Immigration attorney knew almost immediately that blogging was a good fit for him, but he also knew that it needed the personality only he could bring to it.
“I realized what differentiated me is that I had a point of view, and that I got bored with the straight narrative of what a case is,” said Paparelli,a partner in the Business Immigration Practice Group of Seyfarth Shaw. “So I decided to provide analysis, strategy, and critique.”
The result is, in his own words, pretty pointed. But Paparelli loves nothing more than hitting the publish button and watching the reaction across the net.
He’d been publishing articles on immigration legal topics for many years before the Internet was around, but it wasn’t until he became a member of the National Speakers Association that he was introduced to blogging. Many of his fellow speakers were small business owners who were marketing themselves through blogging.
“They introducemed me to blogging, and not only that but they introduced me to how to make it work,” said Paparelli. “It’s nothing dazzling today, but in 2004 when I started my blog, it was pretty revolutionary.”
Since then it’s only been onwards and upwards for his blog, the Nation of Immigrators. It hasn’t always been easy–one of the hardest things for him is just sitting down to write consistently, even when he doesn’t feel like it–but Paparelli says he’s grown to enjoy it more and more over the years. It’s given him a lot of fulfillment, and in a variety of ways.
“I use it as my own personal law library; I know if I’ve written on something the original source material is in my blog–I can sometimes find it faster there than Google” said Paparelli. “And it doesn’t take much for me to do a short email [to a prospective or existing client] saying ‘I enjoyed our conversation, here’s some reference materials.’ Often times in the embedded links they find the case we discussed. So it’s kind of a differentiator and value-add in marketing myself.”
Paparelli notes that many fellow lawyers approach him at conferences to thank him for his writing, praising the analytical and fearless nature of the blog–often aimed at the federal government, where his blog is also making splashes. He’s garnered respect with the blog–even amongst administrative officials–which demonstrates that he takes these issues seriously.
“It may cause some people [in the government] to pull their hair out, but there are some very committed people that are saying ‘what is wrong with that idea?’ And they’re really getting the discussion going,” he said.
He knows that it can be tough, for bloggers starting out to charge headfirst into hot button topics. But Paparelli finds that many times it’s not as scary as it may seem at first.
“Normally [with] new developments no one has ever done anything with it, there’s not some new law article out there. So I apply my usual lawyer thinking cap, I ask what does this mean, and write a few thoughts. Usually people find that they are appropriate, and remember that I was the first one to say it.”
But for Paparelli it’s more than just about being first. Part of the reason he’s an immigration lawyer was because his own grandparents emigrated from Italy, and he’s seen firsthand the backlash that Italian people have faced in the U.S. He’s even included a page on his blog dedicated to remembering their fight.
“[On my blog] I’ve made comments about my mother’s experience in the Great Depression, my Italian roots in Detroit…If I’m going to write about America being the land of immigrants I’m going to write about my roots.” said Paparelli, who says he learned quickly that a blog needed a professional voice while always remembering the audience he’s writing to.
“I know that the normal readers of my blog won’t be particularly interested in immigration, but may still need to know. So I go out of my way to explain the complexity [of the issues] but still try to make it accessible.”
Through his blog, Paparelli has been able to show the human side of the lawyer while also demonstrating the fortitude and knowledge behind it. It takes dedication; the average blog post takes him somewhere between three and five hours, sometimes more. Paparelli says he’s gotten better at it, but old habits sometimes make good practices. He appreciates taking the time to carefully craft his pieces and load them up with hyperlinks, and his audience seems to as well.
He believes, after all, that the blog is a reflection of the blogger, and the image he hopes to send out to the world is that of a zealous advocate who promotes ethical practice, who manages to be fun and creative while also providing innovative solutions to very complex problems. And he finds that the easiest thing about blogging is pushing the publish button.
“I enjoy writing more than almost anything,” he said. “And if I can entertain myself with some irony or insight, I infer that other people might be similarly entertained.”
Even still, Paparelli’s not a “build it and they will come” kind of blogger. He stays active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and has his blog posts repurposed on two different immigration portals to promote his work.
“If you don’t toot your own horn, there will be no music.”