This (edited) email just in from blogger Ben Cowgill, about my favorite founding father:
If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, there can be little doubt that he would have a law-related blog. He loved to write. He loved to share information and ideas with other people. He once said that he would rather have a country with newspapers and no government than a country with government and no newspapers. He would be thrilled to live at a time when he could share information with interested people throughout the world, simply by sitting down at his desk and writing at a keyboard.
The legal profession has a great tradition of writing and speaking about the law. Law-related blogs are merely a new example of that great tradition. Until the Internet came along, lawyers had to find other ways to share information about the law: by writing books, articles and op-ed pieces; by making presentations at legal conferences; and by speaking to church groups,civic clubs and the like. All of those activities are valuable, because they all spread information about the American legal system to the American people. Now, with the Internet and blogging software, it's possible for lawyers to continue that tradition in another way, and it is not surprising that many lawyers are choosing to do so.
[Note: there are 2,262 lawyer blogs being tracked by www.Blawg.com.]
There are all sorts of blogs, just as there are all sorts of print publications. To call something is a "blog" doesn't tell you any more about its content than calling something a "magazine." One must look to the content of a blog to see what kind of publication it really is. In other words, the term blog merely identifies the technology that is used to create an online publication. It tells you nothing about the content of the publication, the quality of that content, or the reasons why it is presented.
Over the past year or so, law-related blogs have become a recognized source of information in the legal profession. About 200 law professors write "blogs" in which they discuss developments in their fields of law. They do so to share information with other legal scholars and practicing lawyers. In fact, lawyer blogs have been cited as legal authorities in the published decisions of many federal and state courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
There are not any more"ethics issues" regarding blogs than there are regarding other aspects of what lawyers do. "Advertising" is a subset of "marketing." All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. A law firm web site is clearly an advertisement for legal services and a marketing activity. On the other hand, a lecture at a CLE seminar is a marketing activity but not an advertisement. Those issues do not arise in connection with online journals ("blogs"), because blogs do not contain representations about the legal services that will be performed if the reader becomes a client of the lawyer.
It has always been true that good lawyers provide legal information to the public (and each other), free of charge. They do so because they care about the law, because they enjoy writing about the law, and because they enjoy sharing information with other people. They are "information junkies," just like Thomas Jefferson. They also realize that those activities help them stay current in the law, and may even enhance their reputations. In short, it's a "win-win" situation for everyone involved -- the lawyer, the legal profession and the public at large.