Academic journal article Journal of Appellate Practice and Process

Legal and Appellate Weblogs: What They Are, Why You Should Read Them, and Why You Should Consider Starting Your Own

Academic journal article Journal of Appellate Practice and Process

Legal and Appellate Weblogs: What They Are, Why You Should Read Them, and Why You Should Consider Starting Your Own

Article excerpt

Most appellate judges and attorneys are familiar with at least some of the ways in which the Internet has affected legal practice in the last several years. Many appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, post their opinions on their own websites, on which many of them also allow attorneys to access their dockets sheets and other information. The major electronic legal research tools can be used via the Internet. And many law firms have set up their own websites.

However, there is a relatively recent Internet-related development with which many judges and attorneys may not be familiar--law-related weblogs. (1) Weblogs are often referred to as "blogs" (or, in the case of law-related weblogs, "blawgs") and the people who set up and maintain weblogs are called "bloggers." The purpose of this article is to introduce readers to weblogs and to encourage judges and attorneys to read them and to consider setting up their own.

WHAT IS A WEBLOG?

An accurate but incomplete answer is that a weblog is a kind of website. Like other websites, to get access to one, all you have to do is type in the web address. Like other websites, you can find them by using major search engines like Yahoo! and Google.

What distinguishes weblogs from other websites is the way in which they present information. Weblogs are generally in a diary format--that is, in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top and with the date of each entry indicated on the weblog. The entries, known as posts, vary widely in frequency. Some bloggers add new material to their weblogs several times a day. Others may add new material only every few weeks.

One way to describe bloggers would be to characterize them as the Samuel Pepys of the Internet. (2) Like Pepys, webloggers frequently comment on the events of the day--both large and small. Also like Pepys, webloggers, especially the more popular ones, can achieve a kind of fame as a result of their online "diaries." (3) Indeed, in a very seventeenth-century-meets-twenty-first-century kind of phenomenon, someone has even set up a weblog that presents Pepys's 350-year-old diary in weblog format, perhaps enhancing even his fame as a diarist. (4)

Weblogs range in style from quite formal and impersonal to quite informal and personal. The weblog of one of the authors, Statutory Construction Zone, (5) is toward the formal end of the spectrum, focusing primarily on recent federal statutory construction cases. The posts cover two-week periods, and present the information in a format that is similar for each two-week period: first, a quotation of the week, then in-depth summaries of recent cases, brief summaries of other cases, a law-review article recommendation, and a pre-1789 English common-law trivia question.

At the other end of the spectrum are weblogs like blueblanketblog, (6) which is run by the other author of this article. There is no rigid structure for the posts on this weblog, and they are much more personal in nature. The posts range in topic from reports from Supreme Court oral arguments and recent environmental law opinions to descriptions of vacations or outings to clubs to hear indie rock bands.

WHY SHOULD I READ WEBLOGS?

Weblogs can be interesting, informative, and timely. They can supply information from other weblogs that is impossible to obtain elsewhere. They can act as filters for cases and legal developments of interest to a specialized audience. They can provide perspectives that readers are unlikely to get anywhere else and often provide them more quickly than would be possible or practical with other media. E-mail and the comment system used on many weblogs allow readers to interact with academics and practitioners who would otherwise be inaccessible to them. And best of all, they are free.

WHICH WEBLOGS MIGHT INTEREST ME?

First, a caveat. There are thousands of weblogs out there. More are being added every day. …

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