Where Have You Gone, Walter Olson?

Overlawyered was here when I started. I’ve never known a blawgosphere without it, without Wally Olson posting something every day. He was one of those rare few non-lawyers who had a feel for law better than most of the guild, an understanding and appreciation of how it worked and what it meant. He often took lawyers to task for being, well, lawyers, reminding us that it wasn’t about us, about our making bank on the misery of others provided we could sneak it past a judge.

Now he says he’s “adjourned.”

I’ve been considering ceasing publication of Overlawyered over the past couple of years, and the time has finally arrived. I plan to publish its final post on May 31, ten days from now.

That will leave the site just one month short of a remarkable 21-year run. That makes it the longest-running general interest law blog anyone has been able to identify. It’s one of the monuments still standing from the heyday of individual blogging on current events and public policy, a sector that bloomed after 9/11 two years into our run.

It is a remarkable run, and 21 in internet years is brutally long. But there’s a reason for it.

But blogs that publish every day (and with only a few exceptions, that is what Overlawyered has managed to do for all these years) are extraordinarily time-intensive for a single author, and my time is constrained.

Over the years, I’ve watched the blawgosphere go from a thriving, synergistic barrel of monkeys to what it is now. My buddies have faded away, Bennett, Tannebaum, Gideon and many others, who were once part of a daily routine of robust fighting and arguing, challenging each other to think harder, be smarter, help others and, when necessary, deliver a spanking. But throughout all of this, there was Wally.

It’s unclear to me what Wally means by “adjourned,” which means it’s on hiatus, a downtime, with the intention of resuming at some later time. Does he mean that he’s taking a break? I suspect not, and it was just the legalish word to make the point. He’ll still be writing, just not at Overlawyered. I get it. Doing a daily blog is a brutal time suck, and dealing with readers, crazies and haters (of which both Wally and I have our share) isn’t nearly as much fun for us as it is for them.

But Wally gets to make whatever choice is right for him, even if he is a quitter (only kidding, sorta). His choice, however, was a gut punch to me. Walter Olson will go down in history as the Father of the Blawgosphere, and there will be movies, shrines and statues of him. And now I’m left here, all alone.

I asked my old buddy, Kevin O’Keefe of Lexblog, who else was still blawging (remember when that was a word?) on a daily basis? There are still group blawgs like Volokh Conspiracy, prawfs who blog in furtherance of their niche* and blawgs who turned themselves into businesses like Above the Law, which went from one of the smartest and funniest blawgs to the most insipid drivel possible. But the old individual practicing lawyer doing a daily blawg?

I quit once. Like Wally, I got to enjoy watching my own funeral, although I wasn’t quite as clear about it as Walter. Bruce Carton did the Eulogy at Legal Blog Watch (RIP).

So no more Scott Greenfield in the blogosphere? That, my friends, is a major loss. He thanked his readers in “5 Years” for “keeping him honest” but really it should be the other way around. To me, more than anyone else, Greenfield was the best at holding his fellow lawyers and bloggers — as well as himself — accountable for their actions and inactions. He wrote what he believed, straight up, no chaser. I admire him greatly for that. If you agreed with him, terrific. If you did not, no problem there either — just don’t come looking to him for a hug or an apology, or for him to let you off the hook for being wrong or acting wrong.

As a blogger, Scott was not a “pleaser,” an approach to life that many bloggers including myself fall into as it can be the easy way to go. Rather, Scott was the blogosphere’s truth serum.

That was in 2012, and it’s now 2020. What the hell is wrong with me? I returned because my buddy Bennett was running for the Texas Supreme Court, and there was no way I was sitting that out. But the truth is that I write because I write. Some of you will understand that. Some won’t.

I could have monetized SJ years ago, loading it with ads or sponsored content. There are plenty of folks who make a living off writing. Some even make a decent living. Instead, I decided to keep it pure, no ads, no sponsored content, just a tip cup on the sidebar because I do the writing and you, dear readers, can contribute to the maintenance. It seemed like the best choice for keeping the joint clean and the lights on.

So what kind of asshole would be the last individual lawyer-blawger writing a daily blawg when people’s attention span has been reduced to nine second, twitter allows every simpleton to be a pundit and so many of you either think I’m your free legal Q&A resource, your punching bag or the place where you can wear your tin foil hat proudly and explain life to me in 10,000 words or more? Well, this kind of asshole.

There are, as of this moment, a total of 11,042 posts here. Every n00b who shows up here wants to tell me what I left out of a post that he deems the most important point, having read nothing here before the moment he showed up. For me, this has been an ongoing discussion since 2007. It’s not as long as Wally, and I completely understand why Wally has had enough, but it’s been a long time.

*Doug Berman, Paul Caron, Brian Leiter, Ann Althouse, and of course, Jonathan Turley, are still blogging. Josh Blackman gave it up last January to play with big boys at VC.

20 thoughts on “Where Have You Gone, Walter Olson?

  1. Tom Kirkendall

    Scott, thank you for the tribute to Walter and for maintaining your blog. It is a treasure of provocative thought. Reading and writing really are the best ways to formulate and reflect on ideas. Your blog is a reflection of that truth. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hal


    I’ll add my thanks, too.

    I sincerely appreciate your efforts. You’ve opened my eyes to issues that I’d not prev’ly considered and caused me to rethink many I had thought about. On sev’l occasions, you’ve caused me to change my mind (something that is probably more difficult than it should be). I also, appreciate your, often self deprecating, humor.

    i know you hate tummy rubs, so i’ll stop now.

    Please keep writing.


  3. Guitardave

    Hey man, some of us IANAL/noobs read a LOT of posts and comment threads ( and bookmarked the Wiki Greek phrase meaning page) before sticking a toe in the pool… of course, it didn’t prevent me from making dumb comments or questions, but at least i was ready for the smack down.

    Though I’ve never read Mr. Olsen, I wish him well. Many times one has to give up a good thing to make room for the next possibility.

    ( This post also got me wondering if any of my ‘pep talk’ comments in response to those ‘ I’m sick of this shit’ posts you occasionally make, has only helped in prolonging your agony….and postponing your next great thing. I hope not. When you do finally hang it up, Scott, I think all any of us can say is, good luck, and thanks for all the fish.)

  4. Skink

    Dear Mr. Greenspawn:

    I’ve been pleasurizing myself with your words for a long time. Deep in the Swamp, it gets lonely. Conversin’ with snakes, gators and wild pigs only goes so far. Sometimes, it’s better to hear from people, even the ones that make boars seem smart. But they’re the ones in need of the most educating. Thanks for carrying the load.

    Now, about the spelling of “doughnut”. . . .

      1. Hal

        One must admire his vocabularyness.

        Like “sickitating” and “fuckwittedness” “pleasurizing” is just too good not to use.

        Thanks, Mssr Skink

  5. Walter Olson

    Thank you for those kind words. As you guessed, my choice of “adjourned” was mostly because of its legal flavor, but also signaled that I’m not retiring or going away. I like blogging! I continue to post at the group blog Cato at Liberty and at my low-frequency Maryland politics blog Free State Notes, and I might be tempted at some point to try a blog project with a limited subject and duration (several people have suggested I blog the coronavirus crisis). What I can’t go on shouldering is the commitment needed for an open-ended, daily-or-more-so, individual blog. You yourself set an outstanding example of how to go about doing that.

    1. SHG Post author

      Your fortitude to stay with it for 21 years blows my mind. Your daily presence will be missed. Thank you for all the times you linked to me and sent your readers my way. I don’t know if I ever said this to you before, but I sincerely appreciated it.

  6. Pingback: More mentions on Overlawyered’s adjournment | Overlawyered

  7. Dan

    I read SJ every day. If I woke up and saw a “closed” sign on your page I would be sad and the internets would be dumber.

  8. El_Suerte

    Thanks for barely tolerating IANAL/n00b/question askers like me!

    The world’s definitely a better place with writers like you and Walter hurling words into the void. Reading quality libertarian and CDL bloggers radically improved my worldview. For others sake, I’m glad neither of you are giving up the fight.

    Just waiting for you to discover fountain pen collecting. Nothing complements a fine watch like a fine pen.

  9. F. Lee Billy

    A blawg is only as good as the frawg who pens it. You mutual admiration society of self-appointed blawgers make me ?.

    So you’re a lefty!. Now the truth comes out. Blawgers we don’t need; good lawyers (and judges) we need. Fuck you very much, lefty verbose blawgers extraordinaire. See you in court, as the saying goes. Ha.

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