Blogging,  Legal Research

How Do You Use Legal Blogs?

NOTE: I am going to keep this post at the top of the blog for a few days, probably until the end of the week. New posts will appear below this one until then, so if you see this post at the top, scroll down to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

How would you like your name up in lights? Or at least mentioned in a presentation? I can’t promise either, but you have a shot at the latter if you respond to my call for assistance at the end of this post.

I am preparing a presentation for a section of the local bar on the use of blogs in legal research. This will be something like the presentation I gave to the Los Angeles County Bar Association Appellate Courts Committee, though there I emphasized my personal experience a great deal, which I intend to downplay on this occasion.

For the upcoming presentation, I’d like to have a better feel about how my readers use blogs in their practices — for research or otherwise.

Most of my non-subscription readers — at least on those days where I am not linked to or from another blog — appear to reach this blog through Google searches. The client inquiries I’ve received through the blog tend to be self-represented litigants, but the stats occasionally show Google hits from very large (“BigLaw”) firms (only the domains of large firms show up by name, typically), which suggests to me that these searches are being conducted by lawyers for research purposes.

I’m curious how these searches are being used. For example, is the search the first legal research step, akin to opening up Witkin for general background, or is it undertaken instead after an attorney is stumped on an issue and hopes to find some recent development that hasn’t made it into print?

I suspect some of the searches are to supplement Westlaw research. For example, if I find a case on Westlaw decided in the last month or so, I might Google it to see if other bloggers or commentators are discussing its implications. That, in turn, could help my own analysis of the case. The Google search terms usually give this away by incorporating the names of the parties.

Another use I know of is to find out if anyone is talking about YOUR case. I have had litigants contact me when I posted about their cases. One did so publicly in the comments. Another contacted me by e-mail. So I know that parties are out there looking.

In any event, I would very much appreciate comments from readers about how legal blogs have influenced or aided their research or practices. Anecdotes would be great. Broader comments about your habits are fine, too. Any background information about the nature of your practice and the blogs you follow would be helpful.

I prefer you make your remarks in a comment to this post rather than by e-mailing me. That way, after the presentation, I can refer the attendees to this blog post if they want to read your comments in detail.

Please note that by submitting information in response to this request, you are granting me permission for me to use all submitted information in the course of my presentation (which shouldn’t be a big deal, since you’re posting it publicly anyway, and might even get you some small amount of publicity). But if you want to leave an anonymous comment, that’s fine, too, and I will present it as such.

UPDATE (02/14/08): Thanks to the following for getting the word out about this post on their own blogs:


  • Mitchell Rubinstein

    Greg May over at the California Blog of Appeal is running an interesting posting entitled How Do You Use Legal Blogs? Greg is preparing for a presentation at a local California bar association.

    Personally, I do not separate internet research using Google from blog research. I typically enter my search terms in Google and both blogs and web sites come up. I use Google to research other lawyers, other parties and yes, information about my client. Have they been involved in similar cases?

    I use blogs in particular for academic research purposes. Specifically, I regularly visit certain blogs to look for an idea to write an article about. Additionally, since I often teach paper courses, I often steer students to these same blogs to help them find a paper topic.

    If an interesting case was just decided or an important new regulation just came out, I may type that in Google to see what others have said.

    Mitchell H. Rubinstein
    Cross Posted on Adjunct Law Professor Blog (URL above)

  • Lorelei Laird

    I’m not sure if you want a non-lawyer’s perspective, but if you do, here goes: As a legal writer who’s not a JD, I rely heavily on Web search results when researching the basics of legal issues. That includes blog results. I don’t have a free subscription to services like Westlaw, so I may use these things more heavily than an attorney would. Obviously, this is not a substitute for interviews or any library research that might be necessary, but it gives me a good start.

    I also watch blogs like yours to stay current on what’s happening in specific areas of the law. It doesn’t hurt that I might meet knowledgeable and Web-savvy sources this way, either. As you know, I was able to find you through this blog to quote in an article. (Not yet published online as of yesterday, but I’m watching.)

  • Victoria Pynchon

    I use legal blogs like I used to use Witkin; like I continue to use the Daily Appellate Reports that report all California and 9th Circuit cases on a daily basis; and, like I used to “use” my colleagues down the hall. Now that I am a solo mediator/arbitrator, I can no longer kick off my shoes (so to speak); lean back; and, run my good to great to terrible ideas past the securities or IP or antitrust expert the next door down. If I have a particular issue — once I needed to know the law on using a fictitious name for the Plaintiff in a sexual harassment suit. I’m pretty certain I did an all states and all fed search in Westlaw & found nothing. Then I did a blog search and found my precise issue addressed by an employment law blogger. I also subscribe through RSS feeds and put in my newsreader blogs in my specialty mediation/arbitration/ADR neutral practice. I would do this even if I were not also blogging, just to keep up on the best current thinking concerning the issues that concern my litigants. If you don’t want to just “phone in” your mediation or arbitration practice, you’ve got to stay as sharp as your sharpest clients. Academics are great (and I read their blogs too) but I need to know how the attorneys are thinking. I also read the blogs on CEO’s in my industries of specialty to see how they’re thinking. Were I still trying cases, I’d read juror blogs for sure. Hey! has a judge EVER blogged and could he/she? Good question. Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in! Best, Vickie Pynchon