According to a March 8th, 2008 blog post from the Frugal Law Student, every law student should blog. It is a thesis statement that I whole-heartedly agree with. Blogging as a means of showcasing one’s research and writing ability has taken hold all over the world. Law firms have caught on and it is not uncommon to see a firm page have links to their own blog; some law firms’ pages are just the blogs themselves or showcase the blog as the main area of their firm’s website. One of my favorites is the California Labor & Employment Law Blog maintained by Carlton DiSante & Freudenberger LLP. Another is the FCPA Blog maintained by CassinLaw LLC. The California Workforce Resource Blog (maintained by Van Vleck Turner & Zaller LLP) published a February 13th, 2008 blog article titled: “Why Every Client Should Want a Lawyer Who Blogs.” Both the Frugal Law Student and California Workforce Resource articles revolve around the same themes: clarity of communication, quality of communication, and the potential of future communication – particularly using the blog as a means of marketability and name recognition.
I started Strict Liability in Blog for those reasons: to market myself, my writing and research ability; and to have a little fun, all the while communicating in a clear manner that may someday pay off for me. Sometimes law school can take a toll on one’s mind after a while (current 1Ls know this all too well) and it helps to have some place of solace, a forum to vent one’s energy or frustrations and oftentimes the comforting anonymity of virtual reality that the internet provides is the perfect shoulder to cry on. However, the problem with creating a blog to pen your memoirs, diatribes, and praise is that it can lead to ill effects – the least of which is getting sued for defamation or copyright infringement. At the least actionable end of the spectrum, blogging one’s list of daily activities, thoughts on one’s current reality and how you spent your day off may not be material suitable to be classified as marketing material. Perhaps most of all, one shouldn’t be so quick to scribe their personal information over the internet.
So, what then, can a law student blogger do to release a little energy, have fun, and build up a reputation as a person who knows to how handle an AmJur as deftly as a multi-connected keyword search on WestLaw? The answer I chanced upon was to start my own legal research blog.
Write and Research What Interests You
Strict Liability in Blog sticks to California law because I’m a California law student though occasionally I venture into federal law, but even then it’s usually limited to 9th Circuit holdings. You may decide to set up your blog to focus on the research of law from your particular state or jurisdiction. From there, you could then focus the entire blog to just researching and writing about one particular aspect of the law such as products liability, personal injury, bankruptcy, or something else. Maybe common law is not your thing – you’d rather dive into the world of federal statutes: the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, or the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Maybe it’s not so much the law as it is the policy behind the law that gives us these statutes to which our courts then tackle and interpret. I decided that my interest were far to varied to just lock myself into one area of law or one statute so I write when and where the mood strikes me. Today I might publish an article on the status of the law on spouses intercepting their (supposedly) cheating spouses in California; and tomorrow I might decide to voice my opinion and status of the law to disenrolled Native Americans. The next day I might get around to finishing that California dog bite statute article or I may decide to hold it off and write about something else.
Regardless of what happens you should write about what interests you and have fun with it. It’s your blog – there are many like it but this one is yours. What are you into? What are your hobbies? Loves? Interests? What’s going on in your world?
- Suppose you are a California graduate student under the employ of a public University as a teacher’s aide. Are you considered an employee with a protected right to engage in the bargaining process or are you precluded from asserting this right? That’s an article.
- You just received notice via email that your item for sale on eBay was bought but now the winning bidder does not want to pay. The value of the item is substantial. Can you sue? Can he sue back? Should you sue? What procedures come first before filing suit? That’s an article.
- You’re moving out of your apartment and your landlord decides he’s not going to return the security deposit. What’s the law in your state say? What did you go through? How do small claims clinics work? Another article.
To quote myself:
In the realm of legal research blogging is my way of exhaling; just as one can’t hold all the air in them for fear of suffocating, I can’t just learn about all this cool stuff and not share it.
- If and when you cite cases, statutes, law reviews, etc. be sure to do so in the manner that you have been trained. I was trained to use the California Style Manual but you may have been trained to use the Bluebook, ALWD, or whatever.
- It’s okay, in my opinion, to have a few non-research posts to let people know what you’re up to – it will break up the tone and mix things up a little, letting people know that not only can you write and research, but you are still a human being with things to do and activities to perform. The following article sums up my thoughts exactly:
Blogging on diverse topics, including very light ones, is not taken to undercut your expertise among law professionals who understand how blogging works. These people are valuable readers, who will bond with you if you have a personality, write clearly, say some sharp things, and post every day. They will check in frequently in the hope of being charmed or surprised or stimulated in some new way. When you have a law-related post up, they’ll be seeing that too and interested in what you, and especially you, have to say. In this way, the non-law posts reinforce the law posts. (Althouse, Why a Narrowly Defined Legal Scholarship Blog is Not What I Want: An Argument in Pseudo-Blog Form (June 2006) University of Wisconsin Law School <http://ssrn.com/abstract=898171> (as of October 4, 2008).
- HAVE FUN.
The Boundaries of Free Speech & Quotes to Know
“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” (U.S. Const., 1st Amend.)
“…the First Amendment leaves no room for the operation of a dual standard in the academic community with respect to the content of speech…” (Papish v. Board of Curators of University of Missouri (1973) 410 U.S. 667, 671 [93 S.Ct. 1197; 35 L.Ed.2d 618].)
“The freedom of speech has its limits; it does not embrace certain categories of speech, including defamation, incitement, obscenity, and pornography…” (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002) 535 U.S. 234, 245 [122 S.Ct. 1389; 152 L.Ed.2d 403].)