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FindLaw Live: Blogging From the ABA Annual Meeting

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 13, 2013 3:51 PM

A typical day in the life of a FindLaw for Legal Professionals blogger is full of variety. We'll write a post on small firm practice, then a post on young lawyer or law student life. We'll also dig through federal appeals court opinions and highlight the most ground-breaking, noteworthy and unusual cases, such as the man prosecuted for soiling a courthouse restroom or the U.S. Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

Each day is a little different. That's what makes this job great. But Monday was very different.

In a rare occurrence, FindLaw took to the streets -- or at least, to Moscone Center West in San Francisco -- for the ABA's Annual Meeting. We covered, live on Twitter and on our Strategist blog, speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who sounds like she is preparing to run in three years, as a writer for The Washington Post observed).

All-Access Press Pass

So what's the big deal? Lawyers attend conferences all the time, right?

Well, there's a difference between attending the conference as a lawyer and as a member of the press. The biggest difference: the level of access.

The ABA was quite generous with its treatment of the media, providing access to all events, including the paid CLE events, speeches by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Holder, and Clinton, and even the networking events.

That meant, during my free time on Saturday, while many others were at the Giants game at AT&T park (go Dodgers!), I was hearing the thoughts of legal academics on the impact of Hollingsworth v. Perry on California's initiative process. (It was a wee bit more entertaining than it sounds.)

Reporter v. Attorney Experience

Perhaps they clarify this in journalism school (which this legal blogger did not attend), but the most confusing part of being in the "press corps" for the weekend was decorum and dress.

For example, while in line for the security check at the Holder speech, I was standing next to a major network photographer, whose attire consisted of cargo shorts and a Bass Pro Shop T-shirt. Other reporters were dressed in full suits. I was somewhere in between -- though had I attended as an attorney, the uniform attire seems to have been a black or blue suit.

The decorum was also a bit different at the press table. While we attorneys will typically stand when someone important enters a room, and applaud whenever appropriate during a speech, we reporters, apparently, would almost never do either. Granted, with live tweeting and blogging, our fingers were usually too busy to allow us to stand and clap, and perhaps some reporters were afraid of appearing non-neutral. But hey, Hillary Clinton was getting an award for lifelong service, not for her political affiliations. I think we can all appreciate decades of public service.

Reader Experience

Not only was the live coverage fun for us, but it was also well received by our readers. Our live blog of Holder's speech was one of our most popular posts of the day, and based on the retweets and Twitter interactions, my followers didn't seem to mind that snippets of Holder and Clinton filled their feeds for two hours yesterday.

This was actually our second attempt at live coverage on FindLaw's Legal Professional Blogs (the first being our coverage of oral arguments in a case before the Ninth Circuit last year). Here's hoping there will be many more opportunities to bring you, our legal professional audience, closer to the action.

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