Posts Tagged ‘about the site’

A good run: Overlawyered, 1999-2020

I published the first Overlawyered post on July 1, 1999, and I expect this post on May 31, 2020 will be the last.

As someone in the entertainment world once put it, “Leave before they want you to leave.” I appreciate the outpouring of good wishes in recent days.

My gratitude to all those who have made it possible, including the Cato Institute, which has published the site for the past 10 years. And especially to the readers.

— Walter Olson

Searching the Overlawyered archives

Overlawyered always prided itself on having usable archives, and I would often hear from writers, attorneys, and others who had been alerted to cases or issues by our old posts or had found them useful in other ways. It was sometimes a struggle, because changeovers from one blogging platform/format to another can throw old posts into less readable or useful form, while the march of technology obsoletes some methods for organizing information while advancing others. (“Tags” replaced “categories,” for instance.) Still, we have managed to retain most content over the site’s 1999-2020 lifespan in searchable form.

If you’re researching more serious topics in litigation and legal reform, you might also consider searching what was for many years the sister website to Overlawyered, Point of Law, published by the Manhattan Institute (launched 2004, most recent update at present writing 2014). I launched that site with the aim of serving readers who wanted to get deeper into the details of litigation as a policy matter, and it was anything but a one-person blog, attracting a host of talented writers and editors over the years.

Finally, consider searching the Cato Institute site, where you will find decades of content by me and others on topics also covered by Overlawyered.

— Walter Olson

Best of Overlawyered

More than once a “best of Overlawyered” book was envisioned, but the project never panned out. We did, however, occasionally assemble January roundups of the best posts of the previous year, or sometimes of the most popular or clicked-on posts. You can read those, along with a number of anniversary and other themed posts, at our Best Of tag.

Overlawyered’s cast of characters

While I’ve been here all along as the main writer for Overlawyered, most of that time solo, others have played key roles too, especially attorney Ted Frank, now a leading class action reformer, who was a co-blogger here from 2003 to 2010. David Nieporent joined us for the better part of a year as a third hand.

We’ve had dozens of guestbloggers, most often during summer, holiday, and vacation periods. You can read more about them here including a 2016 post series in which I briefly biographized about half of the total number and linked to a few of their guest posts. Some were well known in their field already when they joined us; others were early in their careers and have since gone on to make a name as law professors, podcast hosts, and who knows what all. With expertise in fields as diverse as medicine, insurance, sports, and food policy, our guestbloggers brought a range of posting styles from funny to serious to outrageous. All were and are appreciated.

20+ years of changing blog design at Overlawyered

Longtime reader Jim Dedman reminds us of what this blog looked like in 1999:

As I noted when the blog turned 20:

Internet Archive’s first snapshot of the front page was taken Oct. 7, 1999, and featured the pink-and-grey color scheme that the site was to retain for many years. (Plus a webring — does anyone remember those? — an articles library, a discussion forum other than comments, and many other features since discontinued.) You can see the archives for the first half of July 1999 in Internet Archive form here.

In the site’s early years, there was no blogging software, which meant I hand-inserted every link one by one with HTML (I think Glenn Reynolds once described this method as “baked on clay tablets”). I had to make design decisions pretty much from scratch too. This resulted in a lot of homemade effects, from typeface choices to that notorious pink and gray color scheme, which was widely disliked but did make the site distinctive. Later, I moved the site onto the Movable Type and eventually WordPress blogging systems. In time, skillfully designed themes and templates became available that gave it a more professional look.

I tried to make the site a reasonably early adopter of technical innovations, but many of those were blind alleys. For example, before tags came along I lavished an inordinate amount of effort on something called categories. Blogrolls were a big social thing and source of traffic — we still have one, frozen in amber — until eventually they weren’t, after more people had begun to discover sites like ours through search and social media.

When the Cato Institute began publishing the site 10 years ago, it took over the back-end functions to my immense gratitude (thanks, Jeremy Kolassa and colleagues). This made a difference especially when WordPress would upgrade to a new version, something that used to absorb several days’ worth of my attention and often went wrong owing to my inadequacies as a techie.

One consistent theme over these nearly 21 years is the importance I’ve placed on the site’s archives. They were often the jumping-off point for my own later research into a topic, and I knew they reached a lot of journalists and scholars who would stumble across our coverage of some legal controversy from five or fifteen years earlier. Making the archives something intelligible and usable, rather than a mere jumble, could pose a special challenge whenever software upgrades altered the presentation of the site. One of the questions I’ve gotten most often in recent days is whether the archives will stay up, and I have confidence that Cato will do an excellent job on that.

Here’s another image (click to enlarge) of what the top of the site’s front page looked like in late 1999:

Overlawyered archive image

Longtime and other readers are welcome to share recollections of how the site used to look and work.

More mentions on Overlawyered’s adjournment

The nicest single thing anyone says about me this week might turn out to be from Bob Ambrogi at Legal Sites: “Let’s retire jersey number one.” Thanks! Or it might be one of the kind things Scott Greenfield says here. Here’s what I wrote in response to Scott:

Thank you for those kind words. As you guessed, my choice of “adjourned” was mostly because of its legal flavor, but also signaled that I’m not retiring or going away. I like blogging! I continue to post at the group blog Cato at Liberty and at my low-frequency Maryland politics blog Free State Notes, and I might be tempted at some point to try a blog project with a limited subject and duration (several people have suggested I blog the coronavirus crisis). What I can’t go on shouldering is the commitment needed for an open-ended, daily-or-more-so, individual blog. You yourself set an outstanding example of how to go about doing that.

More coverage of my resolution to hang it up May 31: Bloomberg Law in a roundup, Eugene Volokh, Raised on Hoecakes. And: Steve Bainbridge (“one of those that inspired me to start my own blog. His site has been a must read since day one.”); Eric Turkewitz (“I’ve taken some crap over the years from other personal injury lawyers over my lauding of Olson and his site. But it was the way he did things that was important to me.”).

Adjourned: Overlawyered to cease publication May 31

Dear friends and Overlawyered readers:

I’ve been considering ceasing publication of Overlawyered over the past couple of years, and the time has finally arrived. I plan to publish its final post on May 31, ten days from now.

That will leave the site just one month short of a remarkable 21-year run. That makes it the longest-running general interest law blog anyone has been able to identify. It’s one of the monuments still standing from the heyday of individual blogging on current events and public policy, a sector that bloomed after 9/11 two years into our run.

It has been a pleasure beyond compare to write it. 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.

Be assured (if you count this as assurance!) that I am not going anywhere. I look forward to continuing my writing as a Cato senior fellow both at the excellent multi-contributor blog Cato at Liberty and at many other outlets. One reason I’m making this decision is that I’m eager to step up the pace of this other writing at a time rich in policy challenges.

Even in its early years Overlawyered had a much broader range of interests than its name might imply. It covered (and still does cover) wacky lawsuits as well as the more serious side of litigation policy but also many areas of writing interest of mine such as free speech and business regulation. Especially since it came to Cato ten years ago, it has continued to branch out into such areas as constitutional law, criminal justice policy, and state and local policy. But at heart it has always been a blog about law in America.

I’ll have more to say in coming days to recognize and thank the site’s community of readers, contributors, and guestbloggers, to talk matters of transition and what will live on in what forms (I expect the archives to be fully available for the indefinite future, thanks Cato), to reminisce, and also to do a bit of regular blog posting as the impulse strikes. Just this once, I’m leaving comments closed on this post, but they will be open on a nearby related post.

Comment thread: Overlawyered adjourned

This is a comment thread on the news we’re announcing today about the end of Overlawyered’s long run.

I’ve had much cause to appreciate our commenters over the years, who have made me laugh, question my premises, and realize when subjects were more complicated than I thought. Overlawyered’s commenters are remarkably well informed on all sorts of topics, often much more so than I am. This has served not just to amuse and entertain, but to improve and correct my own writing. For that, and for everything else, I thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ll be taking a few days off for the holiday and to finish a writing project, so I don’t expect there will be any further posting until Monday or thereabouts.