Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

A Slowish Blog

Blogging-703621Two years ago I published a post after the summer about the fact that my blog had slowed down.  Summers can do that, when many trial lawyers take vacations, as well as judges, parties and witnesses. Fewer trials, fewer depositions, slower life.

And at that time, I also noted that I would not come here and write stuff, just for the sake of writing.

I’ve been busy, very busy, and this blog will always take a back seat to family and work. It will continue to be down/slow for at least another month, with a family bar mitzvah coming up and the trail race that I organize likewise filling my non-lawyering time.

Family, fun, passions.

This note serves merely as an explanation for the quiet. All is good, by way of work and family. All is good.

And to those celebrating, I wish you a happy and healthy new year.

Snarking at Others – A philosophy

Blogging-703621It may have occurred to some readers that I take others to task over various foibles or ethical issues a bit too often.  Maybe, but that snark has some pretty sharp limits and I want to briefly explain them.

If the story deals with someone acting or filing suit in such a way that indicates the person might not be in their right mind — like the recent suit by the an individual acting on behalf of God, and His Son, Jesus Christ against all homosexuals — then I don’t write about it. (Except just there, but without name, or link, because I need an example.)

You see this in pro se suits with some regularity. In a nation of 300 million people and a country that (usually) takes pride in keeping the courthouse door open to those who believe they’ve been aggrieved, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

While such stories may be amusing to many, I don’t see them serving any larger purpose. It isn’t just being politically correct regarding  someone that may well need a mental health professional, but that the anecdotes serve no broader purpose. There is no lesson to be learned.

On the other hand, if the targets of the stories are lawyers or other individuals who are capable of fending for themselves, I see no problem, so long as there is a point to be made.

That’s it, my philosophy as to who I think it’s fair to target and who not.

“We Help You Publish Content”

ContentDear Marketeers:

The word you use is like nails on a chalkboard: Content.

You send me emails by the bushelful, you even call me, everyone wanting to provide “content.”

Content is another word for crap. Dreck. Nonsense. A keyword stuffed, Google-friendly, collection of words thrown down on paper. When the messages come by email, even the sales pitch is poorly written.

So to all you “content” publishers out there let me say this:

I do not create content. My words are not some generic commodity.

I report news. I offer opinions. I laud and and I criticize. I may do it well or I may do it poorly.

But it is unique. It has a point of view. Regardless of whether it’s good or awful, it isn’t some generic piece of commoditized “content.” My words are a part of me.

I am not interested in your “content,” because as soon as you use the word I know that you don’t know jack about my blog, or about me. You’ve sent me a form letter.

The same pitch might be made to a doctor, a rocket scientist or a quirky sanitation blog. Why anyone would trust you to write something when you’re too lazy to even read the existing forum is utterly beyond me. But I guess there are plenty of suckers out there, allowing the likes of you to write crap for them. Or perhaps, there are just many desperate pseudo-writers who think peddling crap is the way to make a living.

Let me be clear about this: I am not interested in your “content.” Not in reading it, not in publishing it, not even in considering it. Because I already know from your use of the word “content” in your pitch to me that it’s going to suck. Big time.

Affectionately yours,


Blog Up; Blog Down

This past summer I was particularly active on a long series dealing with phony testimonyquickie medical exams, and phony signatures.

But almost nothing from me recently.

So goes the cycle of blogging (and twittering). As I may have mentioned before, I don’t like to blog while on trial, and I’ve been on trial.  I appeared on September 3rd to pick a jury and that was it for me, even though we didn’t open until a week later.

There are two reasons to stop blogging. First, when I get home from court I’m obsessed about the next day (and the day after that…) and catching up on office stuff. Also, I have a family I’d like to at least kiss hello. So lack of time comes home to roost, and blogging is the lowest of my priorities.

But more importantly, I don’t want to give even the appearance of impropriety to my jurors. Even if I write about things other than the trial they could still be related. Like writing about dishonest experts, for instance, a subject that came up a few times on my recent visit inside the courtroom well.

No matter how many times a judge may warn jurors not to look stuff up, they still might. Some lawyers might see this as a sly way to influence a juror with subtle messages. I see it as a danger zone where a juror might be offended.

Criminal defense lawyers, perhaps, have an easier go at this. They don’t have the burden of proof. The risk of me offending one out of six jurors when I need a 5/6 verdict is more significant than the risk of offending one juror when the other side needs a 12/12 verdict. Such is life.

I’m here and I’m back, But I never really left.


Twittering With the Enemy (A Blogospheric Celebration)

Yesterday I re-tweeted something that Ted Frank wrote over at Point of Law; a piece about lawyers whining about no work. His point — after noting that he started up a successful public interest law firm dedicated to objecting to class actions that don’t treat the plaintiffs well — was that there were many good causes out there for lawyers to get involved with. Get off your ass, he effectively said, and go find a cause to represent.

The main point that I took, before he addressed a myriad of potential legal issues, was how much he enjoyed what he was doing as opposed to the career track toward academia he had anticipated. He wrote that he

discovered how much I like litigation when I have autonomy and don’t have to make arguments I don’t believe in, and discarded the idea of writing law-review articles no one would read. Today I have two attorneys working for me, a fascinating docket, and get to argue more appellate cases every six months than I did in my entire ten-year BigLaw career.

Frank’s political views, of course, are not universally shared, particularly by members of the plaintiff’s personal injury bar. But he did address, as I said, a number of issues that could be raised by lawyers looking for new career tracks.

There are three different reactions that I’ve seen, though I think the last one might be the most important…stick with me here, because this time I have an actual point to make.

The first reaction to the Frank piece came  from Max Kennerly (First Lesson For New Plaintiff’s Lawyers: If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It). Kennerly is always a good read, and he gets into the nitty gritty of the details of the clients and lawyers actually meeting each other:

plaintiffs’ law firms don’t just discover viable legal claims somewhere in the world and file them, they only enter the picture after clients find and hire the lawyersMarketing lawyers is hard work.

He goes on to discuss — and I won’t give it all here because I think you should head over to his site and read it yourself — the extraordinary difficulties of the entire contingent fee arrangement and trying to fund mass actions:

Frank is arguing for inexperienced, poorly capitalized lawyers to dive right into expensive and prolonged complex litigation involving procedural mechanisms (e.g., the class action) and causes of action (e.g., antitrust) that are routinely attacked by no less a force than the United States Supreme Court against defendants with essentially unlimited resources, like “Ivy League schools” and “the Obama administration.”

The second objection comes from Elie Mystel over at Above the Law. First he identifies the problem:

the problem is that “the reason” most people went to law school was “money.” The “cause” most people signed up for was “risk-averse earning potential.” Frank is essentially telling a group of mercenaries to find a cause they believe in and fight for free for a time, and then the money will come. And it’d be great advice except for that fact that most mercenaries didn’t get into the business for a cause, they’re in it for the cash.

But from there Mystel digs deeper and points the finger at the law schools that teach legal theory, as opposed to the actual practice of law. Young, unemployed lawyers are simply not up to the task of doing what Frank advocates because they’ve never been taught. He notes:

Not everybody has the skills to start their own business, and it’s not like law school spends a lot of time — or any time whatsoever — teaching and training people in the art of making money with a J.D. Heck, there are hard-working, incredibly intelligent partners at law firms who have no freaking clue how to market themselves or their legal expertise. We call them “service partners,” and they’d probably be working for the hourly rates of an SAT tutor if it weren’t for “rainmakers” with business savvy who know how best to turn talent into money.

Scraping clients together is hard, not everybody knows how to do it, and law schools aren’t teaching people.

And finally, there is a third objection that I didn’t expect, and the one I consider most important. This one comes from “Michael” on Twitter, who was displeased that I (and Dave Waterbury) re-tweeted Frank’s piece to begin with:

@Turkewitz @dewesq55 Really? Sending a link advocating undercutting standard fees on contingency fees = asking for a race to the bottom.

That is correct, I re-tweeted something even though I had disagreements with parts of it and even though Frank has a long history of being a tort “deformer” whose political views I oppose. And you know what? I once hired him as my attorney anyway. I explained that in detail a few years ago: Turkewitz v. Yahoo (Meet My Lawyer, Ted Frank).

Now the point I wanted to make — I told you I would get here: When I was just a baby blogger, some six years ago, I was irritated by some point or article that Walter Olson noted at Overlawyered and wrote a response. And Olson proceeded to give me the best damn lesson in blogging that I ever received: He amended his post to say, and for an opposing view, see Turkewitz. WTF?

“The enemy” had just given me link juice and readers. It took just a heartbeat to fully comprehend the nature of the blogosphere. We are not islands unto ourselves, but this is an ongoing conversation. Nor is this a conversation to be had solely among those with whom we agree. What good is that?

Unlike many politicians (and arguing spouses) that simply talk past each other, barely even acknowledging the position of the other, Olson engaged. And with less than a year under my belt, he then added me to his blogroll (which I wrote about).

Frank wrote something that was interesting. People responded. They may agree or disagree with him, but this is what makes for a vibrant blogosphere. Let us celebrate.

Why is this important? Because many still don’t get it, with social media gurus telling clients to fill their blogs with all manner of Google friendly search terms regardless of the dreck it produces. This is a favorite topic of people like Scott Greenfield and Brian Tannebaum.

Look at the four faces you see in this post. That, my friends, is how blogging is supposed to be done. Break out the boxing gloves and debate the merits and to hell with what the social media gurus tell you about how Google thinks. Google, you may be surprised to learn, could be a tad smarter than you think.

The Importance of Blogging

My writing has been a little light in recent months. There’s a reason, or perhaps I should say, many reasons. But the primary one is that this blog takes a back seat to more important endeavors.

There is, for example, family. I’ve got a couple of kids that are growing up, and let’s face it, they won’t be kids forever. Kids need attention.  And family vacations will, one day, be more difficult to arrange. Family is important.

There is the matter of running, which I try to find time to do. A few weeks ago I went up to New Hampshire with a group of friends to run a 200-mile relay. (The three minute video is here, well worth the time.) Friends are important.

And there is the matter of a half-marathon trail race I am organizing, scheduled for October 14th, which will attract many hundreds of runners, and has, in just a few years, become one of the biggest events of its kind on the Eastern Seaboard. Community is important.

And did I mention that I have four cases coming up for trial in the next few months? Clients are important.

Where does blogging fit into all this? Well, at the very bottom. As I’ve written before, I do it for fun and I do it when I have time, but I can’t (and won’t) be a slave to it. There are plenty of stories I’d like to write about, and posts composed in my head as I read the newspaper on the train. But at work and at home, more important things often leap into the way.

Each year the ABA Journal does a Blawg 100, and they’ve selected my humble little bit of cyberspace each of the past four years. This year they are unlikely to do so, as my blogging has slowed down as real life takes precedence.

As between cyber life and real life there is no contest as to importance.

The Extinction of a Blog (Mine)

Thoughts on my blog being vaporized.

I first saw the note on Twitter, about all the blog posts vanishing into the ether. Notwithstanding my views on Twitter, it was, I think, an apropos way to learn my blog had gone the way of the dinosaurs. I saw this just before going to sleep on a Saturday night.:

I shot off an email to my web guy, asking two all-important questions:

  • Was I hacked again, or was this some kind of techno glitch?
  • And, more importantly, can you fix it?

If you are reading this blog via an email or RSS feed, there is no need to visit my site to see if it was fixed. It was. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t have been much point in linking to an old piece about being hacked.

But the greater issue for me is, what happens if my blog becomes involuntarily extinct? Nobody really knows how they will feel about their own blogstinction until it happens. (Is blogstinction a word? It oughta be.)

Despite over 1,200 posts in this forum over the course of almost six years, I was, surprisingly, somewhat calm about the prospect. Yeah, I had invested a lot of hours into writing, but nothing happened to my family, my health or my business. It was a lot of time, but I did it because I enjoyed it and if it was lost, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.

Well, maybe that isn’t 100% correct. If it was lost due to a hack, I’d be plenty angry. If your house is vandalized you get angry, but if it’s damaged due to a falling tree, you might be merely upset at losses. There would be no sense of anger from violation.

I lost a little sleep Saturday night, but not much. Mostly I was thinking about whether I would try to revive it, and if so how. And I was mulling new posts in my head, the first of which started like this:

No, it isn’t April Fool’s Day. All the posts on my blog really have vanished…

And another one where, perhaps, I reminisced about a few of the ones I enjoyed writing the most (but was unable to link to them or prove they ever existed), and those I never wrote due to a lack of time.

My blog was obviously restored, for a techno glitch that I don’t pretend to understand, but it was a pretty good reminder of something pretty important since if also follows in the wake of the Go Daddy hacking from a few weeks ago: Having a hard copy of your site on a disk that is not linked to the Internet is a damn good idea.

I’m Speaking Tomorrow in Washington D.C.

I’ll be down in D.C tomorrow to speak at this seminar sponsored by the Trial Lawyers Association of Washington D.C. The subject will be blogging and social media.

And this will be my barometer of success:

If I can stop just one person from writing about local car accidents and self-linking every time they write SEO friendly keywords, I will be happy. (Self-linking causes hair on the palms.)

If I persuade just one person to write a blog that addresses important legal issues, such that judges and legislators take note of it, I will be ecstatic.

And if one person in that group writes a blog that displaces me from the ABAJournal Blawg 100, I will be deliriously ecstatic. And donate $500 to a suitable civil justice charity of his or her choice.


Why I Blog (Updated to add advice on how NOT to blog)

I hadn’t intended to write on the subject of blogging again, having just done that with my 5-year blawgiversary missive, but sometimes someone writes something that really puts things into perspective.

So today, two looks at other bloggers on the subject:

First out of the box are the folks at Drug and Device Law, which had this to say in the wake of another (well-deserved) selection in the ABA Journal Blawg 100:

We continue this blog for the same reason we started it. That’s to provide up-to-date information and commentary useful to those who, like us, defend pharmaceutical and medical device companies (also vaccines) in product liability litigation, either in law firms or in-house legal departments.  We have strong views on practically all aspects of this subject – we’ve written books and articles – and our big-firm platform allows us the relative luxury of keeping current on a plethora of legal issues, from preemption to ediscovery.  We firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, that is, that defense wins anywhere help other defendants (like our clients) win everywhere.

Well, that is OK, but there seems to be something missing. I know they want to provide up-to-date info, but why do they want to do that? In other words, where is the emotional/human factor?

Scott Greenfield, however, hits the nail on the head, I think, summing up my feelings:

I’m going to die one of these days. Maybe sooner rather than later, and likely sooner than most of my readers. I’ll be damned if I die without having anything to show I was here.  I lack the skills to build the Taj Mahal, or write a symphony, or create a tourbillon.  But I can type words onto a computer screen fast enough to put some ideas on virtual paper that serve to demonstrate, at least for a day, that I was here.

That is a worthy perspective. I see, sometimes, the social media fans crowing about numbers of followers or fans or links or whatnots. But no one will carve the number of Twitter followers onto your tombstone when the times comes.

So if you want to write, or use social media to any extent, I think it should be be with a view toward actually enjoying life and getting something out of the exercise. The same thing you would do with any other recreational activity.

Update: Contrast the above comments with those of an SEO “expert.”  Aaron Kelly, writing for Avvo’s Lawyernomics, gives some advice on how to write blogs. It seems to parallel some of my own thoughts — thoughts I put down in an April Fool’s Day post about how to blog.

Basically, he tells people to write for Google’s algorithms, instead of writing for living, breathing, humans. Some of his godawful advice — and can you imagine actually spending part of your valuable, short life doing this stuff? — now follows:

  1. “since the goal is to publish as much unique, quality online content as possible, more emphasis is placed on speed as opposed to wordsmith-ing and editing.”
  2. “it’s important to temper your literary expectations and sacrifice some elegance in favor of volume”
  3. “a premium is placed on speed, many web content articles may not be as polished as print-journalism pieces, as there’s often very little time for editing or research.
  4. In general, you want to keep your web content articles between 400 and 2000 words.
  5. “[xxxxxxx].com is an excellent website from which to order content.”
  6. not everything you publish has to be perfect; sometimes it can be “just good enough” so long as it’s readable and contains the right amount of keywords
  7. “There’s no doubt that lots of well-written, SEO-optimized content will get you noticed online”

About #7? There’s lots of things you can do to get noticed. As an example, I noticed this article.  (Here are a couple other things people have noticed: advertising in the toilet, chasing air crash victims, spamming.) But do you really want to be noticed for dreck?

Want to know why this guy is clueless and his advice is so bad? Because this was his premise:

Search engines:

  1. Love websites and blogs that are frequently updated
  2. Reward sites with high-quality, keyword-rich linkbacks (e.g., links pointing at your site).

If the author wanted to give actual advice about Google, he would write that the Holy Grail of search engines is quality inbound links. This will bring in readers. Want to know how to get them? Write well and be interesting. That’s how writers find readers. Can you think of any writer that became good because of keyword stuffing? Don’t write for Google; write for humans.

And about that prattle about the length of posts being 400-2,000 words? Fuggedabout it. The Gettysburg Address is about 270 words long.

Five Years of Blogging (And Happy Thanksgiving)

Photo credit: Steven Stein, NewRo Runners

My five-year blogging anniversary slipped by last week without me noticing. Having now noticed, I’d like to interrupt this blog to make an important announcement:

I enjoy blogging.

Now I know that doesn’t come as a revelation to some, but the fact is, to keep writing for five years, you have to enjoy it. Because if you don’t, two things will happen; You’ll be miserable and you’ll have no readership. If you don’t enjoy it, it shows.

Do I blog every day? No. I do it when I want and when the spirit — or news story, legal decision or capricious whim — moves me. Sometimes I slow down, sometimes I speed up. It matters not, for it is mine.

Now you can see that I have a couple pictures here of me in a turkey suit, shot Sunday at a local Turkey Trot. And you might be wondering what the heck that has to do with blogging, or lawyering, or five-year anniveraries. And, you also might wonder if I’m nuts to put them up here, out of concern that it diminishes the seriousness of what I do for clients in the courtroom. Or that it might be seen by a potential client who will quickly hightail it elsewhere.

Glad you asked.

I see my fair share of human misery come through the doors with busted up bodies that shouldn’t be busted up. Anyone that deals with the consumer end of law will see variations on this theme, from divorce, criminal charges, bankruptcy, etc. And seeing those things gives me (and should give everyone) a greater appreciation for what we have. I know, from seeing it happen to others, that a car could blast through an intersection and instantaneously change my life and those of my family forever. Don’t say it couldn’t happen to you, because it sure happens to some people, who’s only fault might have been sitting patiently at a light. And it only takes a momentary lapse of attention on the part of a driver.

There is no limit to the number of ways that life could be quickly altered for the worse, and I’m not sitting in the middle of a war zone.

So I am thankful for each day that I get. And if I get the chance to dress up silly and run a 1-mile Gobbler race with a few hundred local kids, giving out gift certificates to a local cupcake shop for those that finish near my feathers, then yeah, I’m going to do it. And if I can have a few hundred adults in the 5K race chase the turkey, with a chance to win free entry into a little half marathon trail race I put together, well that is fun too. Community events are often like that. Fun. And it’s nice not just to participate, but to help create them.

In deciding to dress like a turkey for this event for the third year in a row — and with my name I’m the natural choice for this gig —  I’m also mindful of Benjamin Franklin’s view of this particular fowl, as he advocated for it to be our national bird instead of the bald eagle:

For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

I decline the opportunity to put on the “serious lawyer face” 24/7. You might see the suit and tie shot on my website, but you won’t see it on my blog. Here I get to let my feathers down.

Photo credit: Andrew Dallos via Twitter

I write this blog the same way I go through life. I try to enjoy it, while at the same time taking what I do for a living very seriously. I think that’s reflected in the 1,000+ posts that I’ve done. And yes, this is the same reason that I have for running  the occasional April Fool’s gag.

This week is Thanksgiving. Look around you. Be thankful for what you have. And live each day to the fullest.

I hate to use Latin phrases in law, as it invariably sounds pretentious, but I’ll make an exception today. Carpe diem.

Now if someone could please cue up a copy of Alice’s Restaurant, I’d be most grateful. I hear Arlo may be coming to dinner….

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