The Three Types of Practicing Lawyer Blogs – A Response

Kudos to Maxwell Kennerly of the Litigation and Trial blog for his recent post entitled “The Three Types of Practicing Lawyer Blogs,” which we mentioned previously here.  We’ve been meaning to respond to it in detail for some time. Kennerly accurately characterizes the different types of practicing lawyer blogs, which he divides into three main types:  the mainstream, the personalities, and the marketers.  (He was kind enough to place us into the second category).  Here at Abnormal Use, we enjoy blogging about legal blogging, and Kennerly’s post got us thinking about these different types of blogs and how practicing attorneys find the time to engage in blogging to various degrees.

We continue to marvel at those bloggers that Kennerly places into “the mainstream,” which he describes as a group of blogs engaging in news gathering, objective reporting, and the collection of legal links and analysis.  These are blogs like SCOTUSblog (whose recent acquisition by Bloomberg prompted Kennerly’s post in the first place) and even Howard Bashman’s How Appealing, the grandfather of mainstream legal blogs.  How practicing lawyers can assemble the material for these mainstream blogs is quite a feat:  they cannot miss a beat or news development occurring in the subject matter they cover.  If they do so, their credibility is threatened and so, they must constantly dedicate resources to the blogs to provide the latest news on their chosen subject matter.

That’s a Herculean task when one is trying to simultaneously run a law practice.  We suspect there are a host of lawyer writers out there who once intended to engage in legal mainstream blogging but burnt out quickly due to the high demands of the enterprise.  We offer our most sincere kudos to those who are able to maintain such blogs.

It’s a bit easier to run a “personality” blog, as contributors to such enterprises can pick and chose their topics as they please.  They need not fret about objectivity.  They can inject a bit of editorial style – even sarcasm sometimes – into their posts. However, personality blogs still face the difficult challenge of providing timely, interesting, and engaging commentary on the area of law they have chosen to discuss.  Here at Abnormal Use, we have posted every business day since January of 2010.  That’s no small feat, even if we do say so ourselves.  We have a dedicated staff of thoughtful writers here without whom this enterprise would be impossible.  We are not sure that we could engage in the type of personality blogging we do if there were fewer contributors, or if there were but one contributor.  In sum, there is strength in numbers.

Finally, the marketing blogs that Kennerly discusses are, as he suggests, sometimes irksome.  Somewhat spam like, they clutter the blawgosphere with a curious melange of general related news and lawyer advertising.  We don’t have much to say on those types sites or whether they are written by lawyers or marketing professionals.

The thing that interested us most about Kennerly’s post was his suggestion that personality blogs tend to engage each other more frequently than any other type of blogs.  To us, that’s part of the point of the blawgosphere. We enjoy engaging in discussion with other lawyers and law blogs.  As we previously noted, this enterprise has allowed us to meet other lawyers across the country and discuss not just blogging itself but also substantive legal issues.  We are always looking for more law blogs to read or bloggers with whom we can discuss products, or even general legal issues.

That, we think, is the chief advantage of blogging as marketing. Bloggers find themselves in discussions, friendly debates, and conversations with other lawyers across the nation they never would have met otherwise. Those conversations lead to meetings in person at conferences and the like, and often, transform into actual friendship.  That’s not such a bad thing.

The 2011 ABA Journal Blawg 100

As we briefly mentioned this past Friday, we here at Abnormal Use were honored last week by being named to the 2011 ABA Journal Blawg 100 for the second year in a row. We couldn’t be more pleased, and we thank you all for your support. We’re very excited about it, so much so that we wanted to take this brief opportunity to share our thoughts.

This project would certainly not have been possible without the support of our firm. We have a handful of different writers, all with different styles and interests, and we think that is at least part of what makes this site successful. Kudos go to our two principal authors Phil Reeves and Stephanie Flynn, as well as our associate contributors: Steve BuckinghamNick Farr, and Frances Zacher.  We also thank former contributors Laura Simons and Mary Giorgi for their work on the site.  Without that group, there would be no blog here.

As a part of the ABA’s list, we’ve been placed in the Torts category with five other stellar legal blogs, including our friends Walter Olson of Overlawyered, J. Russell Jackson of Jackon on Consumer Class Actions and Mass Torts, and Jim Beck, Will Sachse and Steve McConnell of the Drug and Device Law blog.  That’s great company, adding to the honor.

We were pleased to see some of our other favorite sites make the list in some other categories, as well, including:

Stephanie Kimbro’s Virtual Law Practice blog

Keith Lee’s Associate Mind blog

Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog

James Daily and Ryan Davidson’s The Law and the Multiverse blog

Kevin Underhill’s Lowering the Bar blog

The Volokh Conspiracy

Jeff Richardson’s iPhone J.D. blog

Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog

In his own post commenting on his well deserved receipt of the award, Jeff Richardson remarked: “[O]ne of the best parts of this annual list is that it always helps me discover great sites that I had not run across before . . . .”  This is so true. There are always new blogs to be discovered on the list, as well as familiar sites we are long overdue in revisiting.

Finally, a bit of electioneering.

The editors of the ABA Journal have asked that their readers vote upon their favorite blogs in each category.  As noted above, we have been placed in the Torts category with five other excellent blogs. They are all great sites, and we encourage you to read them regularly.  But the editors have asked people to vote, so we must bring that your attention, right?

If you enjoy what we do here at Abnormal Use, we would greatly appreciate your support and humbly request that you cast your vote for us.  Here’s how:

Plug this website into your browser:

You will be prompted to register with the ABA Journal website.  It’s takes just a moment, as all you need to do is create a username and  password.

Once you have completed the registration, you will be taken to a page with a large logo at the top with twelve categories of blogs listed below it.

Click on the category labeled “Torts.”

Scroll down and find the entry for Abnormal Use.  Click the “Vote Now!” next to the Abnormal Use logo entry.

We’ll let you know how that turns out for us. In the meantime, remember that you can follow Abnormal Use on Twitter here and Facebook here.

Social Media Discovery – Timing is Key

As we’ve previously mentioned, our editor Jim Dedman is now contributing one monthly post to the North Carolina Law Blog.  Yesterday morning, his second submission was published at that site.  The topic: “Social Media Discovery – Timing is Key.” Jim’s post is a response to an earlier blog entry by Ernest Svenson at his Ernie the Attorney blog, which you can find here.  Jim’s post begins:

Timing is everything in litigation. That’s certainly true in the discovery arena, even when dealing with the (still) relatively new field of social media.  Recently, Ernie Svenson a/k/a Ernie the Attorney wrote a fascinating post about the perils and pitfalls of subpoenaing Facebook for an individual’s social media profile and underlying private data.  According to Ernie, Facebook usually refuses to produce a meaningful subpoena response – the good stuff you’re hoping to get will likely not be in the company’s formal response. Accordingly, he offers some alternative approaches to obtaining that data through the formal discovery process. There’s not much to add to his very thorough post; but I would offer the following tips on timing such requests.

Read the rest of the post here.

Once you start issuing subpoenas for social media discovery, you’ve tipped your hand to your opponent.  In his post, Jim offers some suggestions on how to structure and time one’s social media discovery to maximize results and avoid potential spoliation.

Another Milestone: 500 Posts

Can you believe it?  This post – this very post that you are reading right now – is our 500th blog entry here at Abnormal Use.  We are just as stunned as you are, but we have had such a good time engaging in this blogging business that we nearly lost track.  But here we are, at 500 posts, armed with plans to continue this site well into the future.

As you know, we pause occasionally to reflect upon our milestones at this site.  Earlier this year, in January, we reflected upon our first birthday and shared the (little) wisdom we had learned at that point.

Way back in May of 2010, we commemorated the occasion of our 100th post, an celebration which now seems almost quaint.  At that time, we noted:

It has been just four short months since we unveiled this products liability blog with a formal mission statement. Whereas we feel certain that blogging may come naturally to some, our first foray into the blogosphere was not without some trepidation. Naturally, we asked ourselves: Will there be sufficient source material? But we quickly learned that this was the least of our concerns. Fortunately for products liability bloggers, in the rapid, ever-changing world of litigation, there is rarely a day that passes without something newsworthy, whether it be a new court decision, an interesting verdict, a product recall (an augury of imminent litigation), or a story on a future Plaintiff’s new and “inventive” use of a product that, predictably, went awry. Needless to say, we have found plenty of cases and news items about which to post. We are also proud to have presented several original interviews with law professors in our series which we affectionately call Abnormal Interviews (more of which are to come in the future).

Aw, weren’t we cute at that age? As we write today, we are just two months away from our second birthday (and we’re sure we will pause again that day to reminisce even further on our blogging history). Nostalgia aside, we are encouraged by our progress at this site.  In January of 2010, we were a brand new blog, entirely unknown, and with few friends in the legal blogosphere.  Now, in November of 2011, we have built up a solid archive of posts and have made a number of friends and contacts in this enterprise.  It’s been rewarding to write about the law, as well as other off topic items, and see the responses of you, our dear readers. Certainly, this endeavor would not have been possible without the support of our writers: authors (Phil Reeves, Stephanie Flynn), regular contributors (Nick Farr, Frances Zacher, Steve Buckingham), guest authors (Mary Giorgi, Laura Simons, Mills Gallivan, Childs Cantey Thrasher), and other alumni.  Without their support and hard work, we would have few, if any, posts at this site.

So, on this fateful occasion, we will share with you three things we have learned about the advantages of legal blogging.  A legal blog is often a Herculean task; it requires time, diligence, and patience.  Some firms are dissuaded from the enterprise due to the time commitment, while others throw themselves into the task and quickly burn out.  But, for those who persevere, there are rewards.

So here’s our purported wisdom:

1.  A legal blog raises your firm’s profile.  This is something that Mark Hermann, formerly of the Drug & Device Law blog, noted in his “Memoirs of a Blogger.”  It is certainly true, as we here at Abnormal Use have been cited by a number of legal publications that have taken notice of this site, including The New York Times, NPR,  Scientific American, and a whole host of regional newspapers, law blogs, and other publications.  (We were even invited to host a webinar!) It is unlikely these sources would have mentioned or contacted our firm under those circumstances absent our blogging effort.

2.  It’s an entirely new way to network with other attorneys across the nation.  Really, blogging is a hobby as much as it is a business development mechanism.  Legal bloggers tend to have similar interests, and the shared interest in blogging is often a great way to break the ice, either online or in real life.  Accordingly, as we have noted before, this site has enabled us to network with and meet lawyers across the country that we would not have met otherwise.  That’s a good thing, for networking purposes, but also because it allows us to meet interesting people with similar interests irrespective of potential business development efforts. That’s not so bad, right?

3. As we work to bring you new legal content at this site, we are also learning new things ourselves, allowing us to keep informed of the latest products liability developments across the land.

Plus, it’s loads of fun. We here at Abnormal Use enjoy bringing you legal commentary and fun links on Fridays.  We hope you will continue to stay with us as we continue this enterprise, and we thank all of you, our dear readers, for your support over these last nearly two years.

Abnormal Use and the North Carolina Law Blog

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use love blogging, so much so that our editor Jim Dedman is now contributing one monthly post to the North Carolina Law Blog.  Earlier today, his first submission was published at that site.  The topic: To Text, Or Not To Text – The Lawyers Dilemma. Jim’s post is a response to an earlier blog entry by Carolyn Elefant at the Small Firm Innovation blog.

With so many people texting one another, lawyers should pause to reflect upon whether it is an appropriate manner to communicate with clients. To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt of Jim’s post:

[T]he medium of texting – its immediacy, its brevity, and its simplicity – suggests that it may be an inappropriate medium for any communication that is remotely substantive.  Texts, by their nature, are ephemeral.  They are not filed, they are not saved, they are generally not kept in any meaningful fashion.  However, communications with one’s clients – particularly communications which offer or purport to offer any type of legal advice – should probably be kept in one’s file.  Thus, lawyers who text may face the hassle of having to download, maintain, or otherwise track their texts and preserve them for their files.  This seems like an unnecessary task, particularly when users of smart phones can simply use an email rather than a text from the same device and avoid any issues on that front.

The North Carolina Law Blog is sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association Center for Practice Management.  A relatively new member of the legal blogosphere, it officially began in May of this year.  A group blog, it currently has 13 writers.  Jim plans to submit one post per month to the North Carolina Law Blog, and we’ll certainly direct you to any content of his at that site upon its publication.

Blogging on The Merits of Legal Blogging

In the legal blogging world, there is much speculation about the manner in which to measure one’s success.  Our friends over at the Drug and Device Law blog have discussed this in the past, and each of us, as law bloggers, confronts this issue daily.  Do legal blogs lead to new legal business? If so, is there a way to chart the path from the initial blog post to a new client’s engagement letter? It’s an interesting question. There may never be a day in which a new client presents itself to one’s firm identifying a blog entry as the sole source of the retention.  However, amongst bloggers, the general consensus seems to be that the presence of a blog will spotlight both the firm and the blog’s authors, and accordingly, raise their profile, especially if they follow a strict blog launch checklist on the daily to keep content fresh.  That heightened level of attention will, very likely, lead to additional opportunities and perhaps new business.

For example, once a blog author becomes a familiar voice on a given topic, he or she may be invited to speak at events and conventions.  These opportunities would likely not have come but for the presence of the blog and subsequent raising of the profile of its authors.  Further, we here at Abnormal Use have had the opportunity to meet and network with several other lawyer bloggers that we never would have previously met had we not begun this enterprise here.  For example, in early June, while on an unrelated business trip in Philadelphia, we had the opportunity to meet the three authors of the Drug and Device Law blog, whom we have known in the digital world for 18 months but had never actually met in person.  Further, more recently, during a CLE conference in New Orleans, we were able to meet Jeff Richardson of the iPhone J.D. blog and Ernest Svenson of the Ernie the Attorney law blog.  At each of these informal meetings, we discussed this issue – how law blogs might lead to legal business.  However, the very fact that we were meeting and discussing that issue underscores the networking value of legal blogging, as we were all doing so solely because of our own blogging efforts. How’s that for networking?

There’s more to it than that, of course. Once a legal blog establishes a history and some credibility, who knows what will happen? We were very pleasantly surprised to learn recently that our posts were quoted both by The New York Times and National Public Radio. (See here and here for more information on those two twists of fate.). We’ve been asked to speak at events and present at CLE seminars as a result of our prose on this site. It’s difficult to calculate the value of such things, but it’s worth it.

In the end, Ernie probably said it best when he noted that we, as lawyers, speak in terms of causation, but we may never be able to identify the “but for cause” of every new client.  Further, we may never know if the legal blog is the reason for the business, or if the legal blog led to a secondary opportunity which itself led to new contacts which in turn led to new business.  It’s difficult to trace the chain of causation, but it seems clear that blogging is an excellent tool for networking among other attorneys and spot lighting one’s self. If you’ve got something to say, and you’ve got readers ready to listen, what can be wrong with that?