Lawyers are the consummate networker. Yet they still don’t totally get social networking, and even fewer get blogging. (And remember Twitter is simply a micro-blog.) The FT Innovative Lawyers 2013 caught the situation:
“Lawyers have a default position of zero risk and no comment.”
But legal blogging, as much if not more than social media, is critical to building awareness, expertise, and a reliable reputation and from that position, business development. Kevin O’Keefe, probably the consummate legal blogger, writes daily on how to produce quality legal blogs (here Kevin writes on Mashable about creating a blogging stategy).
I’ve written before on Defero law (here) about the elementary confusion on what a blog is. (A blog is the site. A blog post is the individual written piece.) (I wrote a piece on the Legal Technology blog on ‘understanding the form’ here.) On this occasion I want to lay out how you write a legal blog post. This is the big obstacle because lawyers being lawyers think they have to get into such length, depth and detail that the written output should impress a Supreme Court judge.That’s neither in the character or the spirit of blogging. But it’s an easy mistake to make.
So what’s the right way?
In a word, look to non-legal bloggers. If you want to become a frequent and economical legal blogger you will want to follow the example of leading political bloggers. Of how they cover and provide analysis on complicated and dry material but manage to present it in a fresh and open manner.
So who should we look to exactly?
A while back the US magazine The New Republic shock the world of Big Law after senior editor Noam Scheiber published an article here under the title, ‘The Last Days of Big law: You can’t imagine the terror when the money dries up.’ That was an article, not a blog (a subtle but clear difference). In response to the deep dive article by Noam Scheiber several blog posts were written in response.
Two blog posts stood out and both provide the perfect example of how law firms, lawyers, barristers and law students should write a blog post. Both were produced by non-lawyers, Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias.
The Dish, edited by Andrew Sullivan responded to the TNR article by “teasing” out the detail and presenting that morsel fo information that really matters. How very barristerial. How lawyerly. Looking at the image above Andrew Sullivan’s response illustrated the beautiful simplicity of a tastefully crafted blog post. A model example of a standard blog in political circles.
Firstly, he was written an introductory sentence with a reference by hyperlink to the original source, the TNR article.
Secondly, Andrew has copied text from the original article, then pasted it into his post and then indented that extract from the TNR essay. I do this regularly as it gives both an emphasis and a nice aesthetic.
Thirdly, Andrew then finished up his post by then citing fellow blogger, Matt Yglesias of Slate Magazine.
When blogging as a lawyer you can produce blog posts by following the example of Andrew Sullivan. You can see two examples of blog posts I wrote which followed the example set by Andrew Sullivan here and here – both were just glorified tweets.
Lets now look at the post written by Matt Yglesias for Slate Magazine as you can see from the image above and from here. Compared to Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias went a little deeper and presented a more discursive analysis.
Where Andrew Sullivan took an extract of the TNR essay and used that as the content of his blog post, Matt Yglesias picked a hole in the TNR essay and then presented his point more fully. Where Andrew Sullivan presented and archived the TNR article, Yglesias added his voice to the debate. Yglesias made an interesting contribution: he made the point that most large businesses are owned by shareholders while large law firms are owned by partners.
Then Matt finished with a sentence worth quoting, even though it’s way off-topic:
“But while the pace of change obviously seems furious to the people at the center of the storm, the genuinely remarkable thing is how long the Big Law model has lasted—not the fact that it’s fading away.”
The model of blogging set by Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias is invaluable to us legal bloggers. Each blogger took a topical issue and wrote a blog on it; both took a different slant on the form but both wrote in open and conversational plain English; both kept their contributions short. You will also note that neither used foot notes but used hyperlinks.
Further Reading on Legal Blogging:
Your legal blog and law firm’s website should be separate and distinct, read here.
The legal blog is the lawyer’s online home, read here.
Legal blogging, understanding the form, here.