Houston defense attorney Mark Bennett is understandably outraged to see that fellow criminal law blogger David Finn has reproduced the Department of Justice’s press release about Mark’s client as his own work. Mark’s concern, as always, is for his own client, who thanks to this “Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer” has his name besmirched before a jury can even be selected. 

Others might consider it unseemly to not even attribute the DOJ in the post, not to link to the original, not even to indent someone else’s words as is customary in blogging etiquette. No, this is all under the banner of the “Personal Online Journal of David Finn”.

Meanwhile New York defense lawyer Scott Greenfield recently groused about his original writings being bastardized as unintelligible garbage in random blogs. He first thought the culprit was the blogging platform WordPress, but Windy Pundit cleared up the misunderstanding in a comment. Turns out it was just another splog.

These two instances are related, and they illustrate the 2 types of bad and/or useless blogs in the criminal blawgosphere:

  1. Lawyers that don’t know or understand the purpose of blogging.
  2. Folks trying to monetize a cheap/free site quickly, using Google’s AdSense program.

Category Number One: the Lawyers.

These are lawyers who have contacted (or been contacted by) some Search Engine Optimization genius, who tells them that blogs are the latest thing. 

“It’s all about content. Frequently changing and updating content on your site. That’s what Google values the most. That’s what a blog is,” says our easily imaginable SEO expert.

So the web designer sets up a ‘blog’ for the defense lawyer, and tells him, “Take snippets from the local news and post regularly.” Soemtimes the webmeister advises the potential client to “comment on the story”.

Perhaps that saves Finn from the plagiarism charge. Referring, apparently, to federal indictments relating to mortgage fraud, he prefaces the cut-and-paste with the pithy phrase, “Expect to see more of this in 2008”. So at least that’s original.

But, ignoring Bennett’s point about criminal defense lawyers doing the government’s dirty work for the, I still don’t get it. This blog is clearly being used as a marketing tool and exists for that purpose alone. There’s no insight or commentary. Nothing. 

The part that confuses me is this: would someone being investigated or perhaps already indicted by the Federal Government run across this site? Potentially yes. Would they say to themselves, what, I don’t know, “I want to hire the guy who repeats the federal prosecutor’s propaganda? Give me the guy who names defendants in his blog.”? 

I would think not.  So, never mind the ethics of plagiarism, how effective a marketing tool could it be? 

Category Number Two: the sploggers.

Written after the fact, and now contained in a separate post.