Attorney Carolyn Elefant is responsible for My Shingle, a site/weblog devoted to the practice of law as a sole practitioner or in a small firm. That may not be terribly interesting to you, but it is a subject near and dear to me because I am (you guessed it) an attorney practicing in a small, 2-lawyer firm.
Recently, Carolyn mused aloud on the question, "How Long Can A Lawyer Sustain A Blog in an Unrelated Practice Area?." It is one thing to write about a field in which you have daily hands-on experience, but what about subjects further afield? Some of her thoughts:
But all of this has led me to wonder whether it's possible for any lawyer, particularly a solo or small firm lawyer, to sustain a quality blog, on a topic that is neither directly related to, nor offers any synergies, with one's primary practice area.
See, if a lawyer practices, for example, appellate law or intellectual property or high tech or ERISA/benefits law and runs a blog on those topics, then the blog, while perhaps a personal endeavor, bolsters the underlying practice. Sure, a blog won't write a brief or attend a hearing, but it gives exposure and serves as a mini-CLE, keeping the blogger current with new developments.
So should lawyers try to run blogs on topics of interest unrelated to practice and can they succeed? Will someone want to read a blog on a topic that's written by a non-expert anyway - in other words, perhaps the issue of blog-being-related-to-practice-area is self-selecting anyway.
I started this Foolish enterprise not quite six months ago as a sort of test run, intending to launch a law-related site once I had developed a little confidence in the format. The legal site, Declarations and Exclusions
, went up about a month later. Decs and Excs
was and is intended to address those business, practice development and professional purposes that Carolyn Elefant mentions. I suppose I could have shuttered or slowed this site once it had served its purpose on my learning curve, but the idea never seriously entered my mind. Each man in his time wears an array of headgear, and the cap and bells is as satisfying in its way as the barrister's wig.
At about the time both of my sites were tuning up, there was a bit of soul searching going on in the legal Web community over whether it was wise or advisable for an attorney to disclose, online, personal interests that he or she would otherwise never have reason to take up with a client. Denise Howell took up the subject (responding to an ABA piece for which her link seems no longer to function), and her observations bear on Carolyn Elefant's conundrum:
As far as the overall message of the piece, everyone is entitled to an opinion about what might constitute 'acid-rainmaking,' a great turn of phrase supplied by Perkins Coie Labor and Employment partner Michael Reynvaan. Not so great in my view is Mr. Reynvaan's suggestion that while writing about certain hobbies -- 'bridge, marathon training, sailing' -- might form a common bond with clients, writing about others -- 'professional wrestling or NASCAR' -- could be perceived as 'unlawyerly.' Maybe it's just me, but the adjectives such an approach brings to mind are 'elitist,' 'narrow-minded,' 'backward,' and 'out of touch.' While I'm not personally into NASCAR -- IRL is more my thing -- or professional wrestling, if I were, I assume from time to time they'd come up here. Then, to the extent any of the millions of people who contribute to the huge popularity of these pursuits -- who are bound to include clients, potential clients, and colleagues -- should stumble on a related Bag and Baggage post, it might just bring a smile to their face.
If you want an automaton as a lawyer, someone like me may not be your best bet. If, on the other hand, you would prefer your legal representatives to think, breathe, and have some grasp on the kinds of cultural and policy issues that so frequently affect the development of the law and the outcome of judicial decisions, that might be another story.
By similar logic, I see no reason that attorneys shouldn't write and post about legal topics outside the bounds of their usual practice area(s) -- or write and post, as happens here, on subjects altogether unrelated to legal theory or practice -- so long as they do it out of genuine interest or enthusiasm. Absent that enthusiasm, maintaining a weblog quickly becomes drudgery no matter what the topic. It is that aspect of the project -- just how interested the author is in whatever he or she is writing about -- moreso than the relation to the author's "day job" that will tend to determine how long an "unrelated" weblog can be sustained.