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Monday, April 18, 2011

Assignment #7:Rules, shmules

For this assignment I studied Above the Law. Above the Law is a legal tabloid. The site is run by lawyers (and former lawyers) for the enjoyment of other lawyers, wannabe lawyers, and former lawyers.

This community is completely self aware as per the Gazan article. The commenters not only remark on the posts, the interact with and question each other ad infinitum.

I figure for this assignment I should find a lawyer-y site; as attorneys will probably be more likely to follow the rules....NOT.

Here are the terms of service.

Here is the privacy statement.

I did not have to look too hard to find examples of rule breaking. The post I chose was about a Federal District court judge who granted defendant's council a short continuence, as one of the defendant's attorneys' wife was expecting to deliver their first child during trial. Basically, the lawyer wanted to postpone the trail date a couple of weeks until his wife had the baby.

I found way more than 3 examples of rule breaking.

First here are the rules:

Side note - you can't see the comments until you click on this:

I like the "for your protection" part, it's like when you check into seedy motels in Podunk towns and the toilets have that the paper band around the seat that says "Sanitized for your protection."

Most of the rule violations fall under the likely to "cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety or be likely to upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person" variety.

Here are some examples that would fall in to the above category:

This one is interesting because the insults are directed at the writer:

Same with this one:

Here is how the writer responds:

When I first read through the posts I thought to myself "someone should enforce the rules."

However the writer just goes with it and responds.

In the terms of use, methods of enforcement and termination are enumerated:

But after I spent some time on the site reading other posts and comments, I realized this is just the vibe of the community. Most folks are kinda snakry and sarcastic with a hint of meanness and self loathing (insert lawyer joke here).

Below are some examples from another post. This post/comments are about a 1L (first year law student), at the bottom of his class, attending a top 10 school. The 1L is indifferent towards law school, but his parents are paying for it (so no student loan debt). He wonders whether or not he should stay and finish.



Super Mean + a flagged comment:

Writer response - note the use of the F-word:

So it seems like even the writers and people in charge don't follow the rules. It is like a community of rogue users, especially with all the abusive comments (Gazan).

Here are the 5 unwritten rule I came up with:

1. Thou shall be funny.
2. Thou shall not take thyself too seriously.
3. Thou shall disguise racist tendencies in a cloak of self-loathing. (please see above screen shot of by Coincidence, mentioning the AA admit and gay Filipino).
4. Thou shall share thy honest opinion.
5. Thou shall be tolerant of douche bags, for eventually the most prolific contributers will wear this label.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your post! It really shows us that no matter what the community, the internet eventually brings trolls out from under their bridges.

    Your five unwritten rules are GREAT and made me laugh. Now on to our final projects (and the unseemly amount of coffee it will take for me to get through it!) !

  2. Yeah, this post made me LOL too! It's fun to look at other graduate subcultures and see them battle it out over very similar issues. :P I like that your unwritten rules seem to come from the minds of the user, rather than the creator. I think they just want to get away from the law career/law school grind and just have fun, let loose on these forums.

  3. I figured a community where lawyers can let their proverbial hair down would be full of particularly insightful verbal eviscerations of one another, and your examples didn't disappoint. I like the idea of a community of rogue users--some would say this country was founded by and for exactly such a group--but what they're apparently "rogueing" against is not the community per se but the larger constraints of expectations of their profession. The self-importance of an associate or boss probably must be swallowed with a smile in the office, but the lingering bile can be healthily expressed in a community like this.

    Other folks this session looked at communities where profanity was something to be avoided or removed--here it looks like a community where you trust that anyone who uses it will use it well!

  4. I really liked the unwritten rules you wrote. It seems that they would right in place in the site that you described. This site seems to be unique in that these types of rules don't seem like they could fit on another site. I thought that this was very interesting and the only other site that I could think of where this rules wouldn't be absurd would be something like 4chan.

  5. Wow lawyers really are scary ;) No wonder the rules for this site are so precise and to the point, judging from your examples they really need to be! But your unwritten rules would definitely make a great addition to the ones already in place, especially number 5. And number 2 should be added to rulebooks everywhere, including in real life. Great post!

  6. Wow. I'm amazed that there is such blatant flaming going on. If you read it as satire, it's rather quite funny. I wonder if there are some users on that website, particularly new users, who aren't quite used to the derogatory comments that fly around. I wonder what they initially think of the writing styles of the community, whether they adjust to it, and whether or not they stay.

  7. Hi All!
    So sorry I am late in my wrap up, crazy busy weekend, (we put on this:
    I find I that I check ATL at least once a day, but have never commented. I "like" things all the time, but I am kinda scared of posting a comment.
    While it is very entertaining to read the drama that happens on the site, all the roughness keeps people like me from actively participating.
    However, maybe when I become a full fledged lawyer, I will lose some of that fear and rogue away....