BLOGGERS. Love them or loath them, they are a 21st Century force to be reckoned with, and even the legal profession has its stars.
The number of legal blogger sites in Australia has grown exponentially in recent years, with more than 20 main sites featuring informative, funny, controversial and sometimes useful information about the law.
But it's not just individual lawyers tapping away on the blogsphere from home. Traditionally conservative and hesitant to enter the blawging community, some law firms are finally entering the fray.
Melbourne firm Cooper Mills and Sydney firm Dilanchian Lawyers and Consultants, both have blogs on their home websites.
However, as a recent post on the American site, LexBlog stated, larger firms are less likely to embrace blogging than smaller privately run firms.
In commenting on the state of the Am Law 200 blogosphere, the site reported that 41 per cent of the AM 200 largest firms now have blogs, a 110 per cent increase from LexBlog's first survey two years ago. But none of these blogs are published under the name of a top 10 firm.
Dorsey & Whitney LLP publishes a consumer products law blog, but it more closely resembles a legal update than a blog. Like that firm, while some firms label sections of their websites blogs, others call the law updates other names. Blogging, which is typically written in a more relaxed style and includes opinion, are much less common.
Some firms are concerned about privacy issues, as well as the potential issues relating to defamation, and firm reputation.
"You don't have to say much to set off an avalanche in the blogosphere," observed James M. Beck, counsel in the Philadelphia office of Dechert, in a post yesterday at the blog Drug and Device Law, which he co-authors with Mark Herrmann, a partner in the Chicago office of Jones Day. He was referring to the notable lack of large law firm blogs.
A British court ruled recently that bloggers have no right to anonymity. A policeman, who blogged about his life on the force, has lost his attempt to stop The Times newspaper from outing him as the writer of the blog, despite his claim he didn’t use his legal name. He's since been disciplined and the blog's been taken down but observers say the case's has widespread implications.
Gilbert + Tobin partner, Peter Leonard, has said that because it’s on the net, bloggers assume they have a right to anonymity, and therefore privacy, but a right to anonymity means that you can publish something without saying who you are, he said in an ABC interview.
But as the popularity of legal blogs, or blawgs, heightens, bloggers need to be wary that just because they can create a fake name, doesn’t mean they will be protected from law if they say something defamatory or comment on a case.
It doesn't carry with it a right of privacy that's enforceable against court process and against a subpoena by a law enforcement agency, he said.
Meanwhile, Australian lawyers are increasingly getting involved in blawging. Lawyer, legal cartoonist, author and speaker, Paul Brennan, is one of the more well known legal bloggers. His blog, 101 reasons to kill all the lawyers, features a comical 56 reasons to kill lawyers and includes some of his cartoons, which have appeared in the Australian Financial Review.
While Brennan, principal of Brennan Solicitors, uses it as a way to express himself, others use blogs for more serious issues.
Peter Black, lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology law school, has a blog called Freedom to Differ, which “speaks freely about legal and policy issues facing the media and the internet”.
In his blog, Black and his followers discuss current issues such as the Ice TV v Nine Network Australia ruling and Fiji’s treatment of journalists.