Who Wins When We’re Weary

An incoming read came from an old post at Big Legal Brain, a very funny blog that died back in September, 2014.  I took a trip down memory lane, and read it.  It was very funny at the time.  It’s still very funny, but also sad and telling.  The title is “The ROI of Name Dropping.”

Social media offers lawyers a wealth of opportunities, from invitations to pay your own way to speak at legal conferences to the promise of a one-day training certificate in Thought Leadership. And, once in every 476,935 posts* to Twitter or Facebook, a lawyer gets a client referral out of the deal.

But how does a non-tech savvy lawyer achieve such near-miracles in a manner that makes for worthwhile Return on Investment (ROI)? Two words: name dropping.

The post goes back to the good times when lawyers on the internets, those ten percenters who were early adopters ten years after the rest of the world discovered social media, were being told that this is the future.  Get on board now or you’ll miss the train.

Tweet about your phone conversations. For example: “Just had a great convo with @lizstrauss. I went to her conference in 2009 and even saw her house once.”

If no one important wants to have a conversation with you, stick to tweeting web celebrity sightings. For example: “Just saw @kevinokeefe having a convo with @adriandayton in the hall at #ABATechShow.”

Have no important friends and can’t afford to attend a social media conference? Just tweet about things you’ve read that were written by trending quasi-experts. For example: “Reading @nikiblack ‘2011 Tech Trends for Lawyers’ http://bit.ly/gvULIh”

Hysterical, right?  Except this post was in 2011, when social media was all new and shiny, and most early adopters hitched their wagon to the panacea it would bring to law, the legal profession, new lawyers and a laundry list of jargon words, from synergy to engagement to thought leaders.

I was strolling through my blog roll the other day, and realized that it’s largely a morgue.  A relic of a blawgosphere that once existed, and now mausoleum of lawyers and prawfs who came and went.  Some still post occasionally, when they have something that sparks their interest, but most are dead and buried.

And yet, the ones with something to sell persist.  The practical blawgosphere is dead. The marketing blawgosphere remains.  It’s apparently no more effective than it’s ever been, as tech start-ups burst onto the scene and disappear as soon as cash burn silences the silly hype, but their lovers remain, pushing an agenda of the new normal.

But the lawyers are gone.  Except me, but then, I’m an old fool who refuses to realize that the party is over and everybody has gone home to sleep it off.

The practical blawgosphere, a name coined by a guy I called the Texas Tornado, Mark Bennett, was born of a question posed in 2007 by law professor Dave Hoffman at his blog, Concurring Opinions.

There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle about whether the blawgosphere is “stagnant.” Here’s David Hoffman’s (Concurring Opinions) post asking the question, and contrasting law blogs with progressive political blogs. Citing Stephen Bowers of Open Left, he characterizes the “short tail” (the highly trafficked sites) of the progressive political blogosphere as:

marked by: (1) a norm of group blogging and a resulting wealth of new content even on weekends; (2) blogs produced by institutions; (3) professional bloggers; and (4) Self-Reinforcing communities

Scott Greenfield commented on the new wave of blawgs bringing vitality back to the blawgosphere. I think he’s right — but Scott and David are talking about entirely different places on the web. Just as law professors and criminal-defense lawyers inhabit different places in the real world, Scott’s Blawgosphere is not David’s.

My blawgosphere? David’s blawgosphere? I can’t remember the last time Hoffman posted something.  Later, there was the happysphere, another word coined by Bennett, who is really good at coining words and phrases.

If you are a blogging lawyer, and you want to be read by other bloggers, know that being read by other bloggers includes being taken to task publicly when you write something dumb or silly or ill-considered or even just vapid.

If you don’t want to be read by other bloggers, if you are blogging for profit or to build up your practice, please let me know now.

How many likes did you get on Facebook? Did it make you feel validated to know that on the internet, people like you, even if they don’t care much for you in real life?  Does it bother you that the people who like you suffer from the same low self-esteem as you, and like you so you will like them back?

The vitality I referred to back in 2007, eight years ago now, was real at the time.  The practical blawgosphere was a wild and fun place, where ideas flowed and we argued over the most nuanced of points.  It was interesting and invigorating.  We all learned from each other, challenged each other, kicked each other in the ass on occasion.

And in 2015, it’s pretty much gone.  If having a well-regarded blawg with tons of readers was going to establish one’s credibility and expertise, make one a thought leader, bring wealth and prestige, why then is the blawgosphere a ghost town?

@ScottGreenfield, who had no comment at this time but who often posts about pressing social media marketing issues on his infamous Simple Justice blawg, once said, “How can I ever get that three minutes of my life back?

That was in 2011.  I’ve got a lot more than three minutes into this gig now.  Since my commitment is really about me, not you, and since I never expected any ROI to flow from my catharsis, I have no cause to complain.

But when I open my RSS feed every morning, and see only a handful of marketing posts and not a single fucking post from the practical blawgosphere, I realize how lonely the blawgosphere has become.  They’ve all grown weary of the effort, I guess.

There just wasn’t enough in it to keep them going. The real lawyers didn’t seek the embrace of disembodied sycophants on the internets, like the pathetic happysphere crowd.  So they faded until they disappeared.

And here I am, talking to myself.  Not to diminish those of you who read SJ, but my fellow blawgers are gone. I miss them.  The only people still around are the ones trying to sell snake oil, and the n00bs who still buy it.

24 thoughts on “Who Wins When We’re Weary

  1. Patrick Maupin

    I hate to use the “p” word, Scott, but you are pro…… (That last dot was for the end of the sentence, if anybody is counting.)

    It’s a feedback loop. I come here almost every morning, because there’s stuff here almost every morning. Very few others can match your output, and then they don’t get anywhere near the same amount of feedback.

    But even if you were just talking to yourself (which, of course, you’re not), all the latest studies show that the sort of regular writing you do every morning is good for you.

    1. SHG Post author

      I get the feedback loop, but others had it as well, and still they faded away. What I miss is the interaction between blawgs, which was some of the best discussions I’ve had. I miss those guys. I miss them when their wrong, and when I’m wrong. Why are they gone and I’m still here? What do they know that I don’t?

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m allowed to do any damn thing I want. Think about the purpose FL serves. Without it, there would be no regular legal commentary from actual lawyers reflecting differing legal perspectives.

      To the extent the blawgosphere once filled this gap, it’s gone. Now, there’s FL and a shit ton of non-lawyer dopiness.

      1. William Doriss

        Maybe all the legal issues have been addressed, solved and/or resolved. There’s nothing left to blawg about. All cases are now closed. Court adjourned! One man left standing. Everything runs its own course, even Ebay and Amazon dot bomb. “To every season, turn, turn, turn,…” Google is changing it’s name. Why mess with success? You scramble to the top of the heap and find nothing; you get nothing. There’s no There there, or not what you expected: Lonely at the top,… by definition.

        How’s that for a short comment? Your essays often stick with us throughout the day. No trivial pursuits at SJ. Maybe this essay will light a fire under the dropouts: Not namin’ names. Finally, a nasty job, but…

  2. northern line


    I’ve never entered the arena to comment here yet, but from a long time reading U.K. government lawyer I just wanted to point out how massively I appreciate both your writing and what you are trying to do. I’ve learnt a huge amount both here and through the blawgs you link to — especially the posts nominated jdog awards which make for particularly fascinating reading.

    Obviously this has no direct application to my day to day work but it’s a real privilege to read such intelligent heartfelt discourse.

    Consider this a transatlantic tummy rub (which I know you’re so very keen on)

    1. SHG Post author

      Thanks, M’lud. Don’t know if there will be a jdog prize this year. To have one, there has to be posts, and they’re in short supply.

  3. Charles

    Bennett was right, each blogger has their own “blawgosphere”: the comments section. Is it possible that your active management of that sphere allows you to maintain a more satisfying level of interaction with the commentariat than those who chose the extremes of letting commenters have free rein or prohibiting comments entirely (or switched from the former to the latter)?

    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t think Bennett was saying that each blogger has their own blawgosphere, but that there are different spheres of blawgers, practitioners, academics, marketers, etc., who are on separate parallel paths.

  4. Wrongway

    “But when I open my RSS feed every morning, and see only a handful of marketing posts and not a single fucking post from the practical blawgosphere, I realize how lonely the blawgosphere has become. They’ve all grown weary of the effort, I guess.”

    or.. they’re sitting down in Tahiti sipping margaritas & ‘NOT’ telling the judicial system anymore of their wisdom because, (as I’m sure you’ve felt this yourself..).. nothing changes anyways. No matter how much opinions they post about or who they’ve bantered with, nothing really changes..

    so… they put on a thong, sit in a pool, sip margaritas, & tell everyone else..


      1. Wrongway

        Umm.. well it’s the color of the thong.. (according to my wife who talks to people who know this stuff..)..

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