Andrew Sinclair

lexBlog Spurs Ethics Debate

+ April 18, 2004

A few days ago I reported on the launch of lexBlog, a new service for helping lawyers to establish blogs.

To me lexBlog’s value is that it gives non-technical lawyers access to an online presence. David Giacalone read a little closer and focused his attention on something I didn’t even notice about lexBlog: it would not only be providing online publishing and hosting services to lawyers but also providing content.

The debate over the implications of ghost written law content has since arisen on Giacalone’s site and spread to Denise Howell’s. It’s actually an illustration of blogging as discourse gone wrong – thoughts are scattered in so many places that it’s difficult just to piece together the various viewpoints (perhaps David Galbraith was right that blogs shouldn’t have comments). Worse, it seems that no one really knows the facts. Exactly what is Mr. O’Keefe planning to do?

Some of the dust has settled. O’Keefe has clarified that there will no ghost-written content (everything will be attributed to the actual author). That puts an end to one area of debate (or at least reduces it to a hypothetical). Whether blogs are good for marketing legal services is still an open question.

I think that a web presence is an important part of any enterprise. O’Keefe knows that blogs can be built to take advantage search engine optimization, that they’re focused on the king component of the web (content), and that they can help to establish reputation. I think it’s the reputation element that worries people. If the content writing is outsourced, the reader is getting a skewed view of the expertise.

Part of the trouble rests in the definition of a “blog”. If it’s supposed to represent a person (like this site – which by the way is meant to represent me in a personal capacity – not a professional one) then I think the content should be written by that person. If we define “person” the legal way – to include a law firm or law office – then I don’t see the harm in publishing whatever content the firm can obtain. The firm can produce an article for the web and maybe they can produce a good brief for the client. The internal workings (including outsourcing) don’t need to be made public.

That said, there must be accountability. I might not want to see how Hillshire Farms makes their delicious Polish Sausage, but I want to see the ingredients listed on the package, and I definitely want food inspectors in there checking things out. The same is true for web site content. I expect a certain amount of labeling (who wrote what) and I expect checks against misrepresentation of expertise. It doesn’t sound to me like O’Keefe plans to dodge either of these.

Giacalone has the latest discussion and more sausage analogies.

Category: law
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