That was the lament of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, but it is also sometimes…
Getting the Right Information.
I was recently reminded—more about that later—of questions I have received from younger lawyers about the best way to stay current on developments, legal and business, in real estate and environmental law.
More specifically, is setting Google Alerts on specific topic areas the best way to keep up on new developments.
That question could be directed to other legal practice areas as well, or to other areas of interest, and my answer would be the same.
My answer is yes and no.
Yes, because letting one or more of the many fine reporting services work for you 24/7 on a complementary basis to bring customized and tailored information to you is an excellent idea.
No, because in this information age, the challenge is not to get the most recent information; the challenge is to get the best, most incisive, most trust-worthy information.
So, setting topic alerts will certainly generate a lot of information, but the quality of that information will vary widely, from brilliantly incisive to dangerously inaccurate.
My suggestion is to set alerts but to include in those alerts sources of information. When you find a reliable, thoughtful, thorough, accurate source of information, pursue the source.
Some examples from inside, and outside, real estate and environmental law.
Look for the Experts.
For investment information, one of my alerts is Jim Rogers, the iconic American billionaire investor. I don’t care what it is he is talking about, I want to read it! He is that good! If you heeded his call on commodities several years ago, your biggest problem today would be managing your huge fortune.
He not only thinks outside of the box, he lives outside of the box. He moved his family to Singapore because he is convinced that the future belongs to Asia, and one of the greatest gifts he could give his two young daughters was learning Mandarin. Check him out on Amazon if you are not familiar with his work or check out his blog.
If there is something more confusing that investments for which you may need advice, it may be the health care debate. Because I had met Joseph Rago a couple years back when we participated in a VIP tour of a military base down south, I would pay attention whenever I saw his byline in the Wall Street Journal or saw him on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report television program. Yet, I never connected him to the extraordinary editorials in the Wall Street Journal on healthcare. Never, that is, until he was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for those editorials!
So if you are interested in health care, one of your alerts should be Joseph Rago, even if that does not turn up his editorials, which are unsigned.
Perhaps because I was trained as a journalist, I have a high regard for truly good reporting and writing, which necessarily involves excellent analysis, even if not labeled an analytical piece.
Closer to home, and closer to the subject of this blog, is the fine work of Peter Lord, the veteran environmental reporter for the Providence Journal. Peter has been covering the environment for the Providence Journal for as long as I can remember, and that covers some ground. He has the rare ability to thoroughly understand something complex with a lot of moving parts (which certainly includes environmental law) and explain it not only in an understandable manner but in a highly readable manner.
Similarly, if I want a highly entertaining but extremely knowledgeable take on land use law, I look for anything my pal Dwight Merriam has written. Dwight is a land use attorney based in Hartford with a national practice, whose numerous books and articles have destroyed more trees than I like to think about, and who routinely speaks throughout the country.
Check out Dwight’s blog here. There is only one improvement I think Dwight could make—posting more frequently! I’ve threatened to kill him if he doesn’t blog more frequently, but then it occurred to me that would be counterproductive!
And if you need a comprehensive survey of what is going on in land use law across the country, Dean Patty Salkin’s Law of the Land is a must. I have previously referred to her incisive work, see my July 24, 2010 post; and like Dwight’s blog, it has a link on my website.
And as for the reason all of this occurred to me? I encountered what for me were two new writers who seemed to offer a similar ability to cogently analyze and clearly convey complex material.
The first, an attorney named Ashley Lyon, I found at an unlikely place, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where she is Deputy Environmental Counsel. I was not in fact looking for anything to do with cattle or beef but rather researching the EPA’s response to recent court decisions addressing the limitations on the ability of the EPA to regulate wetlands.
In a recent posting, she tackled the EPA’s response to the complicated issue of what constitutes “waters of the United States” for purposes of regulation of wetlands by the EPA.
In my own view, it seemed the EPA’s answer to that question in the past was effectively “anything wet”. Ms. Lyon has a similarly critical but much more articulate response to that question, having analyzed the EPA’s recent “Guidance Document” written for the benefit of EPA staff in addressing, and in her view, expanding the EPA’s jurisdiction.
I look forward to reading further analysis from her.
Another source of information I have recently followed and found very useful and reliable is Offshorewind.biz, a blog on the offshore wind industry. It covers the industry worldwide, and of course much of that news is from Europe, where the wind industry is far more developed than in the United States.
And as is often the case, that reliable source of information led me to another new source of information that, like Ms. Lyon, appears to be worth following.
In a recent posting in Offshorewind.biz, Chip Young, a senior editor at Golocalprov.com, did an absolutely excellent piece on the plans of Deepwater Wind to expand its proposed Rhode Island offshore wind farm, and the controversy this created with fishermen. His reporting involved the wind industry, the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, the first marine spatial management plan adopted in this country, and information and facts about the implementation of that plan.
These are all things I know something about, and I could not find a false note or misstep in his report—just good solid reporting and excellent, thorough factual background.
I will be following him.
And that is my suggestion to attorneys who want to keep up on the business and legal changes in real estate and environmental law, or in whatever is their area of focus—follow the reliable sources not necessarily the informational topics.