With the unexpected cancellation of a conference call this afternoon, I thought I’d check in on some of my favorite bloggers. Oddly, my first stop, Monica Bay’s The Common Scold, sent me off on a sidetrack that took me back 100 years before landing me once again in the blogosphere, drawing an unlikely connection along the way to a third member of the Law.com blog network (to which both Monica and I belong), Eugene Volokh.
It all had to do with her post, Bridges Not Walls, in which she summarized a speech she gave yesterday to the Legal Sales and Service Organization’s RainDance conference. In her speech, she recounts, she issued a challenge to law firm sales and marketing folks to stop using jargon. Having known and worked with Monica for many years, I can attest to her strong opinions about this. As an editor, she makes it a hard-and-fast rule to keep jargon out of her publications. You will not find “solution” in Law Technology News. I agree with her wholeheartedly.
But in her list of words she considers jargon, one stopped me short — “seamless.” Is this not a word with a rich tradition in legal scholarship? I thought of the time-worn phrase, “The law is a seamless web.” In fact, when I was at Boston College Law School, I was editor of the law school paper, which was named The Seamless Web.
This sent me to Google in search of the phrase’s origins. Oliver Wendell Holmes? Learned Hand? It turns out, the first use of the phrase in a legal context was a reference to history, not law. In 1898, Frederic William Maitland, in “A Prologue to a History of English Law,” 14 L. Quarterly Rev. 13, wrote: “Such is the unity of all history that any one who endeavours to tell a piece of it must feel that his first sentence tears a seamless web.”
As a blogger, I was even more interested to learn that the person credited with tracking down the origin of seamless web is Ethan Katsh, legal studies professor at the University of Massachusetts and a blogger himself as a contributor to ODR News Blog. Then, as if to close the circle, a reference to Katsh’s article sent me to this post from the blog Law Pundit. Sure enough, Law Pundit’s motto is, “Law is a seamless web,” and in this post he explores the origins of the phrase. He makes his way back to Maitland via Katsh. But then he brings it forward again, drawing a dotted-line connection back to the blogosphere — to Eugene Volokh, who blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy.
With connections running from from blawger Bay to blawger Katsh to a legal historian writing a century ago and back to blawger Volokh, maybe the law is a seamless web. If so, is “seamless” jargon?