What a hashtag coming yesterday from law blog pioneer, legal tech veteran and now law professor, Dennis Kennedy.

Kennedy used the hashtag in a blog post as his solution to a growing problem legal professionals face when writing for third party publishers – #blogfirst.

I’ve been rethinking my approach to publishing articles in publications. To my horror, I’ve seen links to hundreds of my old articles take people to “file not found” or other 404 pages. Other articles are now behind subscription or pay walls, or can be read only as you navigate through ad mazes.

That was never what I wanted. I don’t think any author would ever want that. I want as many readers as possible.

Then we have people finding a reference, and previous working link, to one of the articles you did for a third party publication in another article, presentation materials or a blog post. They coming knocking.

At best, in most cases I at least have my last draft that I submitted for publication still in my archive. The good news is that most of my articles don’t need much editing. The bad news is that these drafts are all I have to send people, including a recent potential client, as a copy of an article they can’t find instead of the working link I (and they) expected. I’m the one who looks like I don’t know what I’m doing when I send people to a dead link to my own article.

Kennedy is not alone. Bloomberg Law has deleted articles from in-house counsel, AmLaw, in a deal with LexisNewxis, has placed behind a paywall previously open access contributions from leaders in the law, and the ABA, by re-doing their website, has made content virtually disappear.

Website developers apparently look at getting a new website up with some content and looking good as the end goal. Neither the website developer nor the organization or company for whom the website was being done knew what they were doing when it came to digital publishing or cared a lick about it.

Kennedy’s new approach is to #blogfirst

For new articles that I write not done as a favor for an editor or under contract, I will publish first as a blog post. I call this #blogfirst. The post will be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0). People can use the post as they wish, only with attribution and only for non-commercial purposes as defined under the license. If someone wants to publish the post or a portion of it in their publication, they can contact me to discuss and we can reach mutually-agreeable terms.

Like me, Kennedy will post a somewhat edited, usually shorter, version of his blog post on LinkedIn. I post the same edited version of my post on Facebook. 

I’m with Kennedy that this a workable approach for publishers. And if it causes some extra steps or difficulties for you as a publisher?

…[T]he blame for that lies solely on your publisher colleagues, who seem to have forgotten that it is authors that provide the content that brings the audience that brings the dollars, and that authors deserve better treatment of their published articles than I’m currently seeing and experiencing.

Kennedy’s touching on a bigger deal than many lawyers, law firms, web developers and marketing professionals appreciate. 

The law is a breathing entity. Advances are made through dialogue, citations and discussion. 25 years ago libraries were filled with books preserving hundreds of years of legal dialogue and citations.

Imagine what would have happened if we took the the numbers off the spines of half of the books. Or randomly picked out volumes and cut out 50 pages with a scissors. 

That’s exactly what is happening here with people not appreciating that law blogs are the American Law Review, journals and articles of today.

I look forward to talking more with Kennedy about #blogfirst and asking for his input as LexBlog charts a path to some method of permanent archiving and citation for law blogs.