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Denise Howell likes to think out loud. Every day the Los Angeles technology lawyer adds to her blog — a Web scrapbook — commenting on and linking to articles that friends have written and recounting testimony from trials she’s attended. Since Howell started blogging in January, she has revealed her likes (yoga before making an oral argument, halvah-topped brownies), and her dislikes (per curiam decisions issued without elaboration). In the process, she also has been promoting her law practice. Each day, as many as 250 visitors see her site, Bag and Baggage ( bgbg.blogspot.com). A couple of fans have invited Howell, of counsel to Oakland, Calif.-based Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, to speak at conferences out of state. No paying work for Crosby Heafey has resulted from Howell’s personal ruminations. And that’s hardly an aberration. Even though many lawyers now publish law blogs (or “blawgs,” as they inevitably are called), and even though they are the cutting edge of Web publishing, blogs evoke the days before firms took to hard-nosed selling. The format pressures a lawyer to write frequently, which often means colloquially. “There’s only so much selling you can do,” says Howell. But it can be hard to tell that there’s any selling at all. On Howell’s site, which links to some 50 other pioneering law blogs, nothing on the first page says that Howell is a lawyer, or where she works. Consultant Julie Savarino, of Business Development Inc., feels more at home at one of the law blogs that Howell has inspired, Michael Fox’s employerslawyer.blogspot.com. “I get the message about his practice — it’s right there in the URL,” she says. His page links directly to his biography on the Web site of his firm, Dallas’s Haynes and Boone. Fox views his blog as a hyper-current newsletter for clients. A blogger does well to claim a clear niche like reviewing National Labor Relations Board decisions. “People do Google searches on new NLRB decisions, and I’m apparently one of the few people who talk about them,” says Samuel Heldman, an appellate lawyer in Washington, D.C., for Mobile’s 40-lawyer Gardner, Middlebrooks, Gibbons & Kittrell. Functional though the format can be, attorneys may have difficulty satisfying its inherent bias: punchy, attitudinal expression. Demonstrating expertise in public can make one cautious. “I’ve been careful not to do anything very far out,” concedes Fox. It shows. Only one visitor to Fox’s site has posted a comment. Fox says he is “still trying it out,” and hasn’t formally alerted anyone to the site. Howell’s firm bio refers to her blog, but at Haynes and Boone, Fox’s doesn’t refer to his. Nor does Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll link to Howard Bashman’s blog, which focuses on federal appellate law and has a loyal following. Fox, who grew up in Sulphur Springs, Texas, views his blogging as a return to the down-home habit of chatting with the neighbors. “When I was growing up, a lawyer might have a coffee at the local drugstore each morning. This is really the same thing as those lawyers did then,” he says. Being neighborly is good. But it may take a while before all those cups of coffee pay off.

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