In the early days of legal blogging, April 1 was a day to be wary of. For a time, it was an annual tradition for legal bloggers to attempt to out-prank each other and their readers, publishing serious-seeming posts that were thinly veiled April Fools’ jokes.
By way of illustration, here is a post I wrote in 2006 for Law.com’s now-defunct Legal Blog Watch summing up some of that year’s blog-foolery. There was, for example, a report by Ernie the Attorney on the launch of Google Romance, which observed, “When you think about it, love is just another search problem. And we’ve thought about it. A lot.”
I cannot find examples now, but some of these pranks got pretty elaborate, with multiple blogs conspiring well in advance of April 1 to build on each others’ prank posts, in order to further validate the April foolery.
I will admit, I was among the pranksters, or at least I made a few half-hearted attempts. In 2015, when former-lawyer Matt Homann launched a now-defunct site, Invisible Girlfriend, that made headlines worldwide, I wrote about his supposed spin-off, Intangible Lawyer. The year before that, I covered the joint announcement by Westlaw and LexisNexis that they were opening their databases to free public access.
For me, however, the April Fools’ fun all came to a crashing halt in 2016.
That year, then-President Obama published a post on SCOTUSblog. This was not a joke — it really happened.
I thought it was pretty cool that the sitting president of the United States would publish a post on blog, and doubly cool that he chose to do it on a legal blog. So, when April 1 rolled around, I picked up on that and published what I pretended was a guest post by the president on my own blog, in honor of April 1, National Legal Technology Day.
Here is an excerpt:
Michelle and I recently had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer in a small town in my home state of Illinois. This lawyer is still using Windows XP. His only computer is a 2002 Dell OptiPlex with 512 MB of RAM. He is writing legal documents on WordPerfect. That’s right, WordPerfect. The Office 2002 version. His business card still lists a fax number.
Look, in the year 2016, this is unacceptable. As a nation, we must expect more of the legal profession and more of legal technology. This isn’t just about having the latest whiz-bang toys. It’s about driving our economy. It’s about protecting our citizens. It’s about preserving our status as a nation of laws.
Honestly, it never occurred to me that anyone would take this seriously. I thought I had sufficiently stretched credulity by suggesting that the leader of the free world had singled out this blog for a guest appearance. I emphasized the April 1 date. And I didn’t really think anyone would buy into such a thing as National Legal Technology Day.
But buy into it they did.
As I explained in a subsequent post, several readers believed the post was real. One reader was so enthused about the president’s recognition of legal technology that she circulated the post among a group of her professional peers. That reader let me know that she felt hurt that the incident had tarnished her reputation — and she believed it had also tarnished mine. In fact, several readers complained that my post had crossed a line and violated their trust in this blog.
If anyone felt the fool after that, it was me.
I regretted giving any reader any reason to question this blog’s credibility. I apologized then to all my readers and swore off any more April Fools’ posts.
So for anyone who still celebrates April 1 as National Legal Technology Day, I hate to break the news, but it’s a holiday that isn’t.