When it comes to education law, Shipman & Goodwin knows what they’re talking about. With their blog, they’re just able to get that message out that much faster.
“Let’s be fair, people obtain and view information a lot differently than they used to. One only needs to look at how few newspaper boxes are on the street to know that not everyone receives information the same way they used to 10-20 years ago,” said Gary Brochu, a partner at the firm and resident School Law blogger. “So part of it is meeting people where they are; looking at websites, blogs, etc. to receive information.”
The team behind the firm’s School Law blog is no stranger to writing. They have client alerts and updates, seminars, one of Shipman & Goodwin’s partners has written the only treatise available on Connecticut public school law. The blog is just one more way they can get their expertise to those that need it—and that they can peruse at their leisure.
And when they do they’ll get insight from a deep bench. The firm has almost 20 people who focus exclusively on school law, but in the nearly seven years since they started the blog, Brochu says they’ve started involving guest bloggers with other specialties in the firm, in order to better represent the needs of their clients, not to mention the services of the firm.
“One of the things we provide is that we’re not a boutique firm; we also have a lot of other practices that involve the issues that will come up for our clients. It’s not just expulsions or special education, it may be a criminal matter, or planning and zoning,” said Brochu, who remembers when the construction practice of Shipman & Goodwin had a series on public school zoning. “Sometimes people come and say ‘what could you possibly be doing with school law?’ and I ask ‘what aren’t we doing?’ All these issues that naturally overlap with schools…If you read the newspaper there’s at least one article in there somewhere that somehow has a tie to schools.”
Which means that they sometimes overlap with hot button areas. Immigration law for grad students and teachers, religious accommodations on graduation day; it’s all “interesting stuff,” as Brochu says, but School Law isn’t about wading into the debate. It sticks to the facts and keeps the focus on the clients.
“We’re not picking sides when we’re writing on the blog,” said Brochu. “There’s a role for that in the internet and in blogs, but that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to inform clients, put light on issues, and make sure people are aware of changes in the law.”
That also means posting consistently. Brochu admits that during the school year things can get busy; you spend all night in negotiations and it’s easy for blogging to get pushed to the back burner. But as one of the preeminent resources about where laws and schools intersect, he wants to keep people in the habit of looking.
“If you click on a website five times in a row and they haven’t posted anything new you get out of the habit of looking. I want to reward the fact that people are going to take a look at it but putting material that is interesting and valuable,” said Brochu. To him it doesn’t matter if it’s a niche audience of education officials and school lawyers. It’s all about the people it will reach.
“Being valuable to an identified audience [and] having a purpose is important,” said Brochu, who believes it’s impossible that blogging could be seen as a waste. “As long as there’s schools and there’s laws concerning schools and students, someone’s going to have to do that work. If anything legislation around schools is more complicated than ever…It takes time and effort, but not effort that goes to waste. For you to put together a cogent post on an issue, and to think it through and put it in words, that’s not something that goes to waste. You’re now conversant in an issue you weren’t before. It’s doing your homework in one sense, and you have the benefit of bringing information to your clients.”