Contributing to the Community via the Internet More than 20 years of tort "reform" have convinced million of Americans that trial lawyers are not the heroes found in books. Atticus Finch, whose courageous defense of an African-American man falsely accused of raping a white woman in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has inspired budding lawyers and judges for decades, is for others a mere fiction and not the embodiment of a trial lawyer.Today the trial lawyer is lampooned on talk radio and painted in conservative literature as a greedy scoundrel, preying on the misfortune of others. It's time to change all that.More than 30 years ago, Bates v. State Bar of Arizona changed the way many plaintiff attorneys found their clients. Prior to Bates, trial attorneys met clients through extensive social networks crafted by years of active participation in their communities. They had represented someone's sister, accountant, neighbor or friend.After Bates many attorneys began to forgo these time-consuming networking and rainmaking efforts by offering their services directly to people who were injured. They began to advertise in newspapers, on billboards and, eventually, on television. This was wonderful in terms of marketing efficiency but, to many who were exposed to these advertisements, this approach failed to project a positive professional image.Lawyer advertising in and of itself is not wrong. Curtailing or censoring commercial speech will not repair the image of the modern trial lawyer. The problem isn't that attorneys are using media to reach the public, it's how some of them are using media that perpetuates the stereotype of the "greedy trial lawyer."After Bates too many lawyers began aggressive campaigns to increase their market share. Before long cities and towns across America became a cacophony of "In a wreck? Get your check!" billboards and TV ads.As "lawsuit abuse" and "runaway juries" became household phrases and the news filled with stories of "frivolous lawsuits," the living counterpoint to these messages - the Atticus Finches who stand up to injustice and unfounded fears - became harder to spot. It's not that they weren't there; they just weren't as visible because they no longer used word-of-mouth marketing opportunities that community involvement once provided. Trial attorneys became disconnected from the people they served. Without this counterpoint too many Americans relied on the only images they had of trial lawyers - midnight television commercials, glitzy billboards, back-page ads in phone books - and tort "reform" won their hearts.There is only one way to win them back: trial lawyers must again become part of the community. We must build relationships with our neighbors and introduce ourselves to those who do not yet need our professional help. Fortunately, making these connections has become easier than ever. By following new paths and treading again on old ones, the plaintiff bar can help America rediscover the trial-lawyer.One of the best ways for trial lawyers to connect and build relationships with their local communities, members of the media and professional referral sources is to blog. In recent years blogging has evolved from writing simple online journals to providing business, legal and safety-related information, commenting on political, legal and cultural events and delivering important news to consumers. We hope through our blog to contribute to the community by educating, encouraging and most importantly building a relationship of trust based upon good and useful information being provided to the public.