Writing out loud

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch February 2016. Legal Web Watch is a free monthly email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

David Allen Green, aka Jack of Kent, has been writing in the Solicitors Journal about The revival of legal blogging:

“The problem was that too few practising lawyers were taking advantage of the form. And this is still the case among solicitors. There are only a handful of solicitors who blog – or indeed tweet – with large follower numbers. Some might say this is due to the type of people who become solicitors, but I suspect it is more to do with rigid social media policies, risk-averse partners, and over-powerful ‘comms’ departments. A junior solicitor at a large City firm would be unlikely to be able to blog, even if she or he wanted to do so.”

As to why lawyers should blog, he emphasises the public promotion of law:

“Most lawyers prefer to explain the law to their own clients rather than to the world in general. Such an approach is short-sighted. One of the problems the legal profession faces … is that the public can have a dim view of law and lawyers. … The more lawyers take the time to explain the law to the public the better informed the public debate on legal matters will be, and blogging, with its flexibility and ability to link to materials, is an incomparable way of doing this.”

His second article on the topic takes a step back to look at what blogging is and offers a more considered list of reasons Why some lawyers should blog, and why some should not.

“Blogging allows the lawyer a different type of creative freedom that cannot be done in any of the other forms of legal writing, and I contend there are three reasons why all lawyers should consider blogging … and one reason why they should not. … [first] it enables the lawyer – from a student to a retired judge – to develop as a lawyer … [second] it helps you connect with others – from potential clients to professional peers – on terms that show what you are good at and what interests you … [and third] it promotes the public understanding of law and the legal profession. … The one bad reason to blog is to do it just for the sake of it.”

For reasons to blog, I prefer to look back to early proponents of blogging who recognised the potential of this new literary form.

Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Atlantic in November 2008 on Why I blog concludes:

“The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before.”

This “writing out loud” is what Robert Scoble and Shel Israel dubbed Naked Conversations in their 2006 book of that title, subtitled How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. Whilst this focused on business blogging, the core thesis concerned communicating authentically and making a connection with an audience.

So what distinguishes a good blog from a pedestrian or bad blog? Creativity, insight, independence of thought.

There are more than 400 UK legal blogs listed in infolaw’s Lawfinder Blogs catalogue and they cover all shades of writing about the law and lawyering. There are many more good blogs than David implies and some of them have been around for a long time. Unfortunately, but inevitably, the proven success of blogging led to its widespread adoption and ultimately attracted the marketing people! Hence the personality-free corporate blogs and blogs set up purely for marketing purposes that we see all around us, as well as well-intentioned but low value, pedestrian blogs, none of which can be considered worthwhile literary works. In this climate, the good blogs have had to fight harder to be noticed.

What has changed fundamentally is the nature of the ensuing conversation which formerly took place in the comments sections on blogs. Whilst popular sites, such as national news sites, garner sometimes thousands of (generally tedious) comments, most niche blogs receive very few (though better value) comments. The conversation these days has been sucked out of blogs and takes place mainly on Twitter and other social media, so the profile of your blog does depend a lot on your social media “reach”, but that’s another story.

Nick Holmes is Editor of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers and Legal Web Watch. Follow him on Twitter @nickholmes.

Image: By Amy Gahran on Flickr.

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