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Welcome Redditors

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2014

This nine year old Overlawyered post (“Attorney accidentally sues himself”) got highlighted on Reddit /humor/ over the weekend, resulting in a big traffic surge.

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15 years ago today

by Walter Olson on July 1, 2014

I launched Overlawyered on July 1, 1999. You can read the first half-month’s worth of posts here.

Many other sites on law and public policy had been in operation before July 1999, but depending on how you define “blog,” Overlawyered might have a reasonable claim to being the oldest known law blog.

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Our most heavily trafficked post in October 2013 was “USPS To Destroy ‘Just Move’ Stamps Over Safety Concerns’” The most commented-on posts were “Update: $2.2 M verdict reinstated for client whose chair collapsed at law firm,” “A slippery slope to polygamy?” and the USPS post above.

November’s most clicked-on post was “San Rafael, Calif. passes own-home smoking ban.” The most commented-on posts were that post, “NYC: ‘Meet the seemingly unfirable female firefighter’,” and “FDA orders 23andMe to shut down home genome test.”

The most visited post in December was “Drunk driver will recover $6.6 million from two Pennsylvania bars.” (In fact, by being linked on Reddit, it brought us the highest number of visitors of any day in the site’s history, since moving onto WordPress at least.) The most commented-on posts, subject to change should there be some last-minute wave of comments, were “Megan McArdle: ‘Lead paint verdict sets dangerous precedent’,” “Liberty cake wrecks, cont’d,” and the drunk driver post above.

ABABlawg100HallofFameDetails here. The “Hall of Fame” began last year with 10 inductees and this year the ABA Blawg 100 competition is inducting 10 more, with us in the batch. Its description:

Whether or not you’re sympathetic to tort reform and the idea that the government overregulates, Overlawyered is a little hair-raising and eye-opening. Its stated mission is to bring to light abuses of the legal system that raise costs and inhibit justice. Acquired this year by the Cato Institute, the blog is the project of Walter Olson, a senior Cato fellow. Having celebrated its 15th anniversary in July, Overlawyered says it may be the oldest legal blog: “At least, no one seems to be able to name one that’s older.”

So far as anyone we know has been able to tell us, Overlawyered, launched in July 1999, is the longest running blog about law. From time to time the question arises whether it was the very first law blog, a question discussed at Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites (and in turn noted in an Editor’s Note at the above ABA link). It was certainly not the first regularly updated law site; there were plenty of those in 1999, such as Mark Astarita’s seclaw.com which dates back to 1995 (!). In a 2003 post Greg Siskind writes that his visalaw.com was first to adopt a blog format, citing a 1998 post (visible at Wayback Machine here) that provided regular updates on H-1B legislation over the course of a month, with older updates scrolling down the page, and which drew wide traffic. For reasons I advance at LawSites, I think a lot depends on one’s definition of what a blog is, and that’s probably not a subject we’ll all agree on soon.

Also, Overlawyered has been included in the ABA’s 7th Annual Blawg 100 this year, as often in the past. To vote for your favorites by category, click here. They’ve put us in the “Torts” category.

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One of our best traffic days ever, fueled by an Andrew Sullivan link to our post correcting an overzealous effort to connect the dots in the IRS scandal.

May 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 7, 2013

  • In quiet retreat from STOCK Act, Congress dispenses with trading transparency for its staff [Prof. Bainbridge]
  • Deep-pocket quest: hotel named as additional defendant in Florida A&M hazing death [Orlando Sentinel, earlier]
  • “Keynes didn’t expect to have kids so he didn’t care about the future” wheeze long predates Niall Ferguson [Kenneth Silber; my new post at IGF, where I've also been posting lately on the topic of adoption]
  • Ten and five (respectively) reasons for a plaintiff’s lawyer to turn down a personal injury case [Eric Turkewitz, Max Kennerly]
  • Setback for man seeking to trademark “Eat More Kale” [AP, earlier]
  • Gawker is now on the UK “Warning: This bag of nuts may contain nuts” case [earlier]
  • Overlawyered’s Twitter feed just passed the 7,000-follower mark, while our Facebook page, which recently stood at 1,000 likes, has now surged to nearly 2,500. Thanks for following and liking, and if you’d like to engage with other parts of Cato on social media, check out this nifty guide by Zach Graves.

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  • An Instalanche from Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, and Prof. Bainbridge remembers the phrase “takes the Boeing;” R.S. McCain on blogging communities and linkiness; Coyote (“Congrats… The Overlawyered blog is one of the blogs I read every day, and is one of the grand old blogs of the Internet”); Joe Patrice/Above the Law; Chris Fountain/For What It’s Worth (“If you haven’t used it to keep track of the inanities of our modern society of flawed men and laws, here’s a good opportunity.”); Think Tank Watch.
  • From Twitter: Tunku Varadarajan (“I love — and recommend — ‘Overlawyered’”), Alan Gura (“so the lawyers have gone over all the details and finalized the documents?”), Sohrab Ahmari (“sharpest critic of our litigious culture… must-read”), Popehat (“indispensable”), David Boaz, Danny Alvarez, Sr. (“REALLY? Congrats. You better keep that flippant attitude now that you are part of ‘The Man!’”), Jack Robling (“I’d love to meet the lawyer who lawyered @overlawyered and @CatoInstitute’s marriage”); occasional guestblogger Ron Coleman (“So, hey, am I now retroactively a prestigious ‘Cato blogger’?”), Kurt Loder, Andrew Stuttaford, John Carney (“Surprised it took this long”), Massimiliano Trovato (“must read for anyone interested in law and liberty”), Jeremy Kolassa (“must [follow] if you want to know how litigation is screwed up in this country”), Scott Greenfield (“indie blogs bite the dust. Congrats to Wally, but I hate to see it go ‘corporate’” — and exchange with Popehat), Tom Kirkendall, Susan Cartier Liebel, Business Roundtable, Bob Lucas Jr., and many others.
  • At Facebook, various reactions including from longtime reader Doug Iverson: “I’d just like to say that I think Overlawyered was better before Walter turned it over to Cato to market. I think it’s hyped more.” My response, in part: “Ian, my colleague at Cato, now writes the regular Facebook links, which are the chief reason visits to the site via Facebook are up tremendously in recent weeks. If Doug writes to Cato to say that Overlawyered’s Facebook presence has become a flagrant puffery scheme designed to lure readers into giving the website a try, I think they will give Ian a raise.”
  • If you missed it, Friday’s announcement.

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Since it looks as if we’ll have thousands of new readers today, this might be a good time to reprint in slightly updated form an evergreen post that first appeared in 2007:

* When we post on Overlawyered about a real or potential lawsuit, it doesn’t necessarily mean we think the case is without merit. We regularly discuss meritorious cases.

* Not infrequently lawsuits we discuss are well founded on existing law, but that existing law is ill-conceived and deserves to be reconsidered. Or both law and lawsuit may make perfect sense, but the level of damages demanded may be excessive or implausible. Or the combatants on one side or both may pursue dubious tactics and theories. Or the media coverage of the case may have been credulous or one-sided. You get the idea.

* Sometimes it’s not clear what if anything either side did wrong in pursuing a dispute, but the case still stands as a monument to the high cost of resolving things through legal process. A recurring example: the family feud over a legacy that ends by consuming the estate in litigation costs.

* We also discuss a certain number of cases that are just plain interesting: they raise novel or non-obvious legal issues, or they shed light on human nature as it manifests itself in legal disputes. And, yes, it does happen on occasion that I take note of a case without being sure what I myself think of it.

* Finally, the multiple people who have posted content on the site are different people and don’t always agree with each other.

Sorry if this introduces complexity where people were expecting to find simplicity.

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I’m delighted to announce that Overlawyered, a freestanding blog since I founded it in 1999, has now affiliated itself with the Cato Institute, at whose Center for Constitutional Studies I’m a senior fellow. Cato already publishes several blogs and its prowess in technical support, marketing, and press outreach are certain to help the blog reach new readers, look sharper, keep more current with blog technology, and be even more a part of the conversation about law and legal reform.

As a trial run, Cato’s Ian Jacobson has already been helping out with the site’s Facebook presence in recent weeks, and Cato’s graphics team has devised an terrifically good-looking banner you can check out there, complete with shark fin. (We’re not losing the popular “shark and goldfish” emblem, though.) While you’re there, be sure to “Like” us and recommend us to friends, and also join nearly 7,000 others who follow us on Twitter.

In coming weeks you’ll notice design changes on our front page, as well as other new features. If you’re not familiar with Cato, the world’s leading libertarian think tank, this is a good time to check it out and learn more about its pursuit of individual liberties, free markets, and peace. In particular, let me recommend Cato’s group blog Cato at Liberty, where I and my colleagues blog on a variety of public policy issues.

Here’s the Cato announcement that went out this morning:

The Cato Institute is proud to announce its affiliation with one of the most respected law blogs around: Overlawyered.com. Founded and run by senior fellow Walter Olson, the blog explores an American legal system in dire need of reform, showing how litigation is used as a weapon against guilty and innocent alike, new laws erode individual responsibility, and law firms enrich themselves at the public’s expense.

Walter skewers American litigiousness with a careful eye and sharp wit. If you haven’t been following Overlawyered, here’s what you’ve been missing:

To learn the extent of the legal insanity, and how to fix it, visit Overlawyered.com and “like” its Facebook page.

Walter Olson founded and continues to run Overlawyered.com. He is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

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We don’t do many open threads here at Overlawyered, but here’s one with a specific focus: what sites should I be looking to more often for links?

Regular readers will notice that I frequently link to perhaps 40 or 50 blogs that I follow regularly, as well as to some news outlets with generous or no paywall policies (though the oft-linked Washington Post, e.g., will alas be ringing down the curtain soon on its no-paywall policy). I tend to avoid linking to strictly paywalled sites, even important ones like the WSJ, since I know most readers will not be able to follow the links.

I also link frequently to news sources from certain parts of the country from which friends and readers regularly send me clips, such as central Florida. Alert readers may possibly have deduced that there are some popular sites that I do *not* link to if I can possibly avoid it, even though readers often send me clips from those places. Often this is because those sites too often associate themselves with factually unreliable content. Meanwhile, I do sometimes link to some sites like the U.K. Daily Mail that predictably generate “how can you link to those awful people” comments, even when I am linking to an AP story or when the content of a piece can be fully confirmed elsewhere.

Your opinions?

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Social media: pass it on

by Walter Olson on December 22, 2012

Bloggers who don’t link to others’ opinions miss out on half the potential of the medium, as Eric Turkewitz (New York Personal Injury Law Blog) learned to his advantage.

The ABA’s beauty contest/collection of notable law blogs is in its sixth year and once again we’ve been nominated, in the “Torts” category.

The News/Analysis category has the really tough competition, including Ken White at Popehat, Above the Law, and Volokh Conspiracy. Also, in other categories: Stephen Bainbridge’s Prof. Bainbridge, Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice, Paul Caron’s TaxProf, Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites, and many others. And they’ve cited Jim Dedman’s excellent Abnormal Use blog, but I’m not supposed to mention that because it’s competing with Overlawyered.

Molly McDonough, Sarah Randag, and Lee Rawles of the ABA Journal describe all the various entrants, with links, here. There’s also a new Hall of Fame of perennial nominees and a Twitter list.

To vote for (or for that matter against) Overlawyered, you’ll need to register: do that here.

A Facebook observation

by Walter Olson on November 3, 2012

Many politically active people “like” candidates and causes to which they are in fact ardently opposed, since following the opposition’s Facebook stream can be a smart way to keep tabs on what it’s doing. But as a result Facebook keeps feeding us sponsored posts — often very misleading ones — that follow the formula “[my friend] likes [candidate/cause X]“.

By the way, if you’re on Facebook, you really should be liking Overlawyered, here. That’s true even if you can’t stand the site and just want to keep tabs on its nefarious ways.

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Note on Hurricane Sandy

by Walter Olson on October 29, 2012

With Hurricane Sandy bearing down, I expect that power and connectivity may be a challenge for me over the next few days, so I’ve set up a number of items to post automatically at Overlawyered. Be aware that comments moderation may be much slower than usual, depending on my access to communications.

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Our blog-iversary

by Walter Olson on July 1, 2012

Overlawyered turns 13 today, launched July 1, 1999. You can read our first fifteen days’ worth of posts at this page.

P.S.: “It’s a blog-mitzvah!” (Ira Stoll).

And a sampling of other reactions via Twitter: “First in time and, to this day, in merit.” [Andrew Grossman] “In internet years, 13 makes you ancient. Cheers!” [@libbyspencer] “Heaven help me, I remember that, approximately.” [G.S. Taylor] “A voice of reason in an often twisted civil justice system.” [Marc Williams] “You are the Methuselah of the internet.” [@scottgreenfield] “I remember reading the site when I was a law student in 2000.” [Jim Dedman] “Do you realize your blog’s now a teenager? Time to start locking up the liquor…” [@petewarden] “Happy blogiversary! Your book, The Litigation Explosion, was one of the most import that I, then a young lawyer, ever read.” [@bookwormroom] “#haiku? @overlawyered blog/ Started thirteen years ago/ More profound than me.” [@SupremeHaiku] “Congrats @walterolson on your blogiversary! even a progressive like me reads it regularly! ?#imafan” [Monique Hall] “Started reading not long after; never stopped. Here’s to the next 13 years!” [@Hal_RTFLC] “Happy (belated) 13th birthday to @walterolson’s indispensable legal blog” [@damonroot], Jim Dedman (“we here at Abnormal Use were early readers”).

Plus: some generous comments from Dan Pero at American Courthouse, Kevin Underhill/@loweringthebar, Bob Dorigo Jones (“It’s long held the first spot on my list of Must Read blogs.”).

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Following some down time, Overlawyered has re-emerged on new servers and with upgraded software allowing for improved features. Thanks to Jason Vines of the Cato Institute for his assistance.

Unfortunately, during this process, my email accounts went dark for a while. If you sent me an email anytime over the weekend or on Monday through the late afternoon, I probably didn’t get it and you should send it again.

In addition, several reader comments approved on Friday and Saturday were inadvertently lost in the upgrade. I may be able to go back to my files to reconstruct what these were, but if the comments were important to you, you should consider re-posting them.

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Spread the happy news: I’ve finally installed share buttons so that you can “Like” Overlawyered posts on Facebook as well as share them on Twitter and Google Plus. And if you’re a Facebook user, please remember to “Like” the entire page here.

Over at Secular Right, I’ve done a lengthy post about think tanks, more specifically about the future of the policy think tank model in light of the controversy over control of my own Cato Institute. It’s also got some memoir-ish material in it in which I recall times over the years in which I felt relatively proud of having an effect on public debate. You can read it here.

P.S. Kind words from Ryan Radia and Pierre Lemieux.

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