Somewhere in the rafters of legal blogging, someone needs to retire the jersey of legal blogger number one, Walter Olson.
After 21 years of blogging at Overlawyered, a blog dedicated to chronicling the high cost of the legal system, Olson announced today that he will cease publishing May 31.
Back in 2007, curious to identify the first legal blogger, I rummaged through the archives of the longest-running legal blogs that I could identify.
Olson came up as oldest, having launched Overlawyer on July 1, 1999, two-to-three years before a steady trickle of other legal blogs began appearing. (I launched this blog in November 2002.)
After I published my conclusion that Olson was first, Greg Siskind took issue with it, saying he was first.
An undisputed Internet pioneer, Siskind in 1994 launched Visalaw.com, the first immigration law firm website in the world.
In May 1998, Siskind set up something that he did not call a blog, but that had similarities to a blog. It was a web page he created to provide updates on legislative developments surrounding proposed legislative changes to the H-1B visa category for professional workers.
You can still see that page, courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
Like a blog, the page contained time-stamped entries, organized in reverse-chronological order, with the latest updates at the top. The first entry on the page is dated May 7, 1998, and the last is June 8, 1998, meaning the updates continued for roughly a month. Siskind once wrote that the page was extremely popular and in one day alone received more than 50,000 hits.
But, as I wrote in a 2013 post, The First-Ever Law Blog (Reconsidered), I still credit Olson as first. His was not a temporary wage page to track a specific issue in the news. He created it intentionally as a blog and has continued to maintain it and update it ever since.
“It has been a pleasure beyond compare to write it,” Olson says. “But blogs that publish every day (and with only a few exceptions, that is what Overlawyered has managed to do for all these years) are extraordinarily time-intensive for a single author, and my time is constrained.”
Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says he is not going away. To the contrary, he plans to step up the pace of his writing as a Cato fellow and for other other outlets.
I have followed Olson’s blog for longer than I can remember. Although I see the world through a different political lens than he, I have consistently enjoyed his writing as thoughtful, insightful and often humorous.
So let’s retire jersey number one, and let the trail he blazed inspire future legal bloggers.