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Richard Ames

Anonymous blogging harmful? Garbage! Some of our greatest writers wrote anonymously at one time or another for all sorts of reasons. Ben Franklin. Abe Lincoln. Mark Twain. They all did their share of shaking things up with a bit of fictional writing passed off as truth. The practice is as American as apple pie.


Starting with the last paragraph first:

"As far as Yeoman's question of whether the profession is ill-served by anonymous blogging, which grants an unattributed author the opportunity to speak more freely, and more critically, about the profession than anyone might do publicly? I don't buy it. I believe in transparency. I don't think the public or the profession is well-served by a fear-driven silence, or a public front that admits no warts. If the only way for lawyers to write critically about the profession and their experiences is to do so anonymously, I think anonymity is worthwhile. I do think that those who need the protection of anonymity to speak their own truth should examine carefully why they've chosen lives where they can't speak freely. But I don't at all believe that we, as a profession, should only say nice things about it in public. That's silly."

I quite agree.

I actually do not think that anonymous blogging, particular in this profession, is harmful. I might draw, however, a distinction between that and fictional blogging. That is, there's a difference between representing myself as anonymous, but truthful, and representing myself as something I am not.

I suspect that virtually all blogs contain elments of fiction. Some are fictional by commission, and some by ommission. But still, there's some elements. But then that may be necessary.

I appreciate the response, and I'm not sure what my view is. I think Anonymous lawyer, although he is not yet a lawyer, did the legal profession a service by exposing an element of it to those who would not recieve it but for his blog. And I don't fault Becky Turtle/SoE either. But then they are skillful writers. I'm more concerned that it will encourage fiction that's less truthful, and therefore potentially harmful.

As for legal blogs, however, being anonymous. I'm afraid that but for those solo practitioners who have unique practices, they will have to be. Otherwise, they'd expose the writers to all sorts of problems. And the medium does allow greater expression where the profession, amongst ourselves, has a code of silence about its true nature.


I don't think that anonymous blogging is such a horrible thing. There are bound to be reasons why anonymity is sometimes necessary. My own blog, while not quite anonymous, does not reveal details unless you choose to look a little more deeply. So neither my girlfriend's, nor my daughter's, names are ever written out. I mention that I work in Baltimore City schools but don't name the buildings. I work with special education students and if I get too deeply into those details then the students' confidentiality can be broken. I don't write fiction in my blog but I don't necessarily give out all the details, so maybe there's some lying via omission.

As far as fictional blogs: well, all blogs are a matter of "caveat emptor" in my head. If I bought into everything that I've seen in blogs over the last several weeks, then I'd be forced to conclude that nearly all of the rest of the world has a MUCH cooler life than I do, and they have the free time to write about it as well. I'll take the stories as simple entertainment and leave the decision of real/not real to someone else.

Bill Altreuter

I'm sure that a lot of people will be saying this now, but Anonymous Lawyer always seemed pretty fake to me. It was awkwardly written, for one thing, or, at least, it was not written the way most lawyers who blog seem to write. There is a kind of precision that comes from writing like a lawyer that seeps into everything-- grocery lists, letters, you name it-- and I never got that vibe. In addition (see? There it is.) the character never practiced law, or really ever talked much about practicing law. He talked about browbeating associates, and gossiped, but there was no law, and that is not very realistic at all. If you get a room full of doctors together, they will talk about their investments, and their golf games, and how much they hate lawyers-- but lawyers always, always talk about the law.

As a piece of fiction, I would say that Anonymous Lawyer was working on the Grisham level, without the plot. I'd also say he was very succesful at doing what he did, and he deserves credit for that. I do not think he broke faith with readership-- you always take what you find on the web as you find it, and if you are inclined to believe that something might be true, you are always well advised to try and verify it.

David Giacalone

A lot of the worries about whether a weblog is "true" or "fictitious" could
be solved if weblog editors made it clear -- as is done with all books -- whether the content is "fiction" or "non-fiction". Some weblog writers might need to make this disclaimer one post at a time. We all know that there is often much "truth" in fiction. However, if a writer is making up facts, he or she should not be implying it is non-fiction.


(1) From very early on, Anonymous Lawyer was clearly labeled "fiction." Anyone who was confused wasn't reading carefully enough.

(2) As I wrote once wrote in a a comment to a post on this weblog, the challenge of telling what's true and what's fiction about a person isn't limited to weblogs--in facts, it's a challenge we face every time we talk to another human being. Presenting voices and fragments of one's personality to the exclusion of others is a practice as old as humanity.

(3) Scheherazade, your great co-blogging idea would work even if the writers disclosed who they were. If the writing was skillful, readers would lose themselves in the fiction. Declining traffic would mean the experiment was a failure. Let's do it!

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