Well, I’ve finally found the blog primer book I have been looking for. I spent last evening devouring Biz Stone’s book called “Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content” (now 30% off at Amazon.com). The book is very practical, not too heavy on the technical jargon and written with a great, casual style. It’s full of great practical tips (like linking mentions of books through your Amazon Affiliate ID). One of the blurbs for the book calls it “casual and humorous, but authoritative” and I think that that’s a great description. If you’d rather learn about blogs in one handy book rather than chase around the web looking for articles and faqs, this book is the one I’d recommend to start with.
Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program and all-around great guy, interviewed me the other day by email about the lawyer blogging phenomenon. Here are his questions and my answers:
1. Why did you become a lawyer blogger?
It’s a great new medium for short, to-the-point, articles with links. Blogs are tailor-made for writers, but the real attraction is something known as RSS feeds, which allow you to have an instant audience for your work. Other than that, someone pointed out to me that I had first written about blogs nearly two years ago and wondered why I didn’t have one.
2. What do you see in the future of lawyer blogs, or blawgs?
For certain lawyers, they can become a new and valuable channel for communication to clients and potential clients and they can quickly help a lawyer establish credibility and expertise in a niche area. Blogs are Internet resource tailored to writers and people who like headlines and short coverage of breaking events and developments. They will not replace browsers or the web, but they will capture and be important for certain segments of people, much like instant messaging, chat or newsgroups each have audience segments. The good news is that the likely audience for blogs is an educated, tech-savvy audience who are interested in the written word – a good audience for lawyers.
3. What are some of you favorite blogs besides your own?
The original blog that I found and followed is the blog of Dave Winer, a blogging pioneer, which is called Scripting News (http://www.scripting.com) and is definitely worth a look to give you an idea of what a blog is.
There’s been an explosion (well, a couple every day, it seems like) of new law-related blogs, sometimes called “blawgs.” Ernie the Attorney (http://radio.weblogs.com/0104634/) is the definitive example of a lawyer blog. It’s excellent and, if you want to look at a blog to get a feel for what they are about for lawyers, this is the place I would start. One thing I like about blogs is that they give me a good way to keep up with what some of my friends are thinking and doing. For that reason, I like Sabrina Pacifici’s BeSpacific blog (http://www.bespacific.com) and Jerry Lawson’s Net.Law.Blog (http://www.netlawblog.com) – lots of great stuff in both blogs. There are some subject matter blogs that are great – Marty Schwimmer’s The Trademark Blog (http://trademark.blog.us/blog/) is a great example of this type of blog. For solos and small firms, there’s the excellent MyShingle.com (http://www.myshingle.com), although some purists may quibble whether it technically is a blog, but the key thing is that it has an RSS feed. Finally, although I’m leaving out a lot of good ones, Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites (http://www.legaline.com/lawsites.html) and Tom Mighell’s Inter Alia (http://www.inter-alia.net/) both do a great job of, among other things, covering blogs that are useful to lawyers.
4. Do you have any tips for the lawyer blogger wannabee?
- It’s like 1995 and web pages – if you launch a law blog now, you’ll always be considered one of the pioneers.
- The key to understanding the utility, promise and excitement of blogs is understanding the value of RSS feeds, sometimes referred to as news feeds or channels. Before you think about launching a blog, download a news aggregator, such as Amphetadesk (http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk/). Amphetadesk is free and simple. Install it and start subscribing to a bunch of channels that interest you and get a feel for how the feeds work. It you see the value, you will get the bug to do your own blog.
- I would suggest thinking about narrowly defined subject areas, but I suspect that you still have a shot at becoming the first or a premier law blog in your city or state.
- Watch to see what is happening out there. Ernie the Attorney keeps a list of law-related blogs (http://radio.weblogs.com/0104634/outlines/Law%20Blogs.html) and there are other lists as well.
This post from The Shifted Librarian blog captures precisely the essence of what I feel is the true potential of RSS feeds and news aggregators. I’m not sure that it can be said any better than: “Yes, it’s an information explosion contained all on one page and you don’t have to do the work! . . . It won’t be a “technology” – it will just be useful.” Awesome.
Law.com has an article today called Cracking the Whip by Catherine Aman that focuses on four stories about ways corporate legal departments have forced reductions in legal fees. Of special interest are the comments of Jeff Carr, who I’ll be co-presenting with on a related topic at ABA TechShow. Lawyers and law firms who don’t get this issue aren’t going to get the business in the near future.
Probably the most important development in information technology law has been the movement away from classic software licensing to technology outsourcing arrangments, such as application service providers. The number of issues in a standard software license deal pale in comparison to the number of legal and business issues raised when outsourcing is involved. Many companies have learned a painful and expensive lesson in the past year or two by treating outsourcing deals on a “contracts as usual” basis.
Paul Roy has an excellent article in Outsourcing Journal called “Legal Outsourcing Trends – A Look Ahead” that highlights some of the key issues and developments in this growing area of law. Based on my experience, his comments are dead-on correct. I’m not saying that this area is the equivalent of legal brain surgery, but this is definitely one area where good intentions, good feelings and a “let’s just keep it really simple and not involve the lawyers” approach makes sense. Nor does it make much more sense for lawyers unfamiliar with the special issues to jump in without any help.