October 7, 2005

Why lawyers blog.

The joy of blogging seems to be a theme here today. I just noticed -- via Instapundit -- that I'm quoted in today's NYT. It's fun to get quoted about blogging, and my quote is about the fun of blogging. The reporter, Jonathan D. Glater, is trying to find out why so many lawyers are bloggers.
"It's our natural environment, to read things on the Web, to read news stories, and to have something to say," said Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin who posts her views at althouse.blogspot.com. Compared with spending a year writing a law review article, she said, blogging is fun.

I should add that parts of the process of writing an article are fun, but that there is something un-fun about the long delay between having your ideas and getting them published. I think blogging lawprofs tend to be the ones who enjoy freedom from the editing process. The law classroom itself is very spontaneous and expressive, and if you love talking in class but want a wider, more diverse audience, blogging feels great.

AMPLIFICATION: By "natural environment" I meant text, especially the sort of text that contains mysteries about bias and missing arguments and information. Lawyers can read such things and see what hasn't been said and pose necessary questions and reframe arguments and so forth. We're used to doing that in the ordinary course of our work as we read briefs and court opinions. We just naturally plunge into such things and find material to write about.


Simon said...

I'm not a lawyer, but I offered thoughts on why I blog here.

goesh said...

..and where else would lawyers get to display horrid sketches, though a few of yours were intriguing..

Mary E. Glynn said...

Also, with ads and a tipjar, it's a great way to pick up some side money, even for state law profs feeding at the public trough.

And you get opportunities, radio/tv spots and that op-ed in the NYT, that probably you would not be qualified for without the blog and higher name recognition.

(Probably you did some local media interviews before, but no doubt you are invited more now because of Althouse the blog, not solely because of your status a UW law prof.)

You seem to have got in early, tailored your opinions so as not to offend the majority, and rode some insta-coattails to high readership. Those pictures didn't hurt either -- you look like your de-aging becoming a young girl before our eyes! ;-)

Sorry if this sounds mean, but I suspect many of your readers will just be telling you what you want to hear, so this might balance that out.

Lonesome Payne said...

Mary -

Getting in early was definitely key for Ms. Althouse and others; that's simply life.

This line of yours, though:

"...tailored your opinions so as not to offend the majority..."

That's a decent example of what the left does increasingly and so well these days: zeroing in on a way to pretend that opinions with which they disagree are not actual opinions, and so therefore it becomes almost a moral imperative not to take said opinions seriously.

Assuming no honest motivation, like this, that's probably version #1 of this tactic.

When I read something like that, something in my soul goes "oh, ick." And it makes me dislike the writer.

You offer no evidence; you simply assume someone disagreeing with you is not honest. It's smug, and more than that, it's stupid. And anti-political. And cowardly. Yep, the world of the left.

Lonesome Payne said...

And of course there's absolutely no strategy available to build a huge audience via hard-left blogging, is there.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary, aren't you charming?

Anyway, in fact, before I started blogging, I felt I had missed my chance, that it was too late to start. The "land rush" had already occurred. I had to overcome that feeling to go ahead. So it's odd to me to hear that people think I got in at the start. I had the feeling that one of those bloggers already occupying the territory would need to invite me to join them in their group blog.

Hamsun56 said...

What's wrong with a little self promotion? At least Ann has something to promote.

As a pragmatic centrist, I like the mix in this forum - I tire of the dogmatig rants in a lot of the other blogs.

It's very easy to tear into someone, but I think it would be more productive if you named those forums/blogs that you think are better. Or if you can't name any, start your own.

Mary E. Glynn said...

Lol. Never been accused of being charming, but I do consider myself a realist.

Unlike many of your commenters, I'm a former student -- 2 classes -- so I have met Ms. Althouse, participated in her classroom, and see how she handles other p.o.v.'s . I stand by my earlier comments. (Not that you're not a decent law professor. If you take that wrong, well toughen up buttercup :)

Paul, Paul, Paul... take care in throwing out those labels. Don't see how that helps any, and you just may be misinterpreting and mislabeling, eh?

Remember the flipside of that phrase: United we stand? I think blogs like this are of great benefit to the creators, just question their accountability in the long run.

If you want to entertain, entertain. If you want to educate, educate. When you try to play both sides of the fence, you open yourself up to criticism when your words and actions are inconsistent. Again, TUBC.

Bruce Hayden said...

I definately see why this is more fun that writing law review articles - but then, I am not in academia, and never understood the alure of spending a year writing something about something totally obscure that no one really cares about.

I do agree though that attorneys love to analyze things and to write. These things are intrinsic to the profession - probably more so than almost any other outside academia (and here, you have both, academic lawyers).

One of the biggest things taught in law school is the ability to analyze. Most law school tests are devoted almost exclusively to analysis and argument, esp. the former. You are given a fact pattern to analyze, in view of a certain body of law. And, then you are graded on your ability to analyze it.

Lonesome Payne said...


If I've mislabeled you as part of the left, sorry. Although the sentence I find so annoying: it's sure typical of the mindset these days. So I'm not convinced.

As for misinterpreting: how am I misinterpreting the phrase I disliked? What's another intepretation, besides impugning Ms. Althouses's motives?

Bruce Hayden said...


I don't really think that Ann tailors her opinions, but rather, that she appears, at least to me, to be one of the few who really does sit fairly close to the middle (but, then again, I look at her from my position of being to the right of her politically).

Of course, being a former student of hers, you probably have a bit better view of her "real" opinions, but then again, maybe not.

I am reminded of my Con law prof who got grieved by the feminists in the class because he suggested that they take the anti-RvW side of the debate. It was only later I found that he was, in real life, a leftist environmental wacko. But, to his credit, he kept most of his own opinions out of the classroom.

Lonesome Payne said...

Essentially, Mary, I think you're feigning dismay that someone called you on your little passive-aggressive gut-punch. I see some other comments from you and you are more than capable of reason; but it strikes me as a self-revealing moment.

But again: may I misinterpet.

Lonesome Payne said...

"Maybe" I misintepret, is what I mean. Not "may." "Maybe."

vbspurs said...

Guys, guys.

Why are talking about fat, pimply ole Mare here, when we should be concentrating on Why Lawyers Blog!

Why Lawyers Blog. Um. Um. Because they can?

Or is that too "to get to the other side of the road"?

I think centrist lawyers leaning right blog because the medium provides an outlet for them to speak unencumbered by the progressive atmosphere of academia.

It can be lonely out there for a student like that -- let alone a professor.


Henry said...

I really like the art. Ann seemed to be posting a lot of it this summer when I started reading the blog on a regular basis and it captured my attention as much as the commentary. She's a lawyer and she has graphic eye!

Most lawyers, I think, would not check the "so I can post my art" box on the "Why I blog" survey.

I do miss Sasha Volokh's musical theatre digressions on the Volokh Conspiracy, though.

PatCA said...

"...parts of the process of writing an article are fun, but that there is something un-fun about the long delay between having your ideas and getting them published."

True in academia, film studies, as well. Expression over (at times) deadly dull research constraints makes it fun again.

Lonesome Payne said...

Thank you Victoria. Yes.

I think for lawyers it may also involve attention to detail, and facts, and how that insinct may be what has resulted in lawyers leading the charge in the right-leaning (or at least non-left-leaning) blog world.

Not that all lawyers are non-lefties.

Or all economists for that matter, but I think there's something similar at play among people who have at least some knowledge of appraising policy issues from a perpective that involves microeconomics: focusing attention, as that discipline does, on detail and precise motivation and "what's actually going on."

I base this mostly on my own experience.

Up here, as a vocal apostate lefty, I have noticed one pattern: I went to the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, where, as in most schools like that, the basis is policy analysis with microeconomics at the center. Without exception, friends I met there are not horrified by my political shift, even when they disagree in the end. They understand why I'm pissed at the left, at the way the left increasingly bases its rage on what can seem like a willful ignoring of unsatisfactory (for them) ideas, facts and perspectives.

Like, someone with any awareness of the absurd complexities of the real-world economy and the the chaotically cross-cutting interests in the corporate world will react to the idea that W started this war in order to shoot a little business Haliburton's way with extreme skepticism.

Facts. The self-annointed reality-based community seems very divorced from that concept sometimes.

Lars said...

Harriet Miers blog:


Smay said...

Mary- Sounds like maybe Althouse gave you some bad grades? Far better than ads or tipjars, since your former professor has started this blog, you can now snipe at her anonymously. Feel better, buttercup?

Eddie said...

I thought lawyers just blogged because their real life careers were just so painfully boring.

Anonymous said...

Facts. The self-annointed reality-based community seems very divorced from that concept sometimes.

Fact: According to a CBS Poll,

Bush has a 37% approval rating, down; almost 70% of the country think we are headed in the wrong direction, up; and more people consider Bush to be the country's number one problem, than terrorism.

/From a reality based troll

Ann Althouse said...

Smay: All law students already have the option to anonymously snipe at their professors: that's the official evaluation system used here (and at other -- all? -- law schools). Sniping at the lawprof on the blog brings out the lawprof's defenders. It's actually harder.

Anonymous said...

Here's to you Mr. Vocal Apostate Lefty, never one to let truth get in the way of your FACTS, or let true facts get in the way of your truth. Today I salute you.

Facts. The self-annointed reality-based community seems very divorced from that concept sometimes.

Fact: we aren't self-annointed. Your Chimp annointed us:

...According to Mr. Suskind, "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' " The aide told Mr. Suskind, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."

Got that? We may think there are real-world consequences to the policies of the president, real pain and real grief for real people. But to the White House, that kind of thinking is passé. The White House doesn't even recognize that kind of reality.

So Mr. Vocal Apostate Lefty, are you always this loose and wrong with your FACTS? Crack open an ice-cold bud light, you're a real american hero, a man of genius.

aidan maconachy said...

When you're dealing with hard issues that don't add to the comfort level of the chattering classes and taking on a war, your ratings will always go down.

Unless the liberals and their cohorts see hordes of the demon enemy dropping from the air and enemy battalions rushing the beaches, they won't believe the war on terror is anything but a Bush fantasy projection. Nothing it seems can move these doubting Thomas's, except a repeat of 9/11 ... or worse.

You think Al Qaeda doesn't know that its inactivity on American soil is hurting Bush's credibility? The one thing I've noticed about their strategy is that they call their shots very deliberately, and for maximum political effect.

The fact that Americans have been abandoning their President and holding him up to international ridicule, is exactly what makes the enemy smile ... not to mention Castro, Chavez, Kim Jung Il and all the other American detractors around the globe.

Americans are doing it to themselves ... why should Qaeda and co expend needless effort?

Lonesome Payne said...

quxxo -

Pressed a button did I?

Anyway, you're assuming I'm a Bush worshipper who sees no faults in the guy, and no merit in any left views. I'm not sure why you do that.

Beyond that, what you're bringing up doesn't address what I'm talking about. Quick example: "There were no conenctions at all between Hussein and al Qaeda." Part of the Left Catechism, is my perception. It's complete nonsense. Another: "Most Americans believe Hussein was behind 9-11." A canard, based on misreading of bad polling. (Don't come at me with the polls that support the perception, because I have responses and I don't have time. I'm just bringing stuff up as examples of what I'm talking about.)

Bruce Hayden said...

Eddie suggested that "I thought lawyers just blogged because their real life careers were just so painfully boring."

Good point. Law school is fun. A lot of the practice of law is not. Rather, it is extreme drugery.

Smay said...

I remember anon. course evaluations in college (engineering, maybe law school is different) and they were a great chance to say what you liked and disliked about the prof's teaching method and performance. Not to make barbs regarding appearances and personal hobbies. That seems a little weak to me.

To get on topic, I enjoy this blog because of the variety of topics, depth of posts, and quality of comments. I found it accidentally through an Instapundit post and have been back daily ever since. Provides a great distraction from work.

Eddie said...

Thank God for the CBS poll being posted. Did Dan Rather conduct that one himself?

Mary, I am sure Ann doesn't do the blog for the money. With the bloated WRS (Wisconsin Retirement System, Public employee pension fund), she has no need to every worry about money again, especially if she's enrolled in the variable fund.

PatCA said...

You are so right on. Al Q can just wait and let the headlines do their job for them.

BTW I think The "Troubles" in Ireland is another issue that the media simplified and made worse. I spent time in Ireland and found opinion on the ground quite different from what we read here.

Anonymous said...

Here's what the incomparable Peggy Noonan had to say about lawyers "...they're so boring."


Mary E. Glynn said...

Should we be drawing any distinction between lawyers ("who eat what they kill") and law professors, many of whom have not practiced law in years?

Just asking...

Anonymous said...

Oooh Mary :(

pst314 said...

Bruce Hayden said wrote: "Law school is fun. A lot of the practice of law is not. Rather, it is extreme drugery."

Most professions are like that.

"the fun of blogging":

This discussion reminds me of how in the 1970's Scientific American had developed a reputation for very dull prose. By editorial policy authors were expected to conform to a dry prose style that eliminated the possibility of personal style and expression. Stephen Hawking was applauded in my physics department when he actually managed to put a joke about Hawking Radiation in an article on black holes.