The end of the year is a time for awards and lists. I have decided to announce the initial version of Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Blogging Awards, which I have nicknamed the Blawggies. The name Blawggie is based on the well-known word “blawg” coined by Denise Howell and often used when referring to legal blogs.
I have seen a number of blogging awards based on popular vote. In each case, I’ve seen candidates for the awards all but begging for their readers to vote early and often.
The Blawggies are not based on any popular votes, surveys or scientific measures. They are highly-opinionated choices made by me, based on my experience, expertise and likes and dislikes.
In general, I like to see blogs (1) consistently useful content, (2) a generous and helpful approach, and (3) a combination of commitment and talent. In other words, I like blogs that compel me to read them on a regular basis. I read almost all blog posts in a newsreader these days, so the awards will reflect a bias toward blogs with full-text RSS feeds as well as all of my other biases and personal preferences.
Here are the 2004 winners and runners-up for each category in the Dennis Kennedy Legal Blogging Awards.
1. Best Overall Legal Blog.
Winner: BeSpacific.com – Sabrina Pacifici
Runner-up: Inter-Alia.Net – Tom Mighell
Comments: I can’t even count the number of conversations I had in 2004 with other legal bloggers where the question of “what is the best legal blog” came up. The overwhelming consensus was that Sabrina Pacifici’s BeSpacific.com was not only first on the list, but it was first by a wide margin. We all admire Sabrina’s professionalism, hard work and consistently excellent content. Tom Mighell’s Inter-Alia.Net receives second place in 2004. I usually tell bloggers-to-be to look at Tom’s blog to get a good idea of how to post quality content on a regular basis. Inter-Alia.Net provides a steady stream of useful information and Tom’s generosity in mentioning the blogs of others is unparalleled.
2. Best Practice-Specific Legal Blog.
Winner: The Trademark Blog – Martin Schwimmer
Runner-up: George’s Employment Blawg – George Lenard
Comments: Any lawyer or firm thinking about starting a blog would be well-advised to study each of these blogs. Marty Schwimmer covers trademark law with an excellent eye for relevant content and his trademarked wit. The Trademark Blog is a great example of a way lawyers can speak in a plain voice to both a legal and non-legal audience in an engaging way. He’s so good that most of us don’t even blog about trademark developments because we know Marty will do it better. George Lenard has developed a great plain-spoken style and filled the George’s Employment Blawg with lots of useful information designed to help readers deal with real-world issues. It’s another model that bloggers in other practice areas should study carefully.
3. Best New Legal Blogger.
Winner: The [Non]billable Hour – Matt Homan
Runner-up: LawTech Guru – Jeff Beard
Comments: With a variety of innovative approaches and consistently useful content, Matt Homann not only made us think, but he also exploded onto the legal blog scene in 2004. He is one of the few legal bloggers to have posts consistently picked up outside the legal blogosphere. His Five by Fives and other features have raised the bar for the types of content that should be expected from legal bloggers. If Jeff Beard wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about starting his blog, he would have been a 2003 blog rather than a 2004 blog. In this case, the blog was worth the wait. LawTech Guru gives us a steady stream of Jeff’s useful reviews and helpful insights into the application of technology and business principles to the practice of law.
4. Best Legal Blog Sectors
Winner: The Intellectual Property Blogs
Runner-up: Legal Tech and Law Practice Management Blogs
Comments: There are some subject matter areas of legal blogging that are especially strong. It makes it difficult to single out one blog. In 2004, no category of legal blogs was stronger than the intellectual property law blogs. You can easily find twenty excellent blogs and these blogs have played influential roles in proposed legislation and driving the discussion of intellectual property issues. The other category is a category that can be loosely termed “law practice management” blogs. These blogs range from the previously-mentioned LawTech Guru to Adam Smith, Esq. to knowledge management blogs to MyShingle.com to my own blog. In both of these categories, you will find consistently useful and topical information, provided by bloggers with the ability to explain complex ideas and new concepts in plain language.
5. Funniest Legal Blogs
Winner: Notes from the (Legal) Underground – Evan Schaeffer
Runner-up: Anonymous Lawyer – Jeremy Blachman
Comments: Both of these bloggers would be in the running for a hardest-working blogger award, since they both author multiple blogs. Evan has been able to sustain a consistent high level of humor all throughout 2004. Jeremy, who recently decided to reveal his identity, is much more inconsistent than Evan, but delivered some good laughs at the expense of big firms. I personally think it was a mistake for Jeremy to give up the anonymity and wonder whether it will prove to be the end of his blog, but he didn’t ask my opinion.
6. Best Legal Blogging Experts
Winners (tie): Dennis Kennedy, Tom Mighell
Runners-up (tie): Kevin O’Keefe, Jerry Lawson
Comments: I know that I named myself, but, darn it, I really get this blogging thing, or, more so, the RSS feed piece of the blogging thing. Tom Mighell is my main “go to” person on blogging because his level of knowledge and understanding impresses the heck out of me. If you ever get the chance to hear Tom speak, you should make sure that you take advantage of the opportunity. Another blogging expert I bounce ideas off of is Kevin O’Keefe at LexBlog. Kevin is one of the lawyers who pioneered the use of the Internet and I’ve respected his opinions for years. We have slightly different approaches to blogging based on our histories of using the Internet, so I always learn something from his perspective and his insights. Jerry Lawson is the guru on everything related to the use of the Internet by lawyers. He’s been busy on other things most of this year or he’d have probably walked away with this award.
7. Best Legal Blog Trends
Winner: Group Blogs
Runner-up: Law Librarian Blogs
Comments: The Blawg Channel is a good example, but 2004 saw the appearance of a number of group blogging experiments by both new bloggers and long-time bloggers. I like this trend because it offers the potential providing better content to a bigger audience and may open up revenue opportunities. The law librarian blogs also demonstrated once again how the content management skills, professionalism and generosity of librarians translate so well on the Internet.
8. Legal Blog Trends to Avoid
Winner: Flashy Entry/Quick Exit Blogs
Runner-up: Who Am I Blogs
Comments: I can almost predict which new legal blogs will last for any significant length of time. There is generally an inverse relationship at play: the splashier and noisier the launch, the quicker the fade into silence, especially if law firms are launching a blog strictly for marketing purposes. A shocking percentage of legal blogs do not last longer than a month or two. Blogging is hard work, especially if you don’t have a good understanding of what you are getting into. I’d like to see more blogs launched with at least a one-year survival plan. The second trend I’d like to see more people avoid is the “cleverly named” blog approach, often where it is difficult to determine who is the author or how to contact the author. For better or worse, people know who is the author of my blog. I occasionally have exchanges of email with people who I only later learn are the authors of blogs I read. Blog naming reminds me of the early days of Compuserve, AOL and the Internet where people used nicknames for email addresses. Using a clever name can cause all kinds of issues as time goes on.
9. Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Ernie the Attorney – Ernest Svenson
Bag and Baggage – Denise Howell
Comments: Most of us would not be blogging if not for the inspiration Ernest and Denise gave us and the models and standards they created for good blogging. Many of us would also not be blogging well if not for the actual advice and help that Ernest and Denise routinely and generously give to people. They’ve been clearing the path and leading the way for a long time. It’s easy to take them for granted as we flit from new blog to new blog, but the Blawggies do not take them for granted.
And there they are – the 2004 Blawggies. The cool thing about blogging is that if you don’t like them, you can create your own and post them today. I don’t mind if you do. The point, after all, is to recognize and publicize those who are doing the best work and bring the ones you are not familiar with to your attention and, I hope, the ones I am not familiar with to my attention.
Onward to 2005, when legal bloggers will really rock the legal world. I guarantee that.