On the most recent episode of This Week In Legal Blogging, LexBlog’s Bob Ambrogi sat down with Angelo Paparelli, an immigration lawyer, Seyfarth partner, think tank founder, and renown author of the legal blog Nation of Immigrators.
Here’s the full episode and, down below, we have a selection of the best exchanges.
What motivated you to start a blog? 2004, that was still pretty early in the days of blogging.
It was mostly mental health. I was getting increasingly outraged at the messaging from the media about immigration. This was the heyday of Lou Dobbs and his show talking about broken borders and demonizing immigrants, and it was contrary to all of the people that I knew who had gone through the immigration process.
Yes, we have a large undocumented population, but we have a huge population of strivers and achievers who followed the rules, as complicated and difficult as they may be, and contributed great things to this country. And, so, I just had to speak out. I also saw a fair amount of heavy-handedness on the part of the government and injustice and deprivation of due process, and so, I was either going to climb the walls of my office and be frustrated, or I was going to save money on mental health therapy bills and do a blog.
Your law practice focuses on immigration. I think you also do labor and employment work, and you joined Seyfarth in 2009. Was the firm receptive to your blog there at that time?
There were no blogs, and it was interesting because on the one hand, they candidly found the blog fascinating, but on the other hand, I was writing in a rather controversial style, and it was not what a law firm might expect. So two things happened. They saw that blogging had real opportunity for communicating a potential client base—legal development, legal challenge solutions, and so mine was the poster child for the 15 or 20 blogs they now have.
On the other hand, if you look at the disclaimer in my blog, it says that my firm takes no responsibility for the contents of my blog and it’s my opinion only and it’s not legal advice. So I’m relatively free within the bounds of good taste and prudence to say almost anything I want as long as I can defend it. And that’s heartening in a large law firm. I think if I’d come up as an associate, I wouldn’t have that freedom.
How has your readership changed over the sixteen years you’ve been blogging? Do you have a sense of that?
Yeah, I think I do. I have a lot more of a global reach right now. There are people who will reach out to me from anywhere in the world. In the old days of writing articles that were published on paper, the chance of reaching someone is pretty remote, and I don’t look at my blogging in isolation.
I look at my social media presence, and I put them all together, and so I’ve had the occasion of communicating by a combination of my blog and my tweet stream and have met some of the most interesting people in the world, some famous people, some not so famous people, but people who are really authentic human beings, strivers, achievers. And it’s been fun. It’s been fun, especially during the pandemic.
Can somebody start up an immigration law blog at this point and get attention and get readership. How do they do that?
Absolutely, and it doesn’t have to be an immigration lawyer, it can be any lawyer. In a big firm, there are certain constraints and certain approvals as to what you can write about, but rarely is it the case that you can’t identify a legal problem, a legal issue that an insightful attorney who’s succeeding in their career already can’t leverage that into a blog.
Now it might be on a very narrow theme, but it’s one that will have legs, one that you can write on over and over and over again. Immigration lawyers have it pretty easy because our themes are always in the news day after day after day, but I would venture to suggest that even if you were a dirt lawyer, real estate, there are some themes that you have to deal with…And I welcome other bloggers; I’ve invited a lot of people to blog on my blog and give them a platform, and so there’s many many ways to enter the space.
Any other advice for anyone starting out in blogging or wanting to improve or enhance their blog?
Well, I would say that it’s tough in the field of law today because of all of the factors that you’ve so ably described in terms of the trends and the external competitors and the commodification of law; it’s all very tough and all very dispiriting. But I basically came to the conclusion that if I didn’t get the door to knock, I would starve because the only other being on the other side of the door was the wolf and that I had to keep the music playing and so do this as part of a suite of strategies, not just as your sole source of sustenance or inspiration.
So, be on social media, have our LinkedIn profile as up to date as it possibly can, engage with the world. And when we go back to in-person human beings meeting one another, do that as well. But right now, if you’re in a cloistered setting where you can’t get out, what better use of your house? Beyond hopefully daily meditation and some exercise and interaction with your family. This is a perfect setting in which the author in you can come out. Just don’t do it only with blogging. It’s got to be all of those things.
• • • •