ABA Blawg 100: Death of the Beauty Pageant

As most of you know, the ABA Journal is running its third annual Blawg 100 beauty pageant.  It started a while back, but today is the last day.  Up to now, I’ve refused to mention it here, but I do so today because it reflects what’s become of the blawgosphere, a metaphor for our consideration.

The first year of the Beauty Pageant, it was more of a fun game, not to be taken too seriously as no one had much of a clue what it meant.  It seemed nice to be recognized as having done sufficiently good work to get onto the ABA Journal’s radar.  Everyone like’s a little appreciation and validation of their efforts.  The competition was deeply flawed, but it was a work in progress.

Second year was somewhat troubling. Good blawgs were ignored.  Non-blawgs were included.  It had the stink of arbitrariness and pointlessness.  We learned that the blawgs, although some weren’t even blogs, named to the 100 were those that someone on the ABA Journal staff decided, for no apparent reason, struck their fancy.  Feelings were hurt by those who didn’t make the cut.

On the other hand, some blawgs began to take the competition much too seriously, as if winning made them real or significant where they were inconsequential otherwise.  A competitive atmosphere arose, which ultimately resulted in the cogs of the ABA Journal altering the votes as improperly cast in a back room somewhere, and naming winners.  The victory rung hollow for some because of this.  For others, they took their victory where they found it, and touted their mastery of the blawgosphere.

This year, the Blawg 100 bears all the arbitrariness of its predecessors, with some worthless, even dead, blogs making the cut and some wonderful blawgs ignored.  Those with inadequate self-esteem pumped and stumped for their great victories, which would entitled them to put a badge on their blawg to promote the ABA Journal.  How glorious a victory would be.

The ABA Journal changed the process this year, requiring erstwhile voters to register with them in order to vote.  Why would anyone register with the ABA Journal?  I didn’t register.  I didn’t vote.  Sure, it would prevent “voter fraud,” as if this vote matters, and it just happens to have the collateral benefit of hyping the ABA Journal and obtaining a great deal of information from those for whom voting was so important that they would actually register to do it.

The competition this year was almost as silly as last.  Simple Justice, with a write-up I found wrong and offensive, was, ironically, in the justice category, along side Mark Bennett’s Defending People and Doug Berman’s Sentencing Law & Policy.  Also included was Crime & Consequences, the mouthpiece of the right wing Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, and Jeralyn Merritt’s Talkleft, focused on the liberal political perspective.  It’s an incongruent mash-up of politics, styles and approaches.  I can’t choose amongst them, as they all are important parts of my blawgosphere. There is no basis for comparison between any of them.  Each is a valued part of a whole.

My choice not to participate in the Beauty Pageant this year, not even to mention its existence on Simple Justice, was in part to maintain my intellectual honesty, given that I’ve been a frequent and harsh critic of the ABA Journal.  Between its absurd Legal Rebel series, promoting the worst of what’s become of lawyers in a farcical promotion of marketing, mediocrity and manipulation, to its deafening silence on monumental issues like the indictment of judges in Maricopa County for refusing to buckle to threats of force, the ABA Journal has demonstrated its irrelevance to the legal profession.  I cannot, in good conscience, enjoy the games it offers while criticizing its failures, and so I refused to do so.

To the extent that putting the ABA Blawg 100 badge on my sidebar will serve to fool the unwary and ignorant into thinking that what happens at Simple Justice matters, I will use it.  Not because it’s true, but because anything the helps to further my message serves my purpose.  I have no qualms about taking advantage of silly things to further a broader agenda.

But one thing happened that compels me to even mention this ridiculous Beauty Pageant.  This:


Neil Squillante at Technolawyer wants to win his category so badly that he has started a sweepstakes with cash prizes, substantial cash prizes, for those who vote for Technolawyer.  Nothing that I’ve experienced as a part of the blawgosphere, as a blawg in the ABA Journal Blawg 100, has made me more ashamed than this.

This is what has become of the blawgosphere. The marketers, hypsters, snake oil salesmen have fought hard to change this from a community of thought and expression to a crass commercial opportunity.  Nothing could be more crass than this.  Obviously, Squillante thinks he can eke some monetary benefit from winning, enough so that it’s worth putting up a substantial amount of money to buy votes.  There’s no rule against it, though the ABA Journal seems to make up rules for its Beauty Pageant as it goes along.

I urge everyone reading this post to now register and vote for Technolawyer in the hope of winning the $500 top prize.  You would be foolish to pass up this opportunity to get some cash in your pocket for doing nothing of consequence.

It’s unlikely that the ABA Journal, should it run this Beauty Pageant again next year despite the wholesale lack of interest as shown by the few votes cast, will include a “world weary” ranter like me again.  I never seem to have anything nice to write about it anymore, and if I don’t appreciate their promoting Simple Justice, why waste the space when it could be better used to promote a blawg that will appreciate the ABA Journal more than I do.  But if the staff at the ABA Journal decides to hold this Beauty Pageant again next year, and inexplicably decides to include Simple Justice despite its obvious disdain for my critical “rants”, I won’t put up a dime for your vote. 

If you want to make some money off this Beauty Pageant, vote for Technolawyer now.  It would be shame if nothing beneficial happened for you while the blawgosphere went down the tubes.

101 comments on “ABA Blawg 100: Death of the Beauty Pageant

  1. Sam Glover

    I was pretty amused at the category and description we wound up with, too. And while I am shocked by TechnoLawyer’s vote-buying, it is mostly because I can’t believe it values a “win” at over $1,000.

  2. SHG

    To value a win at more than $1,000 has to be giving Molly McDonough shivers. I can’t wait to find out how Technolawyer plans to monetize it’s win.  Or whether this is cash for vanity.   That’s a lot of vanity.

  3. Windypundit

    Awesome. As an amateur economist, I gotta love this approach. It’s a great example of culture jamming…although he appears to be serious.

    I remember that some company used to sponsor SEO contests with a prize. They’d pick a phrase using a couple of made-up words for which Google had no results, and the contestants would try to win those keywords. After 90 days, whichever page was at the top of the Google search results won the prize.

    One good trick to get links to your page was to promise that if you won the prize you’d give it away to someone who had linked to you.

    By the way, I was amused by TechnoLawyer’s 900-word block of official sweepstakes rules. Very lawyerly of him.

    The only thing that would have made this even more awesome is if the ABA Journal used up-to-date thumbnails in their blog descriptions, so TechnoLawyer’s thumbnail showed the $500 bribe offer. Alas, it was not so.

  4. SHG

    Great thought about the thumbnail, but take it a step further. What it blawgers could post their own self-description, so that Technolawyer could put its sweepstakes offer right into the voting blurb.

    Vote for the other guys and they get a badge. Vote for me and win $500!

  5. Marc J. Randazza

    It clearly means a lot more to him than it does to me.

    My only beef with Turley is his lack of hat tipping. Christ, does it really take so much effort? I even HT to him when I find stories on his blog.

    But… Turley’s blog is a lot like christianity. The guy who founded it might be a great guy, but his most supportive followers are a bunch of twats.

  6. SHG
    I’ve chided him on occasion about his failure to link to his source for posts, something he never does.  I can’t figure out whether this reflects some philosophical view of his, he can’t bear to share the limelight or he’s just rude.  But regardless of why Turley doesn’t acknowledge his sources, it’s really quite troubling for a lawprof to take from others without proper recognition.  And yet he never does.

    Addendum:  And Jonathon Turley makes a big last minute push to win the prize.

    The final day is here in the galactic struggle for blog dominance. This afternoon, voting will end and, while the vote count has now been hidden by the ABA, we cannot give up our righteous battle.

    I wonder how much a vote is worth to him?

  7. Bruce Carton

    ABA Journal: Greenfield, how many votes did you get today?

    Greenfield: Oh, ABA, I don’t keep score.

    ABA Journal: Then how do you measure yourself with other bloggers?

    Greenfield: By height.

  8. SHG

    (As Greenfield slowly unbuckles his belt…)

    Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the humor you bring to Legal Blog Watch, by the way?  Your three questions a day posts are brilliant.  How the heck did a securities lawyer turn out to be so funny?

  9. Mark Bennett

    I wonder if Squillante would respond, “anything the helps to further my message serves my purpose. I have no qualms about taking advantage of silly things to further a broader agenda.”

  10. SHG

    I would imagine that’s exactly how he would explain it.  Of course, I wouldn’t spend a dime to do so, and take advantage of it only because it’s handed to me on a silver platter.  I’m too frugal.

  11. Carolyn Elefant

    Well, I’m glad that you can get yourself excited enough about this for a post. I agree with you and wish that I could work up similar rage but the truth is that the ABA contest is just so stupid and silly that I can’t even fathom how it might matter enough to someone to promote it, let alone buy votes.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to the ABA’s recognition and appreciate their nice write up. But I am not going to post the plaque for free (even if I won) because it is free advertising. In reality, the ABA should be paying me since 1/3 of my traffic comes from the ABA site by people in search of resources on solo and small firm practice.
    Also – I hope this does not sound like sour grapes – but winning the ABA contest is not something that I’d even want. I am not blogging for a stupid honor but because I want to improve our profession by providing a resource for lawyers who might otherwise leave the law because they were’nt aware of the solo option. Those lawyers might be the ones to vindicate a client or change the law for the better or improve the quality of access to justice – and if I can help keep them in the profession, I’ll feel that my blogging actually mattered.
    Have a great New Year!

  12. Turk

    I confess that I find it in an honor to be included in the ABA Blawg 100. It’s always nice to be thought well of, especially when you come from a niche (though I still don’t know how they failed to include Overlawyered and Lowering the Bar).

    But their idea of running a beauty pageant is, I agree, for the birds. That is the place where ego meets intellect, and as some show with their repeated, public screams to “vote for me” it is an unpleasant place.

    If they need to have voting — and I don’t think they should — then next year they should adopt Mark Bennett’s idea of just having blawgers cast the votes.

  13. SHG

    To a lot of us, this is sort of an inside baseball post.  Most outsiders to blawging are very impressed by the ABA imprimatur, and don’t realize what a load of crap it is.  You’re right, the ABA Journal should pay us to put their badge on our blawgs, just as any other entity seeking to promote themselves at our expense would have to do.

    But as long as lawyers and readers don’t realize that this is just nonsense, and think this recognition somehow makes blawgs more worthy, the ABA Journal has the upper hand and the badge serves some purpose, even if its only one of misperception.

  14. SHG

    And if you won the Best Blawg for your category (which included blawgs that have nothing to do with yours) by the unilateral fiat of Molly McDonough or Ed Adams, would that make it more meaningful?  I don’t see it.

  15. SHG

    You may be right, but even so, I fail to see the reason to hurt the feelings of friends and contributors to the blawgosphere by competition.  You and I occupy the same space, and yet I enjoy the synergy far more than I would want to win a contest with you.  Appreciation is one thing, but we don’t really need to win anybody’s “best” award anymore.

  16. Mark Bennett

    You’re probably right—you usually are when I don’t disagree strongly with you. Happy New Year, my friend. Simple Justice is the best as far as I’m concerned.

  17. Neil J. Squillante

    Scott has used our marketing campaign as a symbol of the downward spiral of the blogosphere, the problem being that we existed before the blogosphere. We have cranked out content online every weekday for more than a decade.

    Scott should have used a different scapegoat though in my opinion the blogosphere has improved. Look at Above the Law as a prime example. David Lat and his team have done more in a few years than Steven Brill could have ever dreamed back in the glory days of American Lawyer.

    Now, about our sweepstakes. We cleared it with the ABA Journal. Our sweepstakes counsel, Enns & Archer, wrote the rules. Finally, why are lawyers (not Scott but others) who should know better accusing us of “buying votes”? By definition, most of the people who enter a sweepstakes do not win. Our sweepstakes is no exception. Criticize us if you wish, but please use more precise language. We are not buying votes. We are getting out the vote.

  18. Charon QC

    I have to confess (a) That it was pleasing to be nominated and (b) to have a bit of fun with a sardonic campaign to try and win with Geeklawyer – knowing full well that Marc Randazza would and should win with Legal Satyricon. The ‘Kittens get it” ploy from Randazza inspired us to run with our, obviously, ludicrous Free The Brit 3 campaign (Babybarista was in a different category) which we did for a couple of days.

    I assumed that all the ‘Vote for me’ stuff was just fun until I realised that some people do take the thing seriously – which, for my money, is not really the point of blogging.

    This latest nonsense is quite remarkable.

    Mark – if you read this – I do hope you win.

    I am more than happy that the Geeklawyer and Charon blogs get a bit of publicity your side – but I think I can speak for Geeklawyer when I say this – we blog for pleasure, as most of the bloggers I follow do.

  19. Charon QC

    Agree. No-one needs to win any ‘Best’ award.

    I drew the line this year on Blawg Review by refusing to nominate any blog and ask that no-one nominate me (That seemed only fair) – because there are a lot of BRs in the year and most of them are very good. While I nominated in the past – I felt uncomfortable doing so – but I was new to the BR ethic.

    I got myself into a spot of trouble with his sentiment and took umbrage at several tweets. Life is far too short for conflict in blogging or on Twitter and I don’t do ‘umgrage’ that well.

    Contests take away the pleasure – so for my part, I am always happy to give and receive a hat tip – but I certainly do not want to judge blogs for a competition.

    The mild rivalry and friendship between bloggers is a lot more important than awards. I shall continue with my practice of giving awards to myself as the mood takes me. I have taken up cooking again recently. It is quite remarkable how many Michelin Stars I have accumulated in a very short time.

    A good 2010 to you all.

  20. Charon QC

    It would appear that not only do I not do ‘Umbrage’ well – I can’t type – sorry also for ‘his’ when it should have been ‘this’. Mea culpa…or to be more accurate… a rather good bottle of Rioja last night.


    Wow, I thought it would take longer than 2 hours into the new year to find another lawyer who was totally full of shit, but things move quickly in the digital age.

    Now I’m going to tell my little girls that from now on when they run for student council at school there is no problem with telling each kid that votes for them that they will be entered into a raffle for free Ice Cream.

  22. Mark Bennett

    “We cleared it with the ABA Journal,” so it is okay. In other words, anything within the rules goes?

    In the process of trying to show . . . what, that your vote-buying sweepstakes (a thing of value–a chance to win money–in exchange for a vote for you) is not in fact a sign of the downward spiral of the blawgosphere, you’ve shown that it’s but a symptom of the downward spiral of the entire legal profession.


  23. SHG

    Let us not ignore what this says about the ABA Journal, the lawyer version of publishers clearing-house.

  24. Charon QC

    As you know, I trawl Twitter trying to find work for my learned friend Geeklawyer. It occurred to me, reading this, that we might be able to offer you ‘advantageous terms’ should you wish us to draft ‘Terms & Conditions’ for your next Key Lime competition.

    Our terms for this work are – full fee in advance and, in return, we will send you the completed draft when we return from our short ‘research retreat’ in Amsterdam.

    Please feel free Scott – to delete this addendum should you feel that my conduct in relation to this may be bringing the blogosphere into disrepute.

  25. SHG

    I would as a flagrant solicitation of business, but recognizing the challenges facing Geeklawyer in obtaining business, I will let this one slide through.  I realize that this is merely a charitable endeavor on your part to help Geeklawyer, a noble (though futile) cause indeed.

  26. Neil J. Squillante

    Brian, your childish personal attack without conducting any research about me or TechnoLawyer lends far more credence to the negative stereotypes about lawyers than anything I’ve ever done. Next time try making a cogent argument. You may still lose, but at least you won’t embarrass yourself.

  27. brian tannebaum


    Thanks for the lecture, Neil is it? But I don’t need to do any research to see how you disgrace our profession by buying votes for a stupid blog competition. And you lack of ability to understand my perfectly cogent argument is apparent.

  28. Neil J. Squillante

    Charon, you’re confusing hobbyist blogs with commercial blogs. Winning an award can help the latter. The ABA chose to list both types of blogs side by side in the Blawg 100. Most competitions have more of a level playing field — for example, the five nominees for Best Picture.

  29. Charon QC

    Neil – I like the term ‘hobbyist’… it reminds me of the days when cricket was played by gentlemen.. not professionals…. There was a time when law was practised, they tell me, at a more gentle pace, when the meaning profession had status…. now when I visit some of the very sharp, slick, brilliantly staffed temples of law in The City – I tend to understand why many barristers in the Inns of Court and in Chambers throughout our land wish to continue practising law as they have done for many years.

    It has taken me 30 years of fairly serious academic study, founding law schools, publishing, writing law books, broadcasting et al to perfect the ‘hobbyist’ look to my blog… it has been worth every sweated hour.

    Your prize did make me laugh though… and, as Scott said… someone is going to be $500 richer – and that can only do that person good.

    There are a few commercial blogs in the UK written by law firms. Some of them are spectacularly bad – they proclaim, hand down edicts… some even ‘shout’ their message. Few of them engage with their readers and misunderstand the nature of social media. Engaging, communicating, having fun, informing, talking … can lead to work… and that is fine if it does.

    The trouble is… I have a feeling that readers of tweets and blogs are quite a clever breed and can see an advertising promo blog for what it is… and it can be a car crash for the people behind the blog.

    Anyway.. you are now in the public domain even more than you were before – and… full marks – you are answering those who do not agree with the stance you have taken and that can only be good.

    Now.. where is my painter’s beret and hobby craft knife… I must get back to my blog!

  30. Neil J. Squillante

    Charon, thank you for your reply. By commercial blog, I mean one run by a media company in which the blog is the business. Most law firm blogs are marketing vehicles, not businesses. Thus, our blog winning an award is like a law firm winning an award.

  31. Charon QC

    Neil – Thanks for replying.

    So..maybe I have got this wrong… but you buying votes is a bit like British Aerospace giving kick backs to the Saudis for contracts – which was apparently just fine with our government. Certainly, the Attorney-General seemed not to be terribly interested in looking at it, from what I can recall now?

  32. Neil J. Squillante

    I don’t know much about Bristish politics so I cannot comment. Please see my above remarks. We did not buy votes. We ran a marketing campaign just like millions of companies do every day.

  33. Charon QC

    Neil – I’ve just had a thought… You winning awards is like a law firm winning an award?

    Are law firms running competitions to win awards? I’d pay money to see that….. they might need it to deal with the disciplinary proceedings they would face – certainly in my country.

    Do let me know if you know of any law firms running competitions to win awards US or UK. I do a sideline in minor investigative journalism on my blog… just as a hobby, though…

  34. Charon QC

    Neil – OK… I am, obviously, being obtuse. It is a marketing campaign. Got it.

    I shall see if any English law firms fancy the idea of running a marketing campaign by running a sweepstake to get votes so they can beat other law firms in a ‘best Law Firm of The Year Award’ – we have these competitions over here as well…

  35. Turk

    Thus, our blog winning an award is like a law firm winning an award.

    And if the law firm bought that award, what would people say?

  36. Doug Cornelius

    Merely a marketing campaign?

    No. They bought votes. People voted for TechnoLawyer in hopes of winning a prize, not because they thought it was the best.

    Should politicians use this type of “marketing campaign” when they run for election?

    Its even worse for the ABA if they approved the “marketing campaign.” Although it looks like the ABA changed their mind and put the dreaded asterisk next to the TechnoLawyer victory.

  37. SHG
    I wonder how Neil will market his way out of this;

    TechnoLawyer Blog*

    TechnoLawyer Blog covers the latest technology for law practice management and highlights the best of the legal blog­osphere. Many posts are merely teasers for content that is only available on TechnoLawyer’s eight free electronic newsletters, but posts pulled from those electronic publications are thorough and solid.

    *The TechnoLawyer Blog drew the most votes in this category only after it ran a sweepstakes campaign offering readers who claimed to have voted for it the opportunity to win one of two $500 first prizes and five $100 second prizes. Had the sweepstakes offer not been made, the likely winner would have been E-Lessons Learned.

    Kinda makes everybody look, oh, incredibly foolish.

  38. Neil J. Squillante

    Our subscribers voted for us because they like our publications. The sweepstakes was an added fun component with small prizes and small likelihood of victory. Perhaps you think $500 is a lot of money. I certainly don’t.

  39. SHG

    Great!  Send me $500 (I take paypal) and I’ll stop writing about it (and delete all those nasty comments from that nasty Cornelius guy).

    But what about the part where you would have lost except for your sweepstakes.  It does add a permanent stink to the win, you know.  For a cool grand, I’ll throw in an air freshener.


    Thanks Neil, I needed a good laugh. Actually, a hysterical belly laugh. One where you can’t stop for like 5 minutes and people are saying “what is so funny,” and you can’t stop laughing long enough to tell them.

  41. Mark Bennett

    I dunno. $500 isn’t a lot of money for, say, a day’s work. But it’s a lot of money for casting a vote in a popularity contest.

    Why did people vote for you? We’ll never know now.

  42. SHG

    You’re not going to stop until you’ve totally blown the deal I’m trying to cut here, are you.? Fine, you’re in for 10%.

  43. Neil J. Squillante

    Actually, we do know. Our subscribers entered the sweepstakes via email. I cannot share their private messages publicly, but suffice it to say that many of the messages were extremely supportive. Also, don’t forget about our victory last year without the benefit of a sweepstakes.

    The ABA Journal changed the parameters this year, requiring registration, ceasing to show the raw vote totals during the last week or so, and ending voting earlier.

    Compare this year’s vote totals to last year’s — much lower across the board thanks to these changes.

    We used the sweepstakes in response to these changes. We believe it added 25-75 votes to our total. In other words, we would have likely won regardless.

  44. SHG

    Are you kidding?  I’m personally responsible for at least 100 votes of my readers going for your cash prize. They don’t read Technolawyer and couldn’t care less, but they are all big fans of money.

    And this is the thank you I get?   Still waiting for the paypal from Deep Pockets.

  45. Mark Bennett

    Believe. Likely.

    I’m sure it’s a very nice blog, and maybe your super-secret messages prove that it would have won regardless, but it’ll always be remembered as the one that bought votes in a popularity contest. Which is more than a little pathetic.

    Sure you did it in response to changes in the rules–changes that applied to everyone.


    I’ll tell you this – I just tried some Almond Hershey’s Kisses – and those things are damn good. I’ll take a bag of those to vote for someone’s blog. I think a trend may begin here. I just need a sandwich board and a nice street corner

  47. Neil J. Squillante

    You say pathetic, we say creative marketing. Few people who follow the herd win. You may not like our methods, but at least we sparked a debate and helped Simple Justice score a bunch of page views and comments.

  48. Charon QC

    Neil: I have started selling shovels. I do two types (a) for digging holes: A long handled shovel with a sharpened shape. These come in two colours – Gold for award winners and silver for runner’s up (b) for shovelling ‘merde’ as we say over here: most useful for people who fail to buy shovel (a)

  49. SHG

    It doesn’t matter how expensive your shovels are. Technolawyer has plenty of money. Neil will take one of each, both in size Extra Extra Large.

  50. BryanKeenan

    The Technolawyer sweepstakes was not tied to voting for Technolawyer — it was tied to voting. It was not buying votes, but shameless promotion. Get over it, people.

  51. SHG

    Did Neil promise to pay you to write this?  Wait for the check to clear, because I still haven’t gotten my paypal from him.

  52. Alan Taboada

    I am a Technolawyer subscriber and received their email promotion, which, after instructing how to log in and vote for Technolawyer, states:

    “That’s it. If you win, you’ll need to sign a declaration indicating that you voted for TechnoLawyer Blog.”

    So the sweepstakes actually was tied to voting for Technolawyer.

    I was thinking about doing it – $500 is a lot of money to me (and I wouldn’t have complained if I only won the measly $100 runner up prize) – but i never got around to it.

    I generally like the technolawyer blog, and I think that Neil is partly right in that this was indeed a marketing ploy to get out the vote. However, what Neil fails to see, I believe, is that the marketing ploy was buying votes with the chance to win cash prizes.

  53. SHG

    So it would appear, how do I say this nicely, that Neil has been, oh, less than forthright in his claims that he wasn’t buying votes?

  54. Alan Taboada

    To give Neil the benefit of the doubt, I think that perhaps he didn’t see it that way initially, and that now that he is being attacked refuses to admit any wrongdoing.

    I’m with you as to the factual matter of whether the sweepstakes was buying votes, but I am not convinced that Neil was lying or twisting the truth with respect to how he perceived it (at least initially)…

  55. Catherine Mulcahey

    I’m relatively new to blogging, and as is often the case, I’m confused. Until recently, Technolawyer was one of a half dozen blogs to which I subscribed. I had never looked at the ABA Journal site. When Neil Squillante ran the sweepstakes pitch, I wondered why winning the ABA award was worth $1500 to him. I’m still wondering.
    Nonetheless, I trotted off to the ABA site, registered for the Journal, and looked at almost all the nominated blawgs. I added 8 subscriptions to my list. And I voted for 10 blawgs in the beauty pageant.
    So, OK, I confess that my vote was purchased for a raffle ticket. I really do like Technolawyer, but I wouldn’t have voted at all if it weren’t for the “marketing ploy.” I am ashamed. I would probably feel even worse, but I have been numbed to corruption by years of living in Palm Beach County, Florida, home of the hanging chad, and former residence of Bernie Madoff and 5 erstwhile county commissioners now serving federal time.
    It may not be a huge amount of money to some people, but I’m sure Neil Squillante would not drop $1,500 on the sidewalk and walk away. Please. Will somebody please explain why the award was worth the prize money?

  56. SHG

    The only person who can explain why Neil was willing to put up the money is Neil.  Though frankly, I would suspect that he might not be inclined to tell the truth about it at the moment.

    As Neil wrote, to us “hobbyists”, the award has no cash value whatsoever.  Clearly, Neil thinks he can monetize it by getting subscribers or advertisers for his site, and a $1500 investment is worth it for him.  For the rest of us, not so much.  But then, we’re hobbyists and he’s a professional (don’t try this at home, kids).

  57. Kimberly Theobold

    Prize or no prize, win or no win, Technolawyer is my favorite blog – it’s been a great resource.

  58. SHG

    Then isn’t it a shame that of the 100 blawgs that were part of the ABA Journal Beauty Pageant, only 1, Technolawyer, your favorite, resorted to vote buying.

  59. Audge

    I have to admit that, until I saw Neil’s “Get out the vote” sweepstakes, I wasn’t even aware of the ABA Journal blog vote, and as I’m plenty busy I wouldn’t otherwise have made time to vote — even though I regularly read, value and appreciate TechnoLawyer, Law.com and Bob Ambrogi’s blogs, and a few others I read regularly. And, while I subsequently responded and voted for my favorites (8, one of which was TL, 7 others which benefited from my response to Neil’s email), I declined the sweepstakes.

    Hopefully Neil, Bob, and others know they offer something of value. But how many of us make time to voice our appreciation? Hence Neil’s sweepstakes. How many others would have taken the time to register our thanks if not for that email? Given the dramatic change in results, it’s likely an entire additional group of readers was reached.

    From my perspective, Neil’s email provided a benefit to the legal community by broadening awareness of the ABA Journal vote, and encouraging people to participate and make a selection. Nobody was coerced in any way, nor tricked into voting, or expressing appreciation they didn’t feel. Personally the claims of foul play are falling flat to me.

  60. SHG

    I love it when people contend that the more clueless they are, the more they’re entitled to an opinion.  And yet, this is just spam generated by Neil’s call to action to get his friends to make him look less sleazy.  Remember, make Neil pay up front.

  61. Venkat


    Congrats, you put together a successful marketing campaign and won the contest.

    When lawyers and consultants these days spend much of their time talking about marketing and building your practice through marketing, you trumped them all by actually implementing a successful marketing campaign. You demonstrated the success of your methods through actual results, while most people just pontificate. (Better yet, it was an on-line marketing campaign that used social media!)

    People seem to be ticked off because of some unwritten rule that participants should have encouraged people to vote only through tweets and blog posts. You did what most practice consultants encourage lawyers to do. You figured you could save a bunch of your time by putting up a prize. Rather than wasting your time tweeting and blogging about the contest, you brought on a rush of votes with a few dollars. Most people are asking whether the prize was worth the amount of money you spent. They’re asking the wrong question. Think of all the time you saved. Again, while people pontificate about outsourcing and concentrating your expenditure of time on the key tasks, you spoke through your actions.

    The funniest part of all this was the ABA adding an asterisk to Technolawyer’s listing as the winning blog. This cast the contest on the whole in an absurd light (in my opinion). You did what a 1000 other blog posts couldn’t do. In the process you may have provided a few lessons for the legal profession (or at least the Slackoisie among us).


    I agree, it’s not about voting for the actual best blog – it’s about voting for the best marketing campaign. This is a good lesson for the legal profession – it’s not about how good a lawyer you are, it’s how you can get clients, even if it means spending a few bucks reigning them in.

    I’ve been doing it all wrong. Next guy who hires me, gets $50.

  63. SHG

    You are either rmissed the point or are angling for winning the booby prize for most clueless comment, without having to lay out any cash.  For the win to have any meaning or value, it has to be earned, not bought.  Neil proved it can be bought.  Would he have earned it had he not bought it?  No, accordiing to the ABA Journal.  So, Neil won, but the win is meaningless since he didn’t earn it.  Instead, it shows a loophole in the rules that allows an unworthy blawg to buy votes. 

    As a lawyer, we appreciate a good loophole as much as the next guy..  Go, Neil.  You da man.

    As blawgers, we appreciate a good blawg as much as the next guy.  Boo, Neil. Your blawg isn’t good enough to win.

    And to add insult to injury, it’s not as if everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) doesn’t realize that Neil bought the prize, reducing the win and the entire beauty pageant to a joke. 

    And you don’t get any of this, Venkat?

  64. Venkat

    SHG: “reducing the win and the entire *beauty pageant* to a joke”

    ABA Journal’s caveat is clueless and useless – by what standards did they determine that he would not have won without buying the vote? We’re not exactly sure what standards the ABA used to begin with. Wait, I forgot, it’s a beauty pageant.

    Without Neil’s win the field looks arbitrarily (and somewhat sloppily put together). Neil’s win just made that clear.

    My comment was also intended somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I think you missed that. Typical anti-Slackoisie prejudice!

  65. Neil J Squillante

    How can you — a lawyer no less — prove we would not have won this year? The ABA Journal’s disclaimer offers no evidence and neither do you.

    The best way to predict the future is to look at historical data — like our victory last year. If the ABA Journal had declined our request to operate a sweepstakes, we would have used a used a different strategy and still won.

  66. Mark Bennett

    Neil, getting on your high horse is not going to get you out of the hole you’ve dug yourself into.

    Whether you’d have won or not is purely speculative–other fine blogs won last year and didn’t win this year. But the ABA Journal made the rules and tallied the votes, and, reluctantly, I’ll take their conclusions from secret data over yours.

    You bought the “win.” The price? Not just the cash, but also the respect of more than a couple of your peers.

  67. Neil J. Squillante

    What hole? I think you’re taking this debate over a marketing campaign too seriously. If we thought this post exposed some horrible truth, we would not have chosen it as our Post of the Week in BlawgWorld. It’s all in good fun. I’m just glad that Scott works in midtown and not down here in Tribeca. One neighborhood might not be big enough for both of us.

  68. SHG

    Neil, my Tribeca friends.  When you try to spin an argument into my proving you didn’t deserve to win, you will not merely lose the argument (as every lawyer knows the burden shifting game) but continue to invite people to dump on you.  You bought the votes, so the burden is on you to prove you would have won it.  Your argument of past experience fails because, as Mark said, others who won last year lost this year.  Whatever chance you may have had at legitimacy was lost when you chose to buy the vote.

    And that’s that.  We all know it.  The harder you try to deny it, the more foolish you look.  Just like trying to get your fans to spam here with how wonderful technolawyer is.  We don’t care. Nobody cares.  We only know you bought the vote, and you will be forever tainted as the only person who every bought a win in this ridiculous pageant, which makes it all the worse since it is so utterly ridiculous.

    You’re in a lose, lose, lose right now. You could make it worse, or take it like a man and go hide.

  69. Mark Bennett

    It might have been an excellent prank.

    If it had, the better course would have been (note the conditional perfect; it’s too late now) to man up in the beginning and admit buying the votes (“Yeah. So what? The contest was a joke, and I gamed it.”) instead of starting out dishonest (“We are just getting out the vote.”) and only going to “it’s all in good fun” when that fails.

  70. SHG

    Excellent point. Had Neil done that at the outset, he would have received kudos. At the backend, it’s just BS.

  71. Neil J. Squillante

    We’ll have to agree to disagree to use a favorite cliche. As I noted elsewhere, the people who visit our site will see the award logo, not an asterisk, disclaimer, or any of the ridiculous, ad hominem comments here.

    Every award competition requires marketing if you want to win. Marketing costs money. Most of the time, those involved don’t spend their marketing dollars it as transparently as we did.

    If you believe that most award recipients do nothing to try to win, I’ve got a bridge to sell you to use one of my least favorite cliches.

    As for proof, none exists, which explains why the ABA Journal’s disclaimer is so bizarre. We’re not in the movie Sliding Doors. There’s only one reality. We feel confident we would have won under any circumstances, but we cannot prove it unless we redo the competition, which will happen — in December 2010. See you then.

  72. SHG

    Neil, there’s no disagreement.  You, and you alone, bought your win.  No one else out of the other 99 tried to buy votes.  Your efforts to lie your way out of this is what brings on the ad hominem attacks. You lie and then whine for being called a liar.

    Give it up Neil.  Put the badge on your site and feel proud of yourself.  For the rest of us, the win is bogus, but worse, you’re too much of a wussy to own up to it.

  73. SHG

    If Neil wants to keep digging the hole, I’ll let him, but I’m inclined to do another post on him if he comments again.  The next one will juxtapose his various comments here, so to the extent that anyone has any doubt about what Neil is up to, that will be put to death conclusively.

    The funny part is that he seems to have a blog that people like, but made a few too many boneheaded mistakes and lacks the balls to admit it.  It’s not my goal to make shine a light into the very deep hole he’s dug, but I will if he pushes it.

  74. Mark Bennett

    Never mind. Neil’s a marketer. The rules are different. Even conduct that is outrageously unethical for lawyers is about par for the course for marketers.

  75. SHG

    For a lawyer, you ought to know that you have to identify who the “you” is and what the defamatory statement is. For a techno guy, you ought to know that you may have just bought yourself a whole new round of ridicule, maybe even the Streisand effect.  You really are a weenie.

    But if you really need an example of your lie, this will do: “We are not buying votes. We are getting out the vote.”


    Oh, another marketer who cries defamation because they have nothing else of any relevance to say. Let me add this to my list.

    Neil, the entire blawgosphere knows how you won. That’s really all that matters. Enjoy your badge.

  77. David Sugerman

    So I love the defamation claim. As a seasoned plaintiff’s lawyer, I feel inclined to offer two observations: 1. The truth is a nasty defense; and 2. You’ve got to prove damages. Good luck with that.

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