Outsource your legal brief writing - There is a site called BriefMasters which lets you do precisely that. How much? Well, $85 an hour for regular jobs, or $105/hr for "rush jobs" and $135 for "emergencies." They take Visa and Mastercard, and even have state of the art conflict checking software. I hear they make good money, and somehow I'm not surprised. Oh, and for you associates in large firms, they even will help you edit your writing.
New Student Law Blogger - Christine Niles is a 3L at Notre Dame with a site called LawMuse.
More Louisiana Blog News - Here is another fascinating law site called Naked Ownership - All Things Legal in Louisiana (XML feed available). I am not saying we are going to achieve critical mass in the blawgosphere any time soon, but clearly we are accelerating at an impressive pace.
Reputation systems in the legal profession - when I was a law clerk I got to see first hand how judges "scout out" the lawyers who are appearing in their court. Of course, I later learned that attorneys do the same thing for judges.
I was having lunch today with a friend who told me about a three week trial he had in a federal court in North Carolina. Apparently, the judge had lunch with one of his Article III colleagues from New Orleans before the three week trial began. Obviously, the North Carolina judge took the opportunity to inquire about my friend's reputation (which is very good).
The whole issue of "reputation systems" is being much discussed in certain parts of the blogosphere. People like Cory Doctorow and Howard Rheingold talk about how technological advances (i.e., the Internet, and pervasive access to it) are changing the way reputation systems work. Increasingly, the reputation systems are being decentralized. Look at eBay, or Google for examples. Google's ranking system is centralized in operation, but supposedly is calculated based on the collective behavior of peoples' collective browsing and linking activities. Ebay's ranking system is, on the other hand, completely decentralized: your buyer or seller ranking is based on the collective assessments of everyone who has done business with you and has taken the time to rank you.
In the legal system we don't yet have decentralized reputation systems, even though we probably should. Martindale-Hubbell has been the de-facto arbiter of reputation in the legal profession for years. Lawyers are assigned a rating based on the judgment of others, but Martindale decides who to poll and when.
There isn't much ranking of judges (Martindale doesn't do it), but for federal judges there is a wonderful resource called the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary which profiles all of the federal judges in the country. The most useful part of the profiles (which can sometimes be a couple of pages long) is the anonymous comments section. Lawyers who have appeared before the judge submit the comments, which (given that they are anonymous) are wonderfully candid accounts of the judges' temperment, legal acumen, and work ethic. But, while the Almanac is a wonderful reputation tool, it is a centrally managed one. The editors of that publication decide who to interview, and when to update the comments section.
What if it were possible to have a decentralized reputation system for lawyers and judges? Obviously, both sides have a need and a great desire for this information. Way back when I first started blogging I mentioned that I had once had the idea of starting a website called "Know the Judge" with the idea that lawyers could leave comments (anonymously of course) about judges. The trick would be to simply organize the grouping of judges by jurisdiction, and then to enable the comments feature. I guarantee this is one of those "if you build it they will come" things.
But what about rating lawyers? Well, a rating system for lawyers would be useful for both judges and other lawyers. So will it happen? Probably not very soon, if it ever does.
The thing about decentralized reputation systems is that, once they are up and running, they are hard to control. But, then again, isn't that what makes them really useful?
As one who has been doing the news aggregating thing for about a year now, I see tremendous potential for RSS feeds. E-mail alerts are okay, but for an increasing payload of legal information they just don't cut it. What's bad about using emails to get legal news?
process of subscribing or unsubscribing is controlled by sender's server
sorting emails into categories is possible in an E-mail program, but requires use of "rules" and at this point the system starts to get unwieldy
many "feeds have links, but browsing in an E-mail client is less than satisfactory
E-mail is better for direct communications that I might have to "respond to" and browsers are better for information that streams to me because I'm interested in following a story
Spam makes it harder for me to use my E-mail system to gather news
RSS feeds have the potential to do things that E-mail doesn't, but there is a chicken & egg problem. Until there are a sufficient number of speciality legal feeds lawyers won't be enticed to use news aggregators, which require learning a new way (albeit a clearly more efficient one) of dealing with information. And without an audience of eagerly awaiting lawyers it's hard to get courts and government agencies interested in putting their information into RSS feeds. So the blawgosphere will have to carry the ball for awhile. But, I'm glad that lawyers like Michael are starting to perk up to the possibilities, which are staggering if you really think about it.
Information on Louisiana Law - I just found out about La-Legal.com, which appears to be a great site for information on Louisiana law. Hopefully, I can meet the principals behind this website. They appear to be in Baton Rouge, which is the capital of Louisiana for you out-of-staters.