Lael Echo-Hawk is getting interviewed for LexBlog Leaders at a park. But as she starts to talk about a post idea she has it’s clear her passion for her work is with her everywhere she goes.
“It sounds dry, but there’s a real social issue behind the [broadcast issues happening in Congress] that could help Indian country,” said Echo-Hawk, who specializes in tribal law at Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker. “Our kids who don’t have access to high speed internet are sort of behind the eight ball on the ability to research, write, and use the internet as a tool, as opposed to a kid who may not have access to high speed internet but is able to access it through a library in an urban system. Our kids are too remote; they don’t even have that.”
A member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma herself, Echo-Hawk represents tribes and tribal organizations on many issues including gaming, Indian Child Welfare, economic development, housing, and developing the tribal government infrastructure. Her goal is to represent tribes in the best way possible, and since July 2013 that’s included blogging.
When was first offered a chance for a blog she was incredulous. Echo-Hawk says when she was first approached by marketing people at her old firm to write a blog, she didn’t have much experience with blogs or even with writing in similar formats. But after doing some digging she found out they had some use, and the Smoke Signals law blog was born.
“I was not a writer; I never read them,” said Echo-Hawk. “I guess I thought of it more as a somebody at home writing a blog about their kid, and that was not my thing. But writing a blog and providing some sort of useful information in a quick concise way so they don’t have to read an entire legal brief or giant law review article, was different.”
That accessibility is important to Echo-Hawk. Of course like any other lawyer she hopes it will help her firm, boost her name, and get her credentials out publicly on the internet. And in return she’s gotten contacted more than a few times by reporters who have come across her blog. But Smoke Signals isn’t just for the law crowd.
“I try to make it accessible for everyone—tribal leaders tell me all the time they like it,” said Echo-Hawk, who says that while she keeps it legal focused it’s not too legal community focused. “Every time I sit down and write about whatever I think ‘who’s this for?’ It’s more than just fellow Indian lawyers; it’s for a community both inside and outside the Indian community.”
That personal connection is something Echo-Hawk has always valued in her blogging experience.
“A lot of other legal bloggers don’t have that luxury. I get in both ways: I talk about social issues as well as legal issues,” said Echo-Hawk, who said it’s the best part of blogging. “I definitely don’t want to get too crazy out there, but I think people also understand it’s ok to have an opinion. I am also a Native American. I have been practicing for ten years. People respect I have an opinion, and understand it’s based in some sort of experience.”
And blogging has given her a way to show that. Throughout her time she’s been able to touch on more run-of-the-mill topics like data privacy, cannabis, and broadband access with a fresh spin, while also writing about more unique topics such as gaming law or the Washington NFL team. Plus, she’s had fun doing it.
That’s why when she switched to Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker in March this year she brought Smoke Signals along with her. At her current firm she’s still the new kid on the block with blogging. But she’s certain they’ll come around. She did.