For Lawyers, There’s Power in Blogging Proactively

By | Please Advise | March 4, 2015
For Lawyers, There’s Power in Blogging Proactively

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There are times when I feel like a legal expert. I shouldn’t, because I’m not, or anywhere close—but there are times when that feeling bubbles up just a bit after reviewing close to 200 legal blog posts every day.

In getting drinks with friends, talk about Facebook will turn to a point on the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to regulate social media policies. A conversation with family about how amazing self-driving cars will be leads to an explanation on the FTC’s recent report on the Internet of Things. Watching The Interview on Netflix with my significant other will give way to a quick comment on data breach trends liability and litigation.

If it sounds odd, it’s because it is. I’m aware. But honestly, this stuff is interesting. This type of regulation, and the ensuing litigation, shape this country as much as any lawmaker or the legislation he or she aims to pass—which is happening less and less frequently nowadays.

So I don’t blame the lawyers and law firms who write on the LexBlog Network for relentlessly chasing such stories in their respective areas. They matter to them, they matter to their clients and, whether we realize it or not, they matter to us too.

Still, I can’t help but think there’s more to blogging than that—and that there are times when even some of the best blogs on our network tend to miss the forest through the trees, if you’ll forgive a cliche.

In reactively chasing the latest legislation, litigation and regulation, attorneys sometimes miss the bigger picture, the interesting stuff. As the law firms we work with pursue SEO results, email subscribers and the white whale that is someone reading a blog post and immediately calling the author for complex high-value work, they return to one central question: how do we get more people to read our stuff?

Well, you write stuff more people want to read. And you do that by writing proactively, not always reacting to the latest legal tidbits.

How do you write proactively? Here are  a few questions to consider:

  • What broader trends are you noticing in your practice area that are or will soon impact the industry?
  • What news, stories or ideas do you you see in your everyday life that make you think about your work?
  • What ideas or issues you read about in other practice areas might be applicable to yours?
  • What stories might your target audience be interested in and educated by that aren’t specifically legal?
  • What causes within your practice area do you care about? What do you want to change?

I’ll return to that last point in a moment, because it’s an important one, but before doing so I want to highlight a blog that’s mastered proactive blogging.

My favorite in this area is the New Miami Blog from Bilzing Sumberg. Their tagline appropriately captures it all, while simultaneously leaving things so wide open: “insights and commentary on the Gateway City’s global significance.” And that’s what they cover—really, everything cool that’s happening to Miami.

As we discussed with them in an LXBN Leaders profile with them last year year, the specifics of that are decided in conversations with contributing lawyers, “in meetings throughout the year where [they] discuss concepts, where the blog is going, what the blog is trying to convey and their area of focus.”

In that same profile, in which we spoke with blog editor-in-chief Albert Dotson, he shared the benefits of their proactive approach:

“If you’re not proactive, if you’re not looking at trends and if you’re not writing about what might happen versus what has occurred, then your blog will most likely be outdated the moment you post,” said Dotson. “[The lawyers] recognized their responsibility to not only write about what has happened, but more importantly the impact about what has happened on the future of our community.” […]

“When we discuss an industry or a trend, … I have heard personally from existing clients who have a new businesses opportunity because something that we wrote triggered an idea that they would like us to help them explore,” said Dotson. “We’ve absolutely have seen our blogs grow into new and expanding businesses relationships.”

What does that type of blogging look like, in practice? For Bilzin Sumberg, just recently, it’s noting how Florida is a model for legislation on public-private partnerships, why transit development is crucial to metropolitan growth, zand how a Canadian real estate broker is expanding its reach with acquisitions in Miami—just to name a few.

So yes, blogging proactively can bring in work. But would you believe it, there are lawyers out there who blog for reasons beyond attracting new clients. Do they appreciate the work that comes as a result? Absolutely, but at times they’re as much a watchdog and advocate as a lawyer.

We have a few who take up this mantle, but my favorite, oddly, is another attorney out of Miami—something in the clear, warm water? This time, it’s Jim Walker of Cruise Law News.

Walker isn’t above blogging reactively, constantly covering the latest bad news in the cruise industry. He does it because “people read Cruise Law News because they are looking for answers to the questions that the cruise industry won’t answer.” Sometimes that includes writing on the latest man overboard story, a foodborne illness outbreak or cruise executive malfeasance.

Other times, as mentioned, it’s more proactive—including putting cruise destinations on notice with a list of the top 10 most dangerous places to visit on a cruise. And if you think putting them “on notice” with a simple listing is taking things too far, you should see the response, as the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of State for National Security for the Bahamas were put on the spot by the media to answer to their country’s place atop Walker’s list.

And Walker’s not the only one on our network who blogs as an advocate, and for a cause—but there can always be more. But even if you’re wary of making enemies, of setting out to stir the pot, there’s still so much to gain from blogging in a way that goes beyond reacting to the latest legal tidbits.

So, lawyers, get your head up—take a look around at what interests you in the world, think about what you’re passionate about and explore what you think is going to make a big difference in the world. Odds are, your audience—and potential clients—would enjoy reading about it.

Photo credit: Brian Koprowski

Making Time to Do What YOU Love = Writing

By | Please Advise | February 25, 2015
Making Time to Do What YOU Love = Writing

It is 9pm and I have hit my wall. My 6 year old is bounding around the room as I try desperately to get her to sleep. My husband wants a slice of my attention to chat about his day. I can hardly read a story to my daughter, let alone have an adult conversation. I lay down with my daughter in desperation to get her to sleep, I have so many other things to do tonight, including the one thing I want to do: writing that blog post.

What Just Happened?

My cat looks how I feel somedays – CRAZY!

The next thing I know, I wake up in my daughters bed. The house is dark, and I am a few hours from my alarm going off, signaling the start of another day. I surrender and go back to sleep in hopes for a more productive tomorrow.

The cycle is constant and every day I  feel that I haven’t completed a single goal. I have all these ideas and good intentions, but I just cannot seem to find the time to sit down and start (or finish) a project. I am struggling to grasp the holy grail of life – the ever so coveted “work-life balance”. And the harder I try, the worse I feel.

Sound familiar?

Trying hard to find some much needed inspiration, and I came across an article on LinkedIn by Brian de Haaff called You will never Find Work/Life Balance.

At first, I was a bit insulted. That is not true!?! Of course, there is work/life balance. I have spent most of my adult life trying to create the perfect balance between my personal life, my work life and everything in between. It has to be achievable, doesn’t it?

As I read through the article, I realized there is a bit of truth to de Haaff’s theory. Here I am beating myself up over not having a work-life balance. Spending energy on something I cannot attain. Why not focus on what I can control? The one sentiment in that whole article that struck me the most was “If you love it, do more of it” I need to let go of this picture I have painted of the perfect life and just start doing more of what I love. And for me, that is having time to do more writing. Is it the same for you?

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the “have-tos and need-tos” and never get to the “want-tos.” So, how do we balance out that laundry list and get more time for what we love to do?

Let’s start by taking a long hard look at your “have-tos”. Be brutally honest when it comes to all of your commitments, and I am pretty certain you will find that one (or maybe two) thing that is holding you back. For me, it is helping one too many people with their stuff. The words “yes” and “I’m sorry” spew out of my mouth like smoke out of a chimney. I am trying to be too many things for too many people. This has to stop. It is hard, I am not a ‘no’ person, but by forcing myself to remove just one of those “helps” out of my life- I have opened up the extra hour or so I need each week to focus on my writing.

Maybe there is no wiggle room in that to-do list. And that is OK too, everyones life is filled with different circumstances. We are not a one-size fits all kind of group. Try a different angle, take a look at how your day is structured. Most days, I feel like I am treading water, spending all of my best energy just trying to keep up, let alone accomplishing much of anything. Laura Vanderkam recently highlighted 3 Time-Saving Strategies to Steal from the Overscheduled, my favorite of the three being “Schedule tight”. Basically, booking your meetings back-to-back, so you don’t waste time between meetings on things like checking social media sites, etc. I have found this also keeps meetings brief and focused. You don’t have time to chit-chat if you have another place to be in a few short minutes. My calendar may look a bit overwhelming, but I find I get more done on those days versus when my meetings are spread out. I am more focused and it leaves me with more time later in my day for me versus playing catch-up.

Other times, it is not the to-do list or the time management, more as it is a different obstacle. Maybe you are just plain tired, you are focusing on the wrong tasks or you are afraid. One of my favorite bloggers, Leo Babauta, outlined 10 Things that Get in the Way of Doing . And for me, number 10 hit home the most:

We’re afraid we’ll fail. We also all have this problem — we don’t feel competent at this task, it’s confusing, it feels like we’ll embarrass ourselves. And this is understandable when we’re doing something that’s not in our wheelhouse. What has worked for me: I remind myself that letting myself be controlled by fear is not the way I want to live. I remind myself that failure is actually not the worst outcome — not even trying is a much worse outcome. Why? Because if you try something and fail, you learned something, you got some practice, and next time you’ll be better. You’re further along than before. But if you don’t even try, out of fear, you don’t learn anything, and you’ll probably keep doing this because you’re creating a pattern of running from fear. Instead, push through and do it anyway, because the value of doing is so much greater than the value of being safe and doing nothing.

For blogging, I think being afraid to fail is a huge obstacle. Being a writer puts you in a vulnerable position, and the age of writing on the internet makes it even more so. You are pouring your heart out to complete strangers (pretty much) sometimes putting your reputation on the line. Scary, right? Babauta’s advice is sound, just do it. Write that post, hit publish. Think of how great you will feel once it is done. You will have a sense of accomplishment.

We have filled this blog with tips on how to be a better blogger, ideas for articles and ways to make your blog great. All of which are very valid in their own right. And these tips and tricks can only be helpful once you have opened up your life just that little bit, to give you more time to do what you love: to write.