Take a look at the "blawg 100" stream on Twitter and you see a hilarious spectacle. Lawyers desperately begging for votes to win one of the best "blawg" (law blog) categories hawked by the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 contest.
The ABA Journal has quite a scam going. The Journal is operated by one of the most obsolete and irrelevant legal groups around today, the American Bar Association. The game goes like this: self-appointed ABA Journal "judges," who are mostly former reporters or editors for rinky-dink newspapers and who have never represented a real life client in a courtroom, pick their 100 favorite "blawgs."
But that’s just the beginning. The ABA Journal divides the top 100 "blawgs" into 12 arbitrary categories. There is a category for law professor blogs (what else are professors suppose to do but write?), one for labor law, one for "criminal justice" (what’s that?), and even one "for fun." (Do we really need a category of lawyer jokes?)
Each category consists of anywhere from 5 to 12 law blogs, designed to compete against and simultaneously congratulate one another. Some obviously qualified blogs – like Overlawyered – are left out, to create controversy. The ABA Journal encourages the chosen bloggers to write something witty to promote the ABA Journal’s contest. The bloggers and their shills solicit votes via a number of cute blog posts or solicitous tweets promoting themselves and the ABA Journal in the process. Kinda like trained seals, these lawyers are all-too-happy to balance a ball on their noses for the trainer.
Now here’s the catch. To vote for one of the hand picked ABA Journal "blawgs," you must first register with the ABA journal. This requires the 100 wannabee winners to encourage their friends, family, staff and strangers to register with the ABA Journal which requires the submission of an email address. The ABA Journal also encourages the bloggers to use ABA badges and ABA press releases written by the ABA, promoting the ABA of course.
The ABA should have focused on law blogs which have championed the rights of victims, immigrants, or minorities, or the best new blogs written by law students or non-profits, or the most influential law blogs that have effectuated social changes. But instead we have a list which includes some bloggers with questionable relevance and little influence, compiled into silly categories by a group of disconnected editors with no real life experiences of practicing law. The ABA list is entirely subjective and has little reflection of influence or popularity. Some of the blogs selected by the ABA can’t garner more than 20 votes from their own readers.
This is not the first time the ABA Journal’s "blawg" contest has been criticized. In the past, it has been labeled as too elitist, too big-city, too big-firm, or too hostile to personal injury lawyers (like me).
But most of the criticism is from lawyers who were pissed that they were not selected – like New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz who complained bitterly several years ago that the ABA Journal ignored personal injury lawyers. But when the ABA listed his blog (and a good one at that), New York Personal Injury Blog, as one of the top 100, Turkewitz’s rage was soothed over by the coveted ABA badge. This year he expressed that he was "flattered" by being selected – as if he won the Mother Teresa Humanitarian Award or the Nobel Peace Prize, for Christ’s sake.
Now, this may all sound like sour grapes because my blog, a top ten most popular blog, and the most influential maritime personal injury law blog in the U.S. (no, I am not modest), didn’t get the nod. (The "tort" blogs selected by the ABA Journal rank in popularity from 300,000 to over 4,000,000 blogs behind me). Perhaps like Turkewitz I don’t like to be ignored, but unlike my New York colleague I am not making a fuss hoping to be picked in next year’s ABA contest. Groucho Marx would never join a club which would have him as a member, and I don’t want the ABA’s ugly badges or ponderous press releases.
But don’t get me wrong. Some of the law blogs picked by the ABA are outstanding, popular and influential. Bill Marler’s blog about e-coli and contaminated food is the best personal injury / product liability blog out there. Probably the best law blog, period. And Dan Harris’ China Law Blog is clearly superior as well. But these excellent lawyers and connected bloggers don’t need a silly ABA Blawg 100 badge. They are already well respected by their legal peers and highly influential in the public arena in their areas of the law.
After a month of promotion, the ABA Journal voting finally ends today. Check out the ABA "Blawg 100" frenzy again on Twitter. Be sure to give the ABA your email address so you can receive solicitations to join the ABA and subscribe to the ABA Journal.
And don’t forget to vote for your favorite trained seal.