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Comments

David Giacalone

Evan, you've done a great job of describing UCL's weblog and persepective, and issue-spotting concerning the anonymity question. There's no doubt that our Ulcer has strong opinions and sticks to 'em (see this thread, and especially this one). I wish the real UCL could leave Comments at weblogs as himself -- without reference to the UCL weblog [leaving the UCL persona and its celebrity out of the picture]. That would lend more authority to judgments made about the ethics, capabilities or motives of others.

When he's outed (how many Montreal Expo fans with his legal background are there in the blawgiverse?), he will surely wish he had phrased a few things a bit more diplomatically. Ah, the brashness of anonymous youth!

As usual, I wonder how the heck he has time to leave Comments and lurk at just about every blawg in the cyberverse.

I, too, am glad UCL and his weblog are among us.

UCL

A more substantive response to Evan's very interesting and thoughtful post is forthcoming on my blog. But as to David's remarks about my anonymous identity... I know for a fact that the authors of the few blawgs I regularly visit could probably out me if they wanted to based on referrer stats, and they consciously choose not to. This, I appreciate, and the fact is that I visit those blawgs knowing that I leave behind hints of my true identity. I choose to trust them, which may or may not be naive on my part. My response to being outed would be very simple: UCL would disappear and be silenced forever, blawg and all, which is exactly what has happened to a few other blawgs I can think of.

Some people appear to be offended by my and others' anonymity. I don't know why. Anonymity gives me the freedom to, inter alia, refer to terrorists who behead innocent people as a bunch of "f***ing bastards" (self-censored out of respect for Evan's blog). I simply wouldn't use that language while associated with my real name, which is very publicly and openly associated with my very real law firm, any more than President Bush would use that language during a press conference. (I know I know, "I'm no President Bush"; thank God for that).

Do readers want me to have this freedom or not? If they don't, why are they readers to begin with?

Carolyn Elefant

Initially, the anonymity of blogs like UCL's, Running with Lawyers, Anonymous Lawyer and others sort of annoyed me. I was bothered that these bloggers, who mince no words, didn't have the guts to back their thoughts up with their identity. But I've since changed my perspective and now regard these bloggers as altruistic and their anonymity as an additional sign of credibility. Anonymous bloggers may get great feedback and recognition from other bloggers, but ultimately, they don't get the other types of benefits that other bloggers receive (like your book deal, client contacts, notoriety, etc...) because of their anonymity. Thus, I have to assume that these anonymous folks are blogging not for any other reason other than a firm belief that they have something important to offer the profession. My hat is off to them for giving us a peak into a part of the law that we might not otherwise see, while not receiving the rewards they deserve.

Crime & Federalism

Thus, I have to assume that these anonymous folks are blogging not for any other reason other than a firm belief that they have something important to offer the profession.

Like UCL, I blog anonymously and I could easily be outed. But the people in the blogosphere are generally good people. Thus, I don't think the UCL is naive to believe that those who know who he is would out him.

Abnu

Sir Walter Scott, a lawyer (called to the bar in 1792) and prolific writer of the pseudonymous Waverley novels, would have blogged--technology permitting--perhaps anonymously as Jebediah Cleisbotham.

"I have all my life regretted that I did not keep a regular (journal). I have myself lost recollection of much that was interesting and I have deprived my family and the public of some curious information by not carrying this resolution into effect." Sunday 20 November, 1825

With these words Scott began what many regard as his greatest work, a diary which was to turn into an extraordinary day-to-day account of the last six years of his life, years of financial ruin, bereavement, and increasing ill health. As he laboured to pay off debts of over £120,000, Scott emerges, not simply as a great writer, but as an almost heroic figure whose generosity and even temper shine through at all times.

David Giacalone

I second Sir Walter Scott's regret over not having kept a journal my whole life -- not only are lots of interesting stories, people, details gone forever, but a journal offers a great opportunity for current and retrospective self-examination. [Abnu: there is a big difference between using a pseudonym that is recognized as belonging to a particular person and writing anonymously.]

Anonymous webloggers have a lot to offer the profession and public. I do not believe that any person does anything for purely altruistic reasons -- even saints, martyrs, mothers and wives are being true to themselves or their principles, which is an important motive -- so, I'm not quite ready to canonize any weblawgers I know. I've never been very impressed or moved by foul language, and I don't find the freedom to use it to be a particularly strong advantage for society (unless it allows the venter to avoid using actual violence).

Of course, I understand why an employee or public official might need to (we)blog anonymously. Not being in that position, I was never faced with the choice. However, I have never let myself remain in a job situation for very long where I could not speak my mind on an issue of importance.

My biggest problem with anonymity is the cowardly use of it to besmirch other people or distort facts with impugnity. The blawgers who I follow regularly, like UCL and Fed84, do not fall into that category.

Not everyone with access to the internet has the good faith that most of us in with weblawger community seem to possess. For example, if UCL's opponents in the spousal privilege case he discussed yesterday at his weblog should Google that issue when doing their research, they are very likely to run into UCL's weblog. They might be eager to "out" him. Therefore, I hope UCL will keep in mind that the ramifications of being outed are far more than stopping the weblog, as his name will be associated with everything said there and as a Commentor throughout the blogosphere. Only saying things you are willing to have your name associated with is important, even for the currently anonymous (and for their clients). Indeed, if being outed is almost surely a question of "when" and not "if", the issue of client confidentiality becomes very important every time a weblogger posts an entry about actual cases that can be connected to him or her.

OLS

Like I think all of the above commentators, I read UCL's blog daily, and find it an interesting read - partially because of his open discussions of problems that I too have faced in my professional career, and partly because I find the discussion of American law interesting, as it is often so different to Australian law.

I too could be 'outed' quite easily - not so much by the trail of my referrer stats (I'm quite open about the fact that I work for the Queensland government) but by the personal details that I mostly write about.

But so far, I haven't revealed anything about my work that would cause a problem with client confidentiality. Mostly when talking about the law, I talk about what I am doing in very general terms without revealing anything that the parties to the action would not already know. And I suspect that includes when I complain about them as being a pain in the arse! ;o)

But my reasons are simple, there are a couple of readers of my blog who know who I am. I am certain that they would not knowingly cause me problems, but I would not reveal privileged information to my closest friend, so I would not reveal it on my blog.

This is an interesting thread. I hope it continues.

- OLS

Evan

David: You write, "Anonymous webloggers have a lot to offer the profession and public. I do not believe that any person does anything for purely altruistic reasons."

What are the reasons why a lawyer might want to blog anonymously? I understand why many lawyers might need to be anonymous to blog, but why do it if you can't have your name associated with what your write? If I take the time to write something, I'd rather have my name attached to my work product. If the only way I could blog was to do it anonymously, I'd soon grow tired of it and quit (I think).

On the other hand, I suspect that most anonymous webloggers have someone who knows about what they're doing--spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, etc. Keeping in mind that most webloggers don't really "know" many people who read them, having even one real-life reader might significantly detract from what I see as the boredom that would come with anonymous blogging.

Can some anonymous webloggers chime in?

David Giacalone

People have very different psychological needs and emotional preferences. I believe there are many individuals who do deeds or wield siginifcant influence (whether for good or evil reasons) and prefer to do so anonymously -- from anonymous benefactors to the needy, to "Clark Kent" superheroes, to regular callers on local radio talk shows. Many great teachers say that the mature, realized person does not need outward recognition. The anonymous weblogger might be trying to live up to that ideal.

I agree, Evan, that most mere mortals seek fame or recognition for their deeds, and that most anonymous webloggers almost certainly have a small circle of confidants aware of the person behind the weblog. Also, some probably love living dangerously, or being able to spout off with impugnity, or plan to write a book after their charade is over.

UCL

Only saying things you are willing to have your name associated with is important, even for the currently anonymous (and for their clients).

The fact is that I'm mindful of this when I post. First, I write under the assumption that I could be outed one day, and if that happens, the most I want to suffer is a bit of embarassment, as opposed to being fired, causing ethical issues to arise in cases, etc. Second, it is for these very reasons that I state pretty clearly, in my introductory post, that "I occasionally change details when I'm talking about various aspects of my work." The wrongful death case I write about one day may very well have been a construction defect case for all you know, and the date you assume an event took place may have been 3 weeks ago. I reserve the right to "fictionalize" any detail I deem necessary, and that's just the way it is if you wish to read my blog. There's nothing revolutionary about this method when it comes to writing about my profession. Lawyers have the freedom to express themselves about their careers, while taking reasonable measures to protect client confidentiality. If you doubt this, pick up an edition of the ABA Journal some time.

FN84

My wife and a couple of friends know about my blog, but I'd rather they did not. I'm generally a private person. I avoid the spotlight and prefer staying in with my books and pets. Besides, recognition qua recognition has never turned me on. Unless being recognized will lead to money (re enabling me to buy presents for my wife; books, cigars, and wine for me; donations for charity; and toys for my pets), then I don't need it. Some might even say I'm anti-social, though my blogging and commenting on numerous blogs would seem to say less to about me and more about the value of my critics. ;^> But I digress...

The main reason I continue to blog anonymously is to prevent people from letting who I am get in the way of what I say. I'll elaborate.

I've worked on a several cases that would have gone the other way had my boss advanced my theories. But because of my age, lack of experience, yada yada., they'd ignore me, or worse, say things like, "This argument would never work. Your writing is crap." [I quit that job.] I only had one person who would listen to me and let me do things my way. Together we kept a guy off death row; struck down a state criminal law; and had a large dollar judgment reinstated. But he was unique in that he listened to what I had to say. He valued ideas more than identity.

And I suspect people reading my blog would devalue what I say because of personal factors. Though I think it's irrational to ignore someone's legal arguments - since, after all, they are verifiable - due to age or experience, that's the life I live.

Right now many people reading my blog assume I'm an experienced criminal defense lawyer. I'd like to think that's due to my clear writing and insights, given that I spend a lot of time thinking about the issues I blog about. Anyhow, would those people give me the same street credibility if they knew my age? I doubt it.

So, I stay anonymous. After all, if the choice is between having someone accept me or my thoughts, I'd rather they choose my thoughts.

OLS

My blog is a little different from UCL's in that I talk about my day to day life more than I talk about the law or my professional life. My blog is like a diary. So I blog anonymously mainly because (a) I don't want to hurt the feelings of my friends and family I write about, and (b) I don't want to cause problems at work by the way I sometimes talk about my colleagues.

I blog as a form of stress relief. I get to vent the feelings of anything that annoys me and share my joy in those little day to day things that are only exciting to me. And I don't have to see readers hitting the page down button when I get boring! ;o)

I don't blog to be read, thought it's nice when I am. I blog to write.

- OLS

Yeoman

Interesting comments on anonymous bloggers.

I am anonymous, which I confess is due to my critical tone. There's an element of, well, being careful in it.

I've thought, however, about abandoning the anonymous blog, and starting a new one revealing my identity. The reason is, that there's some opinions I feel I cannot express unless I am identified.

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