'Blawg' & Order
More Florida lawyers are turning to blogs as a creative outlet -- or in some cases to score new business.
Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for more than three years as an "enemy combatant," pleaded not guilty to criminal charges alleging he was part of a secret network that supported Muslim terrorists. The magistrate that day denied bail, siding with prosecutors who said Padilla was likely to flee. Markus' account of the hearing had all the who-what-when-where stuff you'd get from a reporter but with more color about who was in the courtroom and more extensive quotes from the lawyers on both sides.
"Lawyers are the biggest gossips in town," says Markus, who started his blog last summer. "This is just a forum for the lawyers to talk about all the great stuff going on in the busiest district in the United States."
Markus joins a growing number of Florida lawyers with legal blogs, aka "blawgs." He says he blogs strictly for fun. Some advocacy lawyers, like Orlando's Jacqueline Dowd, who works on behalf of indigent clients and also teaches at Florida A&M University's law school, use blogs to expose injustices. (Dowd is known as "the 13th juror" at jackiedowd.blogspot.com. Other Florida law blogs are a bit more wonky, and some aim at generating business. The American Lawyer called blawgs "the hottest thing to come along in marketing since the telephone." They let lawyers show off their expertise; a well-done blog is impressive to potential clients surfing the web for legal advice on a particular topic. Orlando's Jonathan Alper juggles two: One on bankruptcy (bankruptcyorlando.com) and another on asset protection (floridaassetprotection.blogs.com). Sarasota's Robert Lincoln may operate the longest-running law blog in the state: Next month he celebrates three years of blogging on Florida land-use law (flalandlaw.com/landblog).
But the reigning king of the Florida blawgs has to be St. Petersburg lawyer Matt Conigliaro of Carlton Fields. In the summer of 2003 he launched Abstract Appeal (abstractappeal.com) "the first web log devoted to Florida law and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals." Little did he know that the Terri Schiavo end-of-life case would make his new blog an international must-read that at its peak received 60,000 hits a day. These days, he gets between 600 and 800 hits a day. Many of his readers are practicing lawyers. Most are from Florida, but Conigliaro says he's always surprised at how many check in from other states and even other countries.
"I started my blog long before the Schiavo case received international attention, and I'm continuing it long after, always for the same reason: I really enjoy the law," Conigliaro says. "It's my job and my hobby all rolled into one."