A Slow Day at the Office: Lawyers Editing on Wikipedia

Wikipedia.jpg[UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit and AbovetheLaw readers. While you are here, read some of my co-bloggers’ great stuff on pirate politics, carbon off-sets, and Max Roach.]

WikiScanner is this week’s killer-app. Prompted by a short post on Xoxohth, I decided to see whether our nation’s busy law firm lawyers are spending their downtime editing Wikipedia entries. And, of course, they are. Of the thousands of edits I saw, I decided to focus on one topic matter: editing law firm webpages. Not surprisingly, law firms are using Wikipedia to burnish their reputations and trash their competitors. Here are a few examples:

Wachtell’s edits (Editing Kramer Levin, Cravath, and Wachtell)

S&C’s edits (editing S&C)

Skadden’s edits (editing Jones Day and Skadden)

Baker’s edits (editing Baker)

Jones Day’s edits (editing Jones Day)

Latham’s edits (editing Latham and Cravath)

Sidley’s edits (editing Ropes, Sidley, and asserting that Sidley is a white shoe firm)

Shearman’s edits (editing Shearman)

White and Case’s edits (adding W&C as a white shoe firm)

Morgan’s edits (editing Morgan)

Mayer Brown’s edits (adding Mayer as a part of “Big Law”)

Davis Polk’s edits (editing Davis)

There is quite a bit more in these records. Honors go to the first reader who can find an edit by a lawfirm of a client’s webpage that either deals with a then-pending legal dispute or offers a critique or negative comment.

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12 Responses

  1. This is not a critique or a negative posted by the firm, but might be a cousin:

    Duplicity at Wachtell Lipton?

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    By itself, this is not terribly surprising. For example, I just checked the Wikipedia page for Proskauer Rose, my old firm, and noticed a factual error — the New York office has not been located at 1585 Broadway “throughout its history.” It moved there in 1989, I believe, from more cramped quarters over on Fifth Ave. So if I was still at Proskauer, and fixed it while at work, this might reflect a slow work day, but is otherwise untroubling, I think.

  3. Ted says:

    Given that most lawfirms have hundreds of employees who might have a slow day, the more likely scenario is that a bored associate (or paralegal or secretary, even) edited a page without the approval of the powers that be, rather than a sinister machination by the firm’s executive committee.

  4. Ted says:

    For example, such an explanation would better explain why a “law firm” is editing information about Coach Lugash in a Simpsons wikipedia page or editing the Jewish population of Tiraspol.

  5. dave hoffman says:

    Ted, you are of course right that the most likely scenario is junior associates or paralegals. And overall, these edits are generally trivial and not particularly harmful. That’s why I asked if anyone see’s anything more problematic (client edits) out there….

  6. Geoff says:

    I’m surprised no one has suggested turning this activity on law schools. Unfortunately, most law schools seem to operate via university IP addresses, so it’s hard to segregate out, for example, the law school edits from the university edits.

    There are, of course, some free-standing law schools without their own IP addresses.

    And, interestingly, the University of Michigan law school seems to have its own IP addresses. Someone from U of M law felt inspired to edit the entry on Chemerinsky by recharacterizing him as “one of the most famous and respected” con law professors, rather than “the most famous and respected” con law professor. See http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=prev&oldid=73898386. I certainly hope that wasn’t a faculty member! 😉

  7. Ted says:

    I’ve first-hand witnessed a plaintiffs’ law firm post celebratory stuff about its cases, and I’ve seen an account corresponding to a biglaw firm partner’s name delete information about one of his clients. As Wikipedia biases go, the first is still up on the pages, and the second was quickly corrected.

  8. Tom T. says:

    There are a vast number of edits to movie star pages apparently originating from within the DOJ. The only substantive edit I could find from there was Lynne Stewart’s page.

  9. Ion says:

    FWIW: WilmerHale edited under the handle “WilmerHale” until they got smart and made up another pseudonym.

  10. Chris says:

    How do they find the time to make all these edits and still bill 2400 hours a year? This is proof that the best and brightest go to these firms.

  11. law student says:

    My favorite description from one of the firm editors of his change…

    “Deleted inexplicable and factually incorrect claim that Prada could possibly be viewed as an economical alternative to Armani.”

  12. Interested says:

    Not so interesting and there is really no “there” there. Those firms that have made small and insignificant edits to their own description are really showing the truth — they have a marketing staff assigned the job of making sure that internet information about their firm is up-to-date and accurate. Most lawyers (beyond the younger ones) probably don’t even know what a wiki is yet, so I doubt that they are spending time editing firm info on Wikipedia on top of 2,400 billable hours. (BTW: You ever try to bill 2,400 hours, on top of the other activities that firms require these days — recruiting, professional reading and writing, administrative work, etc.?)

    Keep up the sluething!