Law and Conversation

August 17, 2011

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet? I’m TechnoLawyer’s Pick of the Week!

Wowie zowie–TechnoLawyer chose my cover story, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet,” in the current issue (August 2011) of the Illinois Bar Journal, for BlawgWorld’s Pick Of The Week!

BlawgWorld publishes newsletters for lawyers. Its editors cull what they judge to be the best articles from legal publications all over the web for a handy weekly e-mail newsletter. (I don’t know how those editors work, but by even a conservative measure, that’s a LOT of articles to weed through every week. Lawyers deal in words, after all, and there’s a legal publication for practically every state, every local bar association, every national bar association, and every area and size of practice within those locales. There are also legal publications for gadgets and software that lawyers use. Then there are legal blogs, also known as blawgs–hundreds of those, at a minimum, many of which contain superb writing and insights.)

From all of those articles, the editors at BlawgWorld choose around a hundred each week to link to. From those top 100, they select ONE to excerpt and feature at the top of the newsletter. For the week of August 9, it’s mine! My head is still spinning.

The best things in life are free, and that includes BlawgWorld’s newsletters. You can subscribe by hitting the nice badge above that they sent me and following the instructions on the page it takes you to. Thanks so much to BlawgWorld’s great newsletter editors, Adriana Linares and Liz Kurtz, as well as to Neil Squillante, BlawgWorld’s publisher, and Kathryn Hughes, who writes the TechnoLawyer Blog, for choosing my article to feature. Thanks to all the lawyers I interviewed for the article and for the related , who provided terrific insights and commentary; I’ve included all of them, as well as many more, in my Illinois Lawyers Twitter list. Special thanks to Sonya Olds Som,  a lawyer and business development specialist at the legal search firm Major, Lindsay, and Africa, and Carol Ross, a career coach in Boulder, CO and fellow Northwestern alum, who gave me good insights into social media back in 2009 for my article, “Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, Oh My!” that appeared in the June 2009 issue of the IBJ. And thanks to my own wonderful editor at the Illinois State Bar Association, Mark Mathewson, for all of his work and support!

August 12, 2011

Crime fiction, Giller Prize, CLE

Despite its popularity, crime fiction isn’t generally a genre that attracts me. Even though I’ve practiced only civil, not criminal, law, it’s just always seemed too much like reading about work in my free time. By its nature, any crime fiction novel involves an investigation, which is common to any legal matter, criminal or civil. Often lawyers are involved. And then there are the gory details–sometimes more, sometimes less.

But Sarah Weinman has an article in The Wall Street Journal that explains what its devotees see in it. Reviewing a new translation of French noir novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette‘s “Fatale,” Weinman writes “One way crime novels become classics is by channeling the social concerns of the day. Raymond Chandler’s novels were indictments of moral corruption, pre- and post-World War II, while Dashiell Hammett countered Jazz Age excess with a decided anti-capitalist bent. These works offered a window into how the world really works, not how we wish it did.”

Weinman’s analysis makes sense to me, and it’s helping to convince me to plan on reading some noir in the near future. Reading some intriguing reviews and mentions of noir such as Jean-Claude Izzo’s and Carlo Lucarelli’s works on The Europa Challenge Blog, which are published in translation by Europa Editions, is strengthening my resolve. Crime fiction always includes strong stories and place settings, both of which I love. And I’ve observed that doing or reading something outside my usual routine on a regular basis almost always reinvigorates me.

Speaking of the Europa Challenge blog, after noticing a tweet yesterday about the forthcoming announcement of the longlist for the ScotiaBank Giller Prize, which annually recognizes the (arguably) best Canadian novel or short story collection published, I wondered (via tweets) whether some of the many Canadian booklovers might establish a Giller Prize Challenge Blog along the same lines as the one for Europa Editions books, which, in turn, was inspired by The Complete Booker blog.

The Giller Prize has been awarded only since 1994, so there aren’t as many to choose from–and those with far more expertise in CanLit than I pointed out that the quality of some of the winners has been controversial. So I proposed (also by tweet) that if someone does decide to establish a challenge blog, extending the reading challenge to books that made the shortlist–to expand the choices, not to challenge participants to actually read all of them (unless they really wanted to). As on the Europa Challenge Blog, participants could choose to read 4, or 7, or 14, or any other number, for various levels of satisfaction.

Toronto literary critic Steven W. Beattie responded by linking to a recent post of his own criticizing the method for selecting Giller contenders. Follow him, @bookgaga, @janetsomerville, @jadeperreault, @lawartsculture, @GillerPrize, and, of course, @MargaretAtwood, among many other bookloving Canadians, on Twitter for incisive tweets about CanLit and more. Please follow my fellow bloggers over at The Europa Challenge Blog, too!

I was thrilled to learn this week that several of my articles that have appeared in the Illinois Bar Journal will be included in materials for upcoming CLE seminars in Illinois and Oklahoma. “Tech tools for solos” and “From Sheepskin to Shingle,” both of which appeared in the September 2009 issue of the IBJ, will be part of the materials for an Oklahoma Bar Association seminar on the basics of law office technology, while “Unbundling Explained,” published in the October 2010 IBJ, will be included in the materials for a webinar from the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education on Limited Scope Representation. I had a lot of fun writing the lead article in the current (August 2011) IBJ, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet: Twitter For Lawyers,” since as part of my preparation I got to talk to and quote a number of lawyers I follow on Twitter.

Are you reading or planning to read anything that’s unusual for you?

February 1, 2011

More on court opinions on the Internet

Yesterday I posted about the distinction that a decreasing number of jurisdictions, including Illinois and the federal courts, make between “precedential” and “nonprecedential” opinions, historically referred to as “published” and “unpublished.”  Today brings word of an interesting new article by Peter W. Martin of Cornell Law School, “Abandoning Law Reports for Official Digital Case Law.” The article, which you can download without charge from SSRN, discusses Arkansas’s cessation of publishing its state courts’ opinions in the Arkansas Reporter, which had been the official record of those decisions, in favor of posting them on the Internet, where the state’s Reporter of Decisions maintains them as official records, and “explore[s] the distinctive alignment of factors that both led and enabled the Arkansas judiciary to take a step that courts in other jurisdictions, state and federal, have so far resisted.”  Thanks to Prof. Martin for making this article freely available, and a Hat Tip to Paul Lomio of Stanford Law School and Legal Research Plus for posting and tweeting about it.

On still more breaking electronic legal news, congratulations to young legal research provider FastCase on inking deals with the D.C. and Georgia Bars.  I wrote in 2009 about the company’s service, which the Illinois State Bar Association provides to its members as a free benefit, for the Illinois Bar Journal.  As part of preparing the article, I interviewed Fastcase’s CEO, Ed Walters, whose business acumen so impressed me that I interviewed him again and got more great commentary for a subsequent IBJ article on social media for lawyers.

And in other news related to the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent amendment of SCR 23, the state court rule that distinguishes precedential from nonprecedential appellate opinions, my profile of Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride in the Illinois Bar Journal, which includes a sidebar explaining the justice’s leadership with respect to the court’s action, is now up.  (Link may not work if you’re not a member of ISBA, and, if you’re a lawyer or a judge, you really ought to pony up and join 😉 .)  The justice has a fascinating and inspirational story, and I was honored to get to tell it in the pages of the IBJ.

On a completely different subject that has nothing to do with the law or court opinions, here’s a link to a LadyGagaLicious video:  Zheng Lab’s hilarious “Bad Project.” Send it to your favorite scientist!  Hat Tip:  Freelance writer Sandra Boncek Hume.

October 7, 2010

Thursday Thanks: Adrian Mark Baron and The Nutmeg Lawyer

Filed under: Law,Social media — Helen Gunnarsson @ 9:09 am
Tags: , , ,

Today I’d like to thank Connecticut lawyer Adrian Mark Baron, who writes the outstanding Nutmeg Lawyer blog, for including this blog on his blogroll.  As the name of Baron’s blog suggests, it’s a mite spicy–just enough to make its substance, the trials and tribulations of daily law practice, interesting and fun to read.  How could you NOT click on a link to a post entitled “Lawyer Lessons From Lady Gaga?”

Like this blog, The Nutmeg Lawyer is a relative newcomer:  Baron began it in 2009, when I remember reading more than one article suggesting that the legal blogosphere was saturated.  He’s proven that there’s always room for high quality writing and content, having already been profiled, reprinted, and recommended in major legal publications in the US and Canada, including American Lawyer Media’s and Oklahoma lawyer Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog.

Speaking of the fabulous Lady Gaga, two weeks ago I linked to this video of her hit, “Bad Romance,” by the University of Oregon a cappella men’s group, On The Rocks .  For a much different, but equally delightful, interpretation of a Lady Gaga hit, check out tween Greyson Chance’s rendition of “Paparazzi” (if you’re not among the more than 31 million who have already watched it).

September 30, 2010

Dinner guests from purgatory

Thanks to Zimbabwean lawyer and writer Petina Gappah for posting a link to South African writer and filmmaker Gillian Schutte’s account of a dinner party not quite from hell, but, perhaps, from purgatory.  Schutte’s impromptu guests were 2001 Nobel literature laureate V.S. Naipaul and his wife, Nadira.  I’m disappointed that she doesn’t report whether they brought a hostess gift!  The site that published Schutte’s review, BOOK Southern Africa, looks like a great resource for those interested in South African literature.

South Africa banned Shirley Jackson’s famous and deeply unsettling short story, “The Lottery,” after it was published in 1948.  On learning of the banning, Jackson reportedly said she was pleased, for it indicated that the South African authorities at least understood her story

After The New Yorker published Jackson’s story, it received hundreds of letters expressing shock, confusion, and disgust, which the magazine forwarded on to Jackson.  Some letters were abusive, and, indeed, Jackson’s own mother told her that neither she nor Jackson’s father liked it and wondered why Jackson didn’t write something uplifting instead.  An analysis of the story that appeared in the spring 1985 issue of the New Orleans Review is here.

I’ve previously noted that it’s Banned Books Week here in the US.   The American Library Association has published lists of the most frequently banned and/or challenged books, not just in the US, but in other countries as well, together with summaries of the reasons stated for the challenges or bans.  According to this article, Playboy reported in 1984 that “The Lottery” was among the 30 most often banned works in American schools and libraries.  But it’s required reading in many schools also, including the 6th grade honors English class in my own community.

Anyone who still thinks that “Twitter is for twits” should consider how writers and passionate readers (including me) harnessed its power to publicize an attack on Laurie Halse Anderson‘s terrific YA novel, “Speak,”  as reported by The Guardian, among other publications.   And any reader of my posts can tell that I don’t generally approve of banning books.  So many classics have been the subjects of banning attempts, and, whatever the book’s merit, it seems obvious to me that trying to prohibit people from reading a book has demonstrably the opposite of the desired effect, serving only to whet curiosity.  In fact, I well remember my own reaction the one and only time that my father, who, throughout my childhood, used to take me to the library (my favorite place!), told me I was not to read a book–“Love Story,” by Erich Segal.  That summer at camp, on discovering that one of my 11-year-old cabinmates had a copy, I immediately borrowed it from her and read it–and, on finishing, thought “That’s IT??!?”

First Amendment advocate though I am, I would agree that there are publications that have no redeeming value and should be legally prohibited, with criminal penalties for their creators.  Child pornography comes to mind, as do crush videos.  But, as the litigation over the law prohibiting the latter shows, it can be very difficult to craft legislation that doesn’t violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (though the Senate is again trying).

Do you agree?  What do you think?

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