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Law 'blawgs' provide new venue for lawyers, judges

But concerns are raised about if and when blogs should be treated as advertising.
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Written by Richard Koman on

A judge's career no longer has to end when he steps down from the bench. In Kentucky, retired judge Stan Billingsley uses a blog to set the record straight on a variety of legal questions, The Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

"We look at the law behind the issues," Billingsley said. "We are certainly not partisan in respect to political philosophy, but we do have the driving concept of, 'If you're going to state the law, state it correctly.'"

Lawyer bloggers - or blawggers - are popping up in Kentucky and around the country, but their authors take pains to distinguish themselves from political bloggers. They are engaged, they say, in the same kind of scholarly research and writing that traditionally only appeared in law reviews.

Louisville personal-injury lawyer Michael Stevens, who publishes kentuckylawblog.com, recently wrote that he doesn't want to be called a blogger anymore because of the baggage associated with it.
"We are doing this for the love of the profession," said Diana Skaggs, who publishes Divorce Law Journal. "We are all aware of the undermining of the public confidence in the judiciary. We see the need for public confidence in our judiciary, and we have an excellent judiciary."

A key question about blawgs is whether they constitute legal advertising and regulation by the Bar Association. In Kentucky, lawyers are required to submit advertisements to the Kentucky Bar Association for review and pay a $50 fee.

The bar's advertising commission has ruled that is not necessary, but it does require lawyer bloggers to register their "about" pages, which typically contain biographies and links to law firm Web sites. Robert L. Elliott, a Lexington lawyer who is on the advertising commission, said law blogs "are kind of a new game in town." He said the bar has not yet developed hard rules for how to handle them.

Lexington lawyer Benjamin Cowgill, who publishes Legal Ethics Newsletter at legalethics.info, said law blogs have no more ethical issues than lawyer Web sites. Cowgill's site triggered the bar association's review of its advertising regulations.

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