Friday, 10 January 2014

Adam Wagner, David Allen Green and Andrew Sullivan on Legal Blogging

Non-law blogger Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) is the founder and editor of the blog The Dish (@dishfeed). He is venerated for his writing and thinking and regarded as the pre-eminent online journalist of the 21st Century. He explained what blogging is to him here, and that blogging has enormous depth:
"My own approach is I'm just a thinking out loud person. I'm a conservative who is attacking [George] Bush which is putting me in a strange position. The limitation of a blog is that it has to be instant; which means it can't be a terribly considered judgement. But it's also deep because you can have hyperlinks that link the reader to original sources and original texts. So readers, unlike TV, or even unlike newspapers, readers can look at my opinion and then they can go to the original source and make their own mind up. That is enormous depth."
Read Andrew Sullivan in full here.

Legal blogger, tweeter, human rights barrister, founding editor of the UK Human Rights Blog and "very definition of a modern full-service barrister" Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) explained the power of legal blogging during his representation to Lord Brian Leveson here:
"The primary reason UKHRB was set up was to act as a corrective to bad journalism about human rights, and in under two years it has become a trusted source of information for journalists, politicians, those government and members of the public. UKHRB operates alongside a number of other excellent legal blogs, run by lawyers, students and enthusiasts for free, which provide a similar service in respect of other areas of law. I would highlight, for example:
a. Nearly Legal housing law blog;
b. UK Supreme Court Blog;
c. Inforrm- media law;
d. The Small Places - social welfare law;
e. Head of Legal - general legal commentary
f. Human Rights in Ireland
g. Law Think
h. Jack of Kent
i. Charon QC
j. Pink Tape - family law commentary by barrister Lucy Reed
k. Eutopia Law
I. Panopticon Blog 
Human rights is an example of an area of law which is often misrepresented by the mainstream press. This can be the result of a lack of legal expertise amongst journalists, but also represents some newspapers’ editorial positions which are if not anti-human rights, then certainly anti-Human Rights Act. It is no coincidence, in my opinion, that the Human Rights Act is also widely considered to have bolstered privacy rights and as such threatens the celebrity news-driven business model of most newspapers."
Adam Wagner in full here.

David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) (@JackofKent) is a media lawyer, journalist and blogger, named by Nick Cohen as "one of the best bloggers in Britain." In his representations to Lord Brian Leveson, David Allen Green gave an elementary analysis of what blogging is. He said:

"The elements of speed and self-publication in blogging make it, in my view, akin to pamphleteering... blogging is akin to pamphleteering, then it is pamphleteering with electronic footnotes."
David Allen Green began blogging in 2007 when he started his personal blog, Jack of Kent on law and policy. He is also the media correspondent at the Lawyer, latterly blogged for The New Statesman and recently joined The Financial Times as law and policy blogger. I wrote about that development here and explained that this marked a landmark moment for the new age lawyer. He was also short listed for the Orwell prize for his blogging in 2010 and long-listed in 2012. David Allen Green was also awarded "Mainstream Media Blogger of the Year" at the 2013 Comment Awards.
David Allen Green proves that the default lawyer position of "no risk, no comment" is totally at variance and at odds with a 21st Century world and legal economy. He explained legal blogging further to Lord Brian Leveson:
"I am one of a number of legal bloggers (not all of whom are practicing lawyers) who promote the public understanding of law. Whilst we are careful never to provide legal advice, and always are mindful of any duties to the court and to any client, we use blogs to provide useful legal information and to direct people to original material.
David Allen Green explained the value, influence and power of legal blogging:
"From spring 2008 to spring 2010 Jack of Kent became popular for its detailed and accessible coverage of the libel claim brought against Simon Singh by the British Chiropractic Association.
There was intense interest around the world in this case, especially in the scientific community, but no sources of reliable information and I was able to provide a responsible and informative commentary on the case, including links and the reproduction of materials, and also to host discussions as to where the case should go at certain set-backs. Those posts have been credited by Dr Singh’s solicitor and others as providing the basis for how support in that case was converted to a libel reform campaign which led to all three major parties committing to libel reform at the last general election."
David Allen Green pointed out other legal bloggers and the important role they play:
"One leading legal blogger engaged in correcting media misrepresentations of legal matters is the barrister Adam Wagner. He and others at the UK Human Rights Blog provide an especially useful service in scrutinising bad "human rights" stories in the mainstream media.
Also highly regarded in this respect is former government lawyer Carl Gardner, who covers bad reporting of public law stories. The media law blog INFORRM provides detailed and sceptical coverage of how the media portray media law issues."
David Allen Green explained how bloggers can gain credibility - through peer approval:
"The success of a blog will therefore tend over time to depend on quality of content and approval by peer review... As with blogging, there is a significant but informal form of peer approval and self-regulation on Twitter."
He explained the value and power of hyper-links, as Andrew Sullivan did here:
"Blogging also tends to have a number of other qualities which distinguishes it from other forms of media activity... There is the feature which - in my opinion - makes blogging sometimes stronger as a medium than any print journalism, and that is linking. Blogs can easily link to other sites.
This means that in terms of original source material, a blogger can link to, say, a government report, a scientific paper, or a case report as an authority for the point being contended.
And in terms of commentary or debate, a blogger can link to the webpage being criticised or commended, whether it be a mainstream media site or another personal blog.
Links make blogging an incredibly powerful tool for both blogger and reader for testing claims made about materials on other websites. If blogging is akin to pamphleteering, then it is pamphleteering with electronic footnotes."
There is an important etiquette in independent blogging of acknowledgment of others (or "hat-tipping") which is not often shared by the mainstream media."
David Allen Green explained the value of mainstream blogging:
"Bloggers and others in social media are willing and able to call out media excesses and bad journalism. The reaction is immediate and can be brutally frank. They are sometimes wrong, as are formal regulators. But they can take time and allow the media to produce better, more well-informed stories." 
  • Conclusion
Law blogs, legal blogging and legal bloggers are now mainstream. Part of the online furniture. As ubquitous as the teen fashion blogger. If someone is looking for valuable legal insight, they go to blogs, not law reviews. As Adam Liptak (@adamliptak), Supreme Court Reporter for the New Times said:
"The judge, lawyer or ordinary reader looking for accessible and timely accounts or critiques of legal developments is much better off turning to the many excellent law blogs."
LexBlog editor Kevin O'Keefe has written many times of the rise of the law blog and demise of the law review, including here and here. In The Atlantic Magazine, Walter Olsen actively called for the end of law reviews in favour of easy web publishing here. Even John Roberts of the US Supreme Court is sceptical about law reviews. The Chief Justice told judges last year here:
"Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, or something."
The reality is that the penetration of blogs and new media remains low among lawyers. The history is here, it's just not evenly distributed. And for lawyers, it's just not evenly accepted or welcomed. For those lawyers who still push back against blogging and new media, you have to ask as Richard Susskind asked here: "Why would lawyers not want to use that kind of technique? Why would law firms not want to use the latest, the most effective and the best techniques?" These are exciting times to be a lawyer, just not a traditional lawyer. That's why Richard Susskind is right to label those lawyers who reject technology as "irrational rejectionists."
This blog post originally appeared on Defero Law here.

Further Reading
I've written many times on legal blogging including on one lawyer who said that blogging makes him a better lawyer here, the editor of Legal Cheek talked about legal blogging here, legal bloggers can learn from non-legal bloggers here. I also reported that US law firms with blogs grow faster, see here. My blog post on understanding blogging here. The blog is the home of the modern lawyer here. Andrew Sullivan on how blogging has enormous depth here. UK legal blogger was cited in High Court judgement here. The state of legal blogging via Brian Inkster here. Why you need to blog with Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias here. Separation of blog from website here. Why lawyers can't blog here. Scientists use social media and blogs and so should lawyers, here.

My post for Legal Tech here, 'Legal Blogging: Understanding the Form.' My blog on Defero Law on 'blog versus blog post' here and on the lessons we can learn from non-law bloggers here.

Richard Susskind on the lawyer's pushback against technology and new media herehere and on the lawyer's email hysteria here. John Cooper QC on the lawyer's adoption of new media here.

Adam Wagner, "the very definition of a modern lawyer", gives his take on social media and blogging here.

My blog post on David Allen Green's move to the FT here. My post on his take on social media regulation here.

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