It isn't particle physics. It isn't brain surgery. To be a successful astronautic engineer, physicist, or neurosurgeon, you have to be brilliant and hard-working. To be a successful blogger requires only work. In that, blogging is like law. Perhaps that's why so many lawyers blog.
Now I have no idea why an engineer, a physicist, or a neurosurgeon would blog. But I do have a clue as to why lawyers do it. Some, frustrated poets and comedians, do it as a creative outlet. Some to teach. Some for the strange sort of virtual society that one can find on the internet (and one can – I've "met" a number of worthwhile people through the web). Some do it to raise their profiles or to bolster their practices. Of that last sort, there are three types: those who put as much effort and thought into it while they're blogging they do while working (these tend to be worth reading); those who don't or can't (theirs tend to vanish after a month or three); and those who view what is, for me, a hobby, as a get-rich-quick scheme, or the web equivalent of a Yellow Pages ad. They put no work whatsoever into their blogs. They outsource them, in fact. The design, the message, and even the content.
Of the "professional" or "practitioner" bloggers, Mark Bennett is one of the best. His blog, Defending People, is a model of what a legal practitioner's blog should be: it's thoughtful, insightful, and shows its author's dedication to his practice and his clients. If I needed to refer a client to a criminal lawyer in South Texas, I wouldn't hesitate to call Bennett. Having tried a few cases myself in other fields, I can tell the real thing even from a distance, especially when the real thing writes about the art of criminal defense litigation as passionately and well as he does.
Evidently others can too. Then there's Melina Benninghoff, who typifies the third sort of "practitioner" legal blogger. She doesn't take the time or trouble to write her own blog, but she has good taste. She's letting Mark Bennett write it for her.
Now I don't know Melina Benninghoff from Adam, or at least I didn't until recently. She claims to be a good criminal defense lawyer in central California. She may be Clarence Darrow and Gerry Spence and Mephistopheles all rolled into one for all I know, but I'd never refer a client to her now. Because what I do know, for sure, is that she's a plagiarist. Perhaps an outsourcing plagiarist, perhaps some web-monkey is doing it for her, but I wouldn't want to rely on that defense in court. What I do know is that she has a blog. She claims to be the author of its content. But she isn't.
A clever lawyer, arguing for Benninghoff in the court of someone's opinion, might say that "scraping" (the term for what Benninghoff has done – lifting content of others whole cloth with or without attribution) is simply an extreme and sloppy form of citing authorities (which all lawyers do), or our old friend, the sincerest form of flattery. Or, if he's smarter still, he'd just plead ignorance, that Ms. Benninghoff doesn't actually write her blog, that it's a marketing trick, that she'd never condone such a thing as theft, had she but known her web-monkeys were stealing under her name, because she had more important things to do than to actually write her blog.
But I'd not hire a lawyer who allowed web-monkeys to steal content under her name, no matter how well-reputed. I'd worry about how well she supervised her paralegals and associates, who could also act under her name, while she was off doing more important things than worrying about my case.
Blogs are ephemera. That's their charm. If an ephemeral thing is worth creating at all, it's worth creating well. Or just don't do it.
Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White
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