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Friday, November 07, 2003

What Has Your Blawg Done For You, Your Clients, Your Profession, Lately?

Carloyn Elefant writes, "H-E-L-P! In two weeks, I'm scheduled to give a presentation on blogging to an audience of solo and small firm lawyers. For the initial research I've done, seems to me that for most solo and small firm lawyers, the million dollar question about blogging is 'what can it do for me?'" Jerry Lawson is Carolyn's co-presenter.

I'll expand the question before answering, because the benefits of weblogs in general, and blawgs in particular, are so multifaceted. They're not just good for lawyers. They're good for the clients and potential clients who read and benefit from lawyer weblogs. They're good for the profession, which (I know, you're shocked, simply shocked!) is widely (and perhaps justifiably) perceived as many bad things, from inscrutable to parasitic. A great many people have been asking me lately to explain some of these benefits in greater detail, and I have been trying to do so in various ways offline and within my firm. With a reminder that I wrote an article about these kinds of considerations toward the beginning of my life as a blawger, here are some of my more current thoughts on the subject.

Blawgs For Professional Development

One of the biggest benefits I derive from Bag and Baggage, and people are constantly surprised by this, is the way it keeps me informed as a lawyer. I guess it's non-obvious if you're not doing it. By this I mean, for the last two years I've found blogs to be incomparably more effective at keeping me up to speed on developments (societal, business, and legal) touching on my practice than the combination of newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and CLE events which used to serve this function for me on their own. The benefits of having information filtered by people you trust to recognize what you would probably find important if you read it firsthand are enormous. I used to sift through a mishmash of paper and online resources to make sure I knew quickly about developments that might affect my clients or my practice. I still check those things, but now they take a back seat to reading what some knowledgeable blogger already has written up. Another example is the availability of Continuing Legal Education from the actual educators. When legal scholars blog, and when they share what's going on in their courses (see John Palfrey), we can all audit the Ivy League and our other esteemed institutes of higher learning. Pretty neat.

Blawgs As Devoted, Low Cost, Personal PR Experts

Lawyers, clients, potential clients, the media, and so much of the world at large, rely on personal or search engine-generated recommendations for their information. By publishing consistently and currently on your areas of interest, expertise, and practice, you cannot avoid being on the radar. A blog is the equivalent of a 20-person PR staff, singularly devoted to you. Better still, there's no room for the "staffers" to misunderstand or misrepresent your message.

As I told our L.A. office associates recently, my husband is a powerfully effective client developer because he's a brilliant lawyer and a wonderful guy who also happens to love golf and belong to a club with a lot of business people who have ongoing legal needs. His perfect trial track record (no kidding, he's amazing) and occasional high-profile clients have from time to time over his 14 years in practice gotten him written about and/or quoted by journalists, featured on television, and (just once, I think) asked to speak on a subject relevant to his practice. To compare, I'm not one to chase a little white ball around. But in the almost 2 years I've been writing B&B, those kinds of things have happened for me at hyper-speed, in hyper-volume.

In addition to encouraging media and industry connections that might otherwise be impossible to come by, a blawg gives you the chance to demonstrate day after day to colleagues, clients, and potential clients that:

  1. You know what you're talking about, and
  2. You're someone they could see themselves working with when/as the need arises.

(There's an equal opportunity to come across as a blithering idiot, but I sure don't see much of that when I cruise through the blawgs of my colleagues over there on the blawgroll.)

Blawgs As Conversations

Yeah, ok, you're sick of hearing about Cluetrain from me. But have you read it? Have you read it lately? Then, have you looked around and noticed how it has come to life in so many ways since its publication?

The world of law is a big and mysterious one to those who are not inside. It's at least slightly less so to those who are. The more people in the legal field who blog, the better our ability to increase the respect and understanding of the law as a whole. The Dean campaign and participatory politics provide a valuable lesson. Despite the democratic form of government we're fortunate enough to enjoy in the U.S., people have been undeniably alienated and kept outside the process of electing a president. Dean and others, through the communications and connections technology now enables, are changing that. There's a parallel when it comes to the legal process. Everyone, inside and outside of the business world, has concern and confusion about how their behavior might fare under the scrutiny of courts and regulators. The more transparency the legal field provides, the more those potentially in need of legal services can come to see the profession and its professionals as Allies, not enemies.

Blawgs For Fun And Party Tricks

Don't discount the value of being able to share thoughts and photos quickly with friends and The World. There's still a lot of novelty to this, and people generally enjoy seeing "their name in lights"—even if it's just the tiny little glow of your blawg. And that glow might not be so tiny little. Your blawg likely will do considerably better than a conventional Web site in terms of inbound links, pagerank, and ensuring the things you've written will be well-placed in relevant search results.

Don't Just Take My Word For It

I got some great comments when I mentioned I was going to speak at the firm about blawging; go have a look. Erik Heels has been conducting and commenting on his real world experiment in changing the way he communicates professionally from the "old way" to the weblog way. Finally, a certain law school professor and administrator for whom I have great respect also suggested that lawyers today "have to live in two worlds, one built on a model of three dimensional information built on the culture of the book and one that is currently being built in cyberspace. The former can seem musty and irrelevant, the latter can seem half-baked. But each is there. In the latter case it is a good idea to be conversing with the architects and builders rather than with the observers. Your blawgs allow that to happen."

Creative Commons LicenseUnless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Denise M. Howell and included in the Bag and Baggage weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.