Recently, as in yesterday, my position at LexBlog has taken a radical turn. Mostly, my job has consisted of mindlessly scrounging for websites without the slightest inclination into the quality of the presented blogs. I was desperate to add anything and everything to The List without very many concerns. It was a very cool process that let my geeky how-is-this-going-to-look mind run while completing a major task. However, that has all changed.

After looking at thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of blogs, my job is now to read, mark, and decide what to do with each and every blog. I have become the first line of gatekeepers that decide whether or not a blog should be allowed to enter the kingdom of LexBlog. This job has become one of the coolest jobs on my varied resume.

I remember hearing years ago about jobs at major publishing companies. The students/recent college grads have large bins filled with books and manuscripts that they read and either throw away or send up the ladder. The bin was a hodgepodge of papers, letters, and other various materials in which authors placed their novels.  A book could be written on a roll of toilet paper, but if it was good, the gatekeeper would send it up. My job has mirrored this process quite well.

The process has slowed down considerably. Where I could easily scan and sift 10k+ websites a day, I can only email about 20-25 bloggers in the same amount of time. I get to read some amazing blogs. I have read stories of murder, slight, fraud, compassion, advocacy, intrigue, and so much more. The drama of life is reflected in these blogs and they don’t fail to entertain or inform. I have found that there are certain characteristics about law blogs that seems absent from other blog realms.

Law blogs ask: “What do we do with this?”. A story has an arc, also known as a state of change. The main character always goes through a series of events that have consequences. However, a good law blog will ask “So what? What do we do with this information?”. It’s not enough to just read the paper about a murderer on death row pleading innocence. I read a blog about the ethical complication about the murderer ignoring the lawyers legal advice that could save the client from death (still life in prison, but at least alive).

I read another blog about a lady forced to carry her 70 lb service dog in a crate into her condo, stairs included. She sued the condo association and the decision is still up in the air, but what a decision! Could you imagine hearing about a neighbor that was required to carry their dog in a crate while near the property? Some would say “that’s a sad story”. A lawyer would ask, “So, what should we do about this information?”

As I continue to explore all the neat and nifty blogs out there, I hope that each blogger knows my authenticity. I like them; therefore, they will hear from me. My only hope is that they can see the gatekeeper waving them in. Otherwise, they will continue to try and climb over the wall for readers to view them.

I’ve been at LexBlog for several weeks now and it has been more interesting than stressful. I have a simple job really. I have only been given one task: find all the blogs from all the attorneys in the United States. This seems like a daunting task, but for someone like me, it’s a massive logic puzzle, a game of Sudoku. I pride myself in finding things, anything really. It is a skill I have built over a decade of curiosity and education. So, you can see why I would jump at the chance to put my searching skills to the test. I would be asking myself “What is acceptable redundancy?”

In the last several weeks I have started and restarted “the master search” multiple times. My master search sheet, of which there are 3, has gone under building and rebuilding. It the first instance I focused on law practices by state. According to the Martindale database there are 386 law practices. That may just be how they narrow “practice” down, but there are definitely more. A search on Martindale for Alabama attorneys returns 54,339 practice areas with a total of 19,222 attorneys. My first problem was finding enough attorneys in a given practice. There may be more attorneys practicing child custody cases, but fewer child protection. For an outsider to law like myself, it feels like splitting hairs. The second problem was many attorneys are apart of firms and those firms cover multiple practice areas. I wanted to be specific; therefore, I needed to start from the beginning.

The second iteration of the master search focused on all states simultaneously, but focusing on a single practice. Using the 386 practice areas, this would result in 19,300 separate searches for all practices over all 50 states. The issue: some practices are not a focus in some states. While that may seem obvious, a genuine lack of maritime lawyers in Oklahoma, the problem was more complicated than that. It meant that law firms may define their law practice outside the definitions of Martindale and I already had my suspicions from the first iteration. It would also mean that I would be going over the same law firms over and over. I am a hard worker, but I’m not going to double, triple, or multiply my efforts times 386, if I’m not required.

I decided to make the ultimate filtering tool and go from there. I revised my second iteration and made an excel that would color coat across all states and all law practices based on a series of duplicates. Red text equals multiple states. Green background means websites with blogs in multiple practices. I think you get the point. This meant that I could cover every search without worrying about overlap. After a few hours, I realized I would again be covering the same firms over and over again. This process still did not resolve the multiple-practices issue. Not the best idea when time is valuable. I wanted to make every search meaningful and cut down on redundancies as much as possible.

My most current master search has lead me to using the most basic and simplified search. I went to the Alabama State Bar(ASB) and discarded Martindale. According to the ASB, there are 13,552 registered attorneys. Makes me think Martindale has some cleaning up to do with their 19,222 result. I went through each attorney,  copied their law firm, and did a basic google search for each firm. It took me an afternoon to go through 1800 attorneys. I found 438 law firms (removing companies, educational entities, and government entities). 287 of those firms had websites without blogs and 154 with blogs. 103 of those with blogs have written a post in the last year. This means that the ratio of attorneys to active blogs is about 1/18. The quality ratio is much lower, but for both those of good quality and poor. Most of the blogs are fairly typical. The amount of time in this process is so far the most ideal. Each lawyer could only ever be covered once and law firms were auto sorted to remove duplicates. I would save sorting by practice for a much later date.

Estimating my time, I should finish sorting Alabama attorneys to their firms in about 35-45 hours. The firms to their website with or without blogs should take another 40-50 hours. This process has been drastically cut down, but I’m sorting the sand from the flour. It is a task that needs to be done and should be completed. Especially if Lexblog ever intends to make bread with these blogs. It may seem like a tedious task, but the reality is much different. I have found some hidden blogs. I found blogs that only a person like me could find. They are tucked away in pages lost in the depths of a website. It is a great feeling finding these treasures. Some of these small blogs are fantastic reads and the authors could really add to the cannon. I hope I can bring these blogs the attention they deserve.