Scott Key is a father, runner, Georgia criminal defense attorney, and blogger at Georgia Criminal Apellate Law Blog. LexBlog’s Bob Ambrogi sat down with him on This Week In Legal Blogging to discuss his blogging journey, the lessons he’s learned, and the advice he has for others.
Here’s the full episode and, down below, we have a selection of the best exchanges.
Has doing this blog for ten years has had any impact on your career and if so, what impact has it had?
It’s a place I can go to clarify my thinking. It’s a place I can go to think out loud, to write about topics that. If you’re a lawyer and you practice a particular type of law, you can get a tunnel vision where all you’re ever doing is writing briefs and motions and letters. I do think it gives me a literary outlet to develop my writing beyond a very constricted sense of developing my writing, and I think it’s been really good for that. I think it’s been really good for me to build overtime a body of work that a potential client can look to to get to know me. I think it’s had a tremendous impact; you know, it’s interesting to be in front of a judge who on a break will say “Hey I read your blog, and I really liked this post you did last week about you know, whatever.” The local NPR affiliate in Atlanta a couple of years ago decided that they wanted, for a couple of weeks in the summer, to do a roundup of precedent from the Supreme Court, and I was invited to come and do commentary on public radio a few weeks in a row. So you know I’ve had opportunities like that from doing a blog post. I’ve had reporters reach out to me as an expert in a particular field of law, sometimes on the record sometimes off the record to help them with a story they’re working on. I think it’s been an interesting conduit with the press. So, I think it really has opened doors for me that would not have been opened otherwise.
Do you think that blogging helps you with your legal writing?
It absolutely self-pollinates. I think a blogging voice is very different from an advocate’s voice at the edges. I do think, in doing a law blog, you want to be informal and relatable, but I think you want to write with some authority as well. I like the sort of informality because you know you can make a blog post whatever you want to make it. I think the creative side of blogging definitely, particularly in crafting a statement of facts, definitely works in the other direction and it keeps my writing muscles a little bit more creative when I’m writing a brief. Because you know, there’s enormous room for creativity and expression and writing in a particular style that’s your own in legal briefing that you know, if you’re not careful, you’ll just write like every other lawyer that writes legal briefs. I’ll have lawyers call me, and they’re writing a motion for whatever and they’ll say “do you have a motion for whatever?”, and you know, my response is “well have you ever thought about just opening Microsoft Word up and styling something “motion to…” and just write it? I think lawyers tend to borrow bad writing from each other, and I have less of a tendency to go from a form because I’m writing in this other outlet than I think I would otherwise do.
What advice do you have to offer somebody who’s just trying to develop that voice?
Well, you’ll get that voice with practice. You know, you may not be great it the first ten or fifteen that you do. You may not know how to do it yet. I think number one, take the pressure off of yourself. A blog post is kind of a journal that you’re sharing with the public. So you know, it can’t be like your diary because you can’t overshare (it is a professional setting), but on the other hand, you’re not filing this with the Supreme Court, you’re not handing this to your literature professor. In fact, your blog posts don’t need to be some big sprawling document because nobody’s going to read that. You can write a couple of paragraphs and they’re great. You know, you look at a blog outside of the legal context like a Seth Godin, and he’s probably written every single day for the past fifteen years, but most of his blog posts are a paragraph or two. Sometimes his blog posts are a sentence or two. Sometimes it’s really lengthy blog posts, but what I would say to lawyers is your blog posts don’t have to be a masterpiece. The more you do it, the more fun it would be. I think the other thing is, if you’re thinking marketing, if you’re thinking about getting more clients, if you’re thinking about getting better cases, if you’re thinking about building your reputation, I think you’re probably focused on the wrong things. I think those things are probably the result of blogging, but ultimately, you should write your blog for you. It should be something that’s yours whose audience is you. And I think if you do that, if you’re authentic, if you’re not writing what you think a client or a judge wants to hear, but you’re writing to express who you are to get some idea out that you’d like to see on paper, I think you’ll find that as a side benefit, all those results will come.
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