less complicated than your sex life!” [Tax Prof Blog]

* I wonder if, a generation from now, people will look back on Citizens United like Plessy v. Ferguson. Like, there will still be a few holdouts saying, “money is speech now, money is speech forever,” but most of society will have moved on to a more enlightened state. [Congressman John Yarmuth]

In my lifetime, Kobe has been one of the most fun players to not like.

* Maybe all we need is a simple Constitutional amendment clarifying that “only people are people.” Corporations are not people. Animals are not people. Artificially intelligent robots who one day rise up to threaten humanity’s existence are not people. [Miller-McCune]

* Oh, Kobe. When you beat a rape rap yet still have to publicly admit you bang hoteliers in Vail, you should just get divorced right then and there. No number of diamond nor championship rings is going to put that back together. She’s still going to kill you in the divorce, and all you’ve bought yourself is a few extra years of living with a woman who openly hates you. [L.A. Now via ABA Journal]

* You think bloggers suffer from group think too much? I vote for 2012 being the year when the mainstream media stops stealing story ideas from the blogs (without credit), and does some actual original reporting again. You know, like they are supposed to with their huge staffs and massive budgets. [What About Clients?]

* Someone figured out exactly what’s on every nerdy lawyer’s holiday wish list: an iPhone app for PACER. Get it while it’s hot — it’s free! [iTunes App Store]

* The First Amendment will always reign supreme, even if people are harassing religious old ladies on the Twitter. [Underdog]

* Legalizing same-sex marriage is like eating your vegetables. You might not like it, but it’s good for your health. [Jezebel]

* This is quite possibly the worst “bitch owed me money” story ever. What kind of a person sets a grandma on fire? In an elevator? [TIME]

* Thanks to technological innovations, friending people online might soon carry more meaning than friending them in real life. [What About Clients?]

* Go ahead, get up and tweet about the location of DUI checkpoints. Just make sure you take those 12 steps back to your seat when you’re done. [Legal Blog Watch]

* My birthday is on Wednesday. If you want to give me a present, you can vote for Above the Law in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100, under the “News” category. [ABA Journal]

How do you build a practice for a law firm?

Everyone has a theory; I’ll provide a case study.

In 1997, Congress was about to pass a law that would have been great for America, but horrific for business at the law firm at which I then worked. The firm thus (intelligently) created several committees to try to create new practices that could keep lawyers busy if the promised bill became law. I was asked to chair the “drug and device product liability business development committee.”

At the time, my firm did essentially no pharmaceutical product liability work. I’d helped to defend a set of medical device cases, which was about as close as anyone had come to actual experience in the pharmaceutical products field, so I was the natural choice to lead this effort. When given that assignment, what do you do? How do you build a practice essentially from scratch?

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Sometimes silence is golden.

The executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson — who once worked as a legal journalist, for Steve Brill at the American Lawyer — recently issued A Note to Our Readers About Comments, in which she explained various changes to the Times’s commenting system. We thought we’d follow in the Gray Lady’s footsteps and announce a tweak of our own to the Above the Law comments.

Comments and online anonymity are hot topics right now, both here and abroad (e.g., India). Writer Katie Roiphe just mused about the angry anonymous commenter. Privacy lawyer Christopher Wolf recently argued, in the New York Times, that websites should “consider requiring either the use of real names (or registration with the online service) in circumstances, such as the comments section for news articles, where the benefits of anonymous posting are outweighed by the need for greater online civility.” Many Times readers disagreed, defending the value and importance of anonymous speech online.

In light of these conflicting concerns — civility, privacy, free expression — let’s turn our attention to the ATL comments….

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Now THIS is a legal ad.

It’s easy to forget that lawyering is a business that requires a significant amount of advertising. Lawyers offer a service, and as many unemployed attorneys know, the profession includes lots of people doing essentially the same work. You have to find your customers to make it rain.

For more and more attorneys, blogging has become one part of an overall marketing strategy. Is law blogging always advertising? The Virginia State Bar seems to think so. Last month, it disciplined a small-firm attorney for not providing adequate advertising disclaimers on his blog.

Is the Bar, as Judge Richard Posner likes to say, being an ostrich? Is it sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the current technological paradigm — or is there a legitimate ethics concern here? Let’s see….

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I’m one this week! Happy birthday to me!

Though it feels like only yesterday, I published my first column at Above the Law on November 18, 2010. I’ve published two posts every week since then (except when Monday holidays excused my labors), so I’ve cranked out about 100 of these little ditties over the last 52 weeks.

I’m tired. But I’m one!

How can I celebrate?

It seems like a good day to reminisce. What did I do right over the last year? What did I do wrong? And what have you, my readers, contributed that I can share with the world on this, my happy day?

Let me tackle the issues in that order….

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* One of the reasons that members of Congress are so filthy rich is because they’re only technically breaking the law, but Scott Brown wants to try to curb Congressional “insider trading.” [CBS News]

* In other Congressional news, pizza is now considered a vegetable. And fat people the world over rejoiced by stuffing their faces and continuing to clog their arteries. But not me, because goddamn do I hate pizza. [MSNBC]

* MMA fighters sue, saying the ban on fighting in the state of New York is unconstitutional. If beating someone’s face in is an art form, then Anderson Silva is this generation’s Picasso. [New York Daily News]

Find out whose face the Spider should beat next, after the jump….

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