Lawyers Take Legal Debates Online

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Lawyers take legal debates online is the story by Brandon Ortiz published today in the Herald-Leader about Kentucky lawyers authoring law weblogs.
Kentucky Law Blog has an excellent post, Herald Leader Story Addresses Growing Law "Blogs" , speaking well for all of us interviewed for the article, of our fears in submitting to an interview by the mainstream press:

I thought that those of you who have not been placed under the reporter's microscope might enjoy reading about some elements behind the story.

Brandon contacted me last month for an interview about the growing development of law blogs within the state, and to show the breadth and diversity of this growing field, he expanded the story to include several other of Kentucky's on-line legal writers who also allowed themselves to undergo the scrutiny of the main stream media. This allowed Brandon to come to our table and get a taste of the diversity in legal "blogging" and writing.

Present at the interview were myself (Michael Stevens - and, Diana Skaggs, and Stan Billingsley. Unfortunately, Ben Cowgill had a previous commitment and was not present in person, but present in spirit. I thank Brandon for following up the interview and discussing the ethical issues behind blogging with Ben.

I will confess that I was initially apprehensive when Brandon called me for the interview, and I was thankful he expanded the scope to include the others since there is "strength" in numbers. However, my fears were misplaced as he was not only fair and objective but also articulate and personable. I actually enjoyed myself to the point I was probably listening more to my fellow writers than giving Brandon some journalistic fodder for his story. Oh well.

For those who might not know this, Brandon is the Herald Leader's Supreme Court and "courts" reporter and is the writer behind the Comair Crash stories and others coming out of Lexington. For a list with links of his on-line stories, click here.

I have regularly read his stories on-line (and through my RSS feed) and was pleasantly surprised that the analytical mind behind those stories was not a lawyer! Most impressive. I was amazed by the depth and perception he had of the law.

Being interviewed by the press when you have no "real" control on the outcome is somewhat daunting. Brandon "done good", and I can understand why the lawyers and members of our judiciary hold him in high regard. His respect for the law and justice was evident in his questions and his listening.

Although I am a lawyer who poses as a journalist, I learned from this process that on-line legal writing is more than just timely, quick and responsive, but allows the pen to be truly mightier than the sword. We have our own medium to defend the remarks made, so let us not forget that Brandon entered this foray with some vulnerability of his own as well with the risk that the three interviewees might respond to his remarks on-line. His written word was neither final nor irrebuttable.

For those who read our postings regularly, you know that this project does not exist solely through my efforts. I just seem to be the cook that combines all the fine ingredients provided by other lawyer volunteers. To continue giving credit where credit is due, I thank them again - those who are helping now, and those who have helped in the past. Click here for our "numbers" and our "writers".

Due to constraints on space (and the fact that three lawyers can overload a reporter's notebook in minutes), most of our remarks did not hit the print. Again, the decision digests are not mine and mine alone. We are not devoid of political commentary, but concentrate on that which affects the practice of law. For example, the judicial elections, the merit system investigation, the governor's pardons, the "footnote", the purging of court records, and the crisis of confidence in our courts did not escape our pages. But on the plus side was the fact that lawyers, students, and librarians nationwide have emailed us for legal information and documents that are nearly impossible to obtain unless you are involved in the actual controversey or litigation. When a Columbia law student needed a trial court order for his paper, it was gratifying that an email to my fellow Kentucky lawyers produced a digital copy within the hour (and this is not an isolated case!). I also particularly liked Diana Skaggs' remark that the "blogs" are similar to the office water fountain where we can gather and discuss matters without pressing deadlines and a little less formally.

And as I am writing this post, I just discovered something about this type of writing I never realized so clearly before and that this is more than legal analysis, court commentary, decision digests, and noteworthy news developments, but it is also a rather intimate way of writing. I feel like I am writing each of you a personal letter about something that I feel is important; something that I want to share with a friend; and each of you have taken some time out of your day to care enough to read it. Some even to the point of commenting online. For this, I THANK YOU.

Mike, I agree with all your comments 100%. Mr. Ortiz did a very nice and fair job.
UPDATE: Here are posts from Ben Cowgill's Legal Ethics Newsletter and Stan Billingsly's LawReader regarding the Herald-Leader article.
UPDATE: Marcia Oddi of Indiana Law Blog, the recipient of the 2006 Indiana Judges Association media award, has also posted about this article:

Law - Kentucky Law Blogs surveyed
Brandon Ortiz of the Lexington Herald-Leader has a good story today on the half-dozen Kentucky law blogs - note these are not "political" blogs but, like the ILB, are law blogs. Entries from two of these blogs, and I would consider them to be the leading two, have been featured frequently in the ILB (and are permanently listed in the ILB's right-hand column as resources): The Kentucky Law Blog and the Kentucky Divorce and Family Law Blog.

I recommend the story to you. In addition, both Michael Stevens, and Diana Skaggs, of the two Kentucky blogs mentioned above, have entries on their own sites today with some "behind the scenes" remarks about the Herald-Leader story.

Thanks for the kind words, Marcia.