Blogs that Repurpose Accident News Articles

Kevin O’Keefe rails against this blog post which appears in the Maine Injury Blog published by Peter Thompson & Associates.  O’Keefe’s argument as to why this is an exploitative posting is that it uses the death of an 18-year-old in a car accident in order to promote the law firm which authors the blog.  He points out in particular the use of the teen’s name as egregious behavior.  I think that Mr. O’Keefe is shining a light on an important question – how should lawyers blog about highly sensitive matters?

Devil’s advocate

I blogged about this issue in earlier this year about a similar blog post. In both examples the claim was made that the lawyer’s was simply re-posting an article in order to increase his visibility in search results.  To be fair to the criticized lawyer, many of his blog posts contain original content.  That said, I have no problem with Kevin O’Keefe  pointing out this blog post as insensitive and as an example of an underwritten blog post.  On those counts, I agree.  Where I have a problem is the tone of this paragraph:

“I wonder how this recent high school grad’s parents feel about what you’re doing Pete. But what do you care? You’re just a personal injury lawyer out to make a buck.”

Does Mr. O’Keefe a personal relationship with Mr. Thompson?  Why couldn’t Mr. O’Keefe have responded privately to Mr. Thompson on his contact page to communicate his strong feelings?

Added to that, Mr. O’Keefe works with attorneys on their blogs for profit.  I do that also as does Justia the company that assists Mr. Thompson with his blog.    Here is Mr. O’Keefe providing his motivation for calling out Mr. Thompson.

“I don’t share this to impress you, but to impress upon you that there is a better way to obtain work as a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. And that it’s well within your reach. As a lawyer — and as legal website and blog solution provider…We’ll not have blogs like the above personal injury law blogs on The LexBlog Network.”

I don’t assign a cynical motivation to Mr. O’Keefe for bringing this blog example to his readers.  I have no doubt he was genuinely outraged by reading this blog post.  However, it just so happens that his outrage complements his commercial interest which is to educate lawyers on the value of developing quality blogs which happens to be what Mr. O’Keefe and his company provides.

Constructive Criticism – Not Moral Outrage

From an educational perspective, Mr. O’Keefe could point out an antitrust lawyer who re-posts a news story about a price-fixing case and then includes a blurb promoting his practice and why that’s not an effective way to blog.  That attorney and Mr. Thompson could argue that one of the values of blogging is having someone who is watching the news in a narrow niche and serving their readership by saying, “hey read this.”

Is Shaming Productive?

Impugning the credibility of a professional only increases defensiveness and makes it harder to educate and inform.   Blogging is still new and the rules aren’t exactly the same as those for professional journalism.  I would like to think the legal profession is still learning about how to best use this medium effectively and successfully.  I know that I am.

What do you think?

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