The First-Ever Law Blog (Reconsidered)

In response to this blog’s 11th birthday yesterday, a couple of people asked me what other law blogs were around way back then. The question reminded me of a post I’d written in 2007 for Law.com’s Legal Blog Watch, Who Was the First Legal Blogger?.

After searching through the archives of some of the longest-running legal blogs that I knew of, I declared the first-ever legal blog to be Walter Olson’s Overlawyered, which started on July 1, 1999, and continues strong as ever today.

Turns out, however, that I was wrong. Walter was not the first.

Yesterday, in the course of searching for my 2007 Legal Blog Watch post, I came across an even earlier post of my own — one that I’d forgotten about entirely — addressing this very question. That 2003 post, The First-Ever Law Blog?, cited immigration lawyer Greg Siskind as the self-declared first-ever legal blogger.

In May 1998, before the term “blog” had even been coined, Greg set up something that walked like a blog and quacked like a blog. He explained in a 2003 post:

I actually had set up a blog back in May 1998 before there was even a term “blog.” In that year, we set up an “online diary” to keep readers apprised of legislative developments surrounding the H-1B cap. The page was extremely popular and in one day alone received more than 50,000 hits.

You can still see that page, courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

That means that Greg, not Walter, gets bragging rights as the first legal blogger.

If you’re curious about who else was blogging back then, that 2007 post includes a list of some of them (and read the comments for others). You might be surprised at how many of them are still around today.

The name “blog,” by the way, was first used in 1999, according to Wikipedia, as a contraction of “weblog,” a term which was coined just two years earlier, in 1997.

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13 Responses to “The First-Ever Law Blog (Reconsidered)”

  1. Olga says:

    It’s incredible to see how far we’ve have come in such a short period of time.

  2. Bruce Carton says:

    Bob Ambrogi, Blog Historian!

  3. Neil J. Squillante says:

    I think you need to go farther back. A blog is a web site generated by a content management that publishes articles in reverse chronological order regardless of their relative importance.

    I’m willing to bet that some law-related site published manually coded articles in this fashion before the first blog.

    If you want to crown a winner, you need to discuss it in the context of automation via a content management system.

    • Greg Siskind says:

      Thanks for the mention, Bob. I’m pretty sure that there were no other sites that would have had a blog prior to this mainly because in the course of writing my ABA book on web sites back in 1996, I cataloged every law firm web site. You could still actually view every one of them back then. I know you were also writing about the topic back then so the thought that there was a firm out there blogging before 1997 would likely have not escaped notice.

      By the way, this will make you realize how much time has passed. Next June, our web site (www.visalaw.com) will begin it’s third decade online.

    • I don’t know, Neil. As Greg Siskind says in his comment, there weren’t very many lawyers with websites of any kind back then. The early versions of what we’re calling weblogs by both Greg and Walter Olson at Overlawyered were basically what you describe: manually coded pages listing updates in reverse-chronological order. There may have been someone else doing this within the legal field, but it was a very compact universe back then.

  4. My site, seclaw.com, went live in July 1995, and had one article a month on its main page. When a new article was posted, I put the prior one at the site as another page. So, I guess it did not fit the definition of a blog as defined here, but it is pretty close.

    My site won’t start its third decade until 2015, but I did register my first domain name in 1989. Unfortunately it was not business.com.

  5. Walter Olson says:

    Some of this hinges on definitions. Do blogs date to the point when people began adding updates at the top of an existing page, with earlier updates scrolling down? Or later, when they began employing that format for writing projects that were meant to go on indefinitely and address a variety of topics? In the early days I remember that some people thought you couldn’t call it a blog unless you had some sort of links sidebar — you don’t hear that any more now that sidebars and blogrolls have faded. I definitely agree that blogging software and platforms did not appear on the scene until years after “blogging” had been named as such.

  6. I believe that Atlanta Legal Aid Society launched the first legal aid site in March 1996. Pine Tree Legal Assistance followed in April 1996, featuring legal information for clients. This pre-dated blogs and RSS feeds but foreshadowed the use of online content and interactive tools as a significant piece of the overall service delivery model for cash-strapped programs.

  7. […] mentioned a while back that 16 years ago, I started what has now been called the first lawyer blog on the Internet. I had already had a web site that started in 1994 (my site begins its third decade this summer) […]

  8. Ron says:

    Al Gore and I threw a little something together back in 1991. I’ve kept quiet about it so that you, Walter, and others can have your glory.

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