What makes a blog worth reading? What makes a blog worthy of an award? The ABA apparently knows, and last year I was fortunate to find myself in great company after being selected for the ABA Journal Blawg 100. From what I recall, I got the least votes in my category. Darn. This year, I was not surprised when I failed to make the cut. Oh well. Regardless, I was pleased to see some great criminal justice blogs in the line-up.
Mark Bennett’s Defending People has had a serious impact on my approach to the practice of law. His writing, his approach to issues, and his posts about jury selection in particular have made me a better lawyer for having stumbled upon his blog years ago. Anonymous Sarah’s Preaching to the Choir is another great read and often an excellent source of thought-provoking analysis, Mark Pryor’s D.A. Confidential is hands-down the best thing on the internet written by a prosecutor, Jamison Koehler’s Koehler Law is always enjoyable, and Matt Kaiser’s Federal Criminal Appeals Blog transcends the category of blog into a legitimate resource for learning about new developments in federal law. I’m still a little irritated about the field, however, and my issue is really two-fold.
First, I’m not sure what to make of Crime & Consequences. I read it, but the description at the ABA about it being good news for anyone who believes people are responsible for their own actions (and presumably deserve whatever nonsense our broken system wants to hand out in disproportionate measure to the poor and the non-white) rubs me the wrong way. This post only makes it worse, complaining about “a fat majority of criminal law blogs” picking on poor little cops when one nice one gave a guy a pair of shoes. What I got from the story and the ensuing publicity for the officer was the impression that things were worse than I thought. Defense blogs focus on police misconduct because most people mull about like good little sheep in fear of our uniformed overlords. There are great ones out there, but how bad must cops be in general for one to earn a spot on the Today Show for giving out a free pair of shoes? And every year we give them more and more laws to use to put us behind bars? It seems like the blog is a well-spun news feed about people getting screwed.
Second, I can’t figure out why on earth Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice doesn’t win every single year. I love reading many of the other blogs, but having the ABA include Simple Justice in the list and it not win is like creating an annual “ABA Newspaper 100” and ranking the New York Times behind the Murray Ledger & Times. Sure, I loved Kenny Darnell’s newest column entitled “Where, oh where, did the big deer go?” as much as the next guy, but it isn’t really comparing apples to apples (even if you throw in outdoor columnist Jerry Maupin’s recent article, “Tips for finding the shad baitfish,” which is a must-read for any angler). I don’t want to disparage any of the other blogs, which are all deserving of accolades, but Simple Justice is a monumental achievement. Creating a separate Hall of Fame in which it is included seems to me like a subtle acknowledgment that there’s a serious problem with the main event.
Along the same line, it doesn’t make sense to me Jeff Gamso at Gamso – For the Defense has never been on the list. If he quit writing, we would all be worse off. I wrote the most glowing recommendation I could for him this year (which still probably doesn’t do justice to the work he does), yet he didn’t make the list. I was thrilled to see Eric Mayer’s hilarious and informative Unwashed Advocate and Jordan Rushie and Leo M. Mulvihill, Jr.’s highly entertaining Philly Law Blog included, but where is Paul Kennedy’s consistently great The Defense Rests or Brian Tannebaum’s My Law License or Criminal Defense? That Above the Law, with its endless source of comments from an army of the dumbest our nation’s law schools are capable of pumping out and a vast archive of stock photos of attractive young women’s cleavage, would make the cut and also gain a spot in the hall of fame while its most insightful writer’s separate personal writings saw no such success highlights the problem with the whole affair.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten plenty of people who deserve an award, but that’s really the root the problem. Why on earth is the legal profession so obsessed with meaningless awards and rankings? Every week I receive unsolicited glossy magazines touting the best of this and the best of that. Every day I get emails about some new competition or some new list of the supposed best of the best. Have I ever sent a client to someone I found through one of those sources? Of course not. Have I referred appropriate cases to people I’ve come to respect through their impressive body of work online? You bet.
The internet is a great thing. There’s content out there. For many of the people I’ve mentioned and countless others, there’s enough out there to see that they’re excellent writers, smart people, and likely fine lawyers. Silly little lists and rankings, even when they come from me in a post like this or from big time places like the ABA, are no substitute for taking the time to become familiar with a lawyer’s work.
So who’s the fairest of them all? Well, it depends. What do you want? No list is going to tell you, not even mine. Read them all and decide for yourself, because even the combination of my blogroll, everyone else’s blogroll, and best efforts of the ABA don’t do the blogosphere justice.
Filed under: Marketing · Tags: ABA Journal Blawg 100, criminal defense, defending people, defense rests, gamso, hall of fame, internet, koehler law, my law license, philly law blog, popularity contest, preaching to the choir, simple justice, unwashed advocate