Look for Opportunities


Good morning from Seattle up here on the West Coast and good afternoon to the rest of the country. We’re on day three of 45 days of– what do you want to call it? Common Sense Legal Blogging, Effective Legal Blogging? The idea is to follow 45 chapters in a book that I would like to write at some point in time, and maybe we’ll have it transcribed by the talking with you via Facebook live.

The topic today is looking for opportunities. I’m starting off wearing the Cubs hat today. Why the Cubs? Because Cook County, which is all of Chicago, just passed Queens for most COVID cases, which is an eye-opener that we are one-long way away from putting the virus behind us. We’re probably just starting with it. The other thing that I was thinking about with Chicago is 30-some years ago, I think Chicago had 21 age drinking and Wisconsin had 18. Where I lived in Wisconsin, so people drove across the border to go to the pubs.

The scary thing that’s going to happen this weekend and probably tonight is that people are going to drive across the border from Chicago and all the cities along the border of Chicago and they’re going to go to all the pubs in Wisconsin that are celebrating that the virus is behind them. At the same time the curve in Wisconsin for the virus continues to rise because they have become the worldwide west: entirely open, no restrictions as far as the activity with the virus. Their courts found that it was unconstitutional to have any restrictions on activity. Take that for what it’s worth.

I share things on COVID just to remind people really what’s going on, as we live in a bubble sometimes and look at it from just the restrictions we have to live in, whether we wear a mask and we can’t go out the house, we don’t travel, those types of thing but we’re not in those situations. Whether we’re working in a hospital or we’re in a hospital or we have loved ones in a hospital, this type of thing is going on, but looking for opportunities is something that lawyers just don’t do. When they start a blog, they think of a family law practice, a workers’ compensation practice– there’s my dog trying to get attention with a ball behind me and that’s how he talks.

Lawyers tend not to look at opportunities. They’re going to tend to look at what we do right now. The problem with that is they’re going to miss out on the opportunities to really make a better business. When you really think of the legal market and how myopic it really is, you have people working for the lawyers. Imagine SEO or whatever. If somebody comes in and says, I have a bankruptcy practice in Rockford, Illinois and we get you to rank higher for Rockford, Illinois bankruptcy, baby, you will make more money but all you’re doing is you’re competing against every other lawyer in Rockford that does bankruptcy work. You’re not doing anything for separation. Imagine if Amazon came along and Bezos said what I’ve got to do is really build a better bricks and mortar bookstore than Barnes & Noble.

Where the hell would they be? They didn’t go out and try to say, we can compete better. We can get on better streets. We can do better advertising, we can do better SEO so that people buy our books as opposed to Barnes & Noble. They did something different. What is looking for opportunities? What it means is what opportunities might open up. There was a lawyer in Seattle that decided that cannabis law would be a big deal. That was Dan Harris.

Dan decided that by sitting down with two other lawyers over lunch before any lawyers in the country were talking about cannabis law. He asked them whether it could be a business opportunity for lawyers, and by the next day he decided to go after it. Now you have Hilary Bricken, the firm used to be known as Harrison Maury, it’s now known as Harrison Bricken. Hillary Bricken who was recently out of law school at the time she started the Canna Law Blog is known nationally and even internationally and puts on   for it. We’re only talking in a relatively short period of time after that.

Now Dan did international work, other forms of commercial litigation with a firm: maybe 10, 12 people; they’ve grown to maybe 25 or more, but he didn’t say, “Hillary, you’ve joined the firm, why don’t you help out on the China law blog? It’s doing very well. We’re getting work internationally.” He’s looking for another opportunity. That didn’t mean that Hillary probably had to sit and twiddle her thumbs before that time came about. What happened is that she’s probably doing other work at the same time, building this opportunity for cannabis, but smart firms, if you have the opportunity in a firm that is not myopic, wouldn’t be worried about your billable hours. They’d be worried about how much they are going to make in the firm over the next three, four, and five years. What’s the value of what they do? How is it going to increase? As opposed to saying “don’t do anything that’s forward-thinking, just do what everybody else is doing. Spend a lot of money on advertising. Try to figure out how on the internet we can get more people to come to our website.” It’s all the same stuff as opposed to looking for opportunities. As you do what you’re doing in your existing practice, look for the opportunities, and you can blog on that new thing. There’s nothing that prevents you from starting a blog and blogging on something that you’ve never done. That’s okay because blogging often is really a learning experience to share what you’re reading, provide insight on what you just read, and publish that.

Everything that I started my blog on because I knew nothing about blogging was what I was reading and what I could share with other people but you always want to look forward. You don’t want to look here. That’s the same for larger firms. If you are in a practice group, in a larger firm, oftentimes they start a blog almost the name of the practice group. If I asked the firm, “why are you doing it on that?” “That’s the name of our practice group. That’s a default common sense thing.” “Who thought of that?” “The practice group chair.” “Why did they want to do it?” “Because the Smith and Jones firm, big firm, is doing it so we have to have one too.”

There’s not really a lot of common sense in that; that’s not the way that businesses would look at it. My business gets really scared doing the same thing; when we got to over 10 years we said, “Could we be successful doing exactly the same thing over and over again?” The answer’s no. We couldn’t be successful by doing that. We didn’t know of any businesses where people go, “I really love them because they’re doing the same thing they did 15 years ago.” You’re doing different things at the same time but you’re looking to do them differently and setting yourself up to do something different just like any other business would.

If we’re building things in my company around technology and adapting and doing iterations and then walking into the opportunities that it opens up–opportunities we didn’t even realize– then I think we’re being pretty smart in our approach to it. Blogging is a really low-cost and low-time investment to do exactly that. Someone could say whatever it might be and whatever you’d enjoy getting into it and then making that transition, making the transition just easily.

Right now with the virus going on, we’re basically locked at home; why couldn’t you just start to think about: what would be fun? Going back to that magic wand, what would be fun if I was practicing in that, and I didn’t need to worry about where the money was coming from because I would be the best-known lawyer in the country or the state or my region on that subject. What would it be? How do I start a blog on it? It’s not like somebody who’s going to go, “Oh my God, I saw you blogging on that. I need to take all my work away from you that I’m giving you right now on another topic.” They’re probably going to log you. If they ask you about it, all you would tell them is, “I think it’s pretty enjoyable to learn this new area of the law that I have an interest in. I’m reading about it and I’m sharing what I’m reading and I’m providing my insight.” Like, “Why did that mean anything?” Or “What do I see going on.” You’ll start to attract like-minded people. Blogging is not just a broadcast thing. You’ll start to have engagement in different ways as a result of it.

Where will you go? I think you’ll be really surprised. I don’t know if I had mentioned it in one of the other early ones, but there was a young lawyer, a recent grad in California. This goes back a number of years. I don’t remember exactly how long. He had an interest in defamation law in California. Not that the federal constitution wouldn’t necessarily apply to California too, and how we can control defensive defamation claims for public figures and whatnot and what’s commercial speech and whatnot, but he wants to write on California defamation law.

I’m thinking that’s pretty narrow, maybe so narrow that nobody’s ever going to see you. After Jill passed, he wrote me a really nice note and he said, “I’ve been thinking about you and I wanted you to know how you really helped change my life with my California defamation law blog.” I’m thinking “Well, you did that. It wasn’t me. I was probably trying to talk you out of it.” What happened is that he kept doing that blog and somebody at Yelp saw his writing, told the general counsel that this young lawyer seems to know what they’re talking about on the issues that we need defended and need worked on. Between them, they said, “Maybe what we could do is give them something small. Maybe that they could do not damage on and then just see what happens.” Well, they did and now he’s getting more work than any large firm from Yelp and similarly situated organizations. He’s probably in his early 30s and he’s established himself in an area which is very unique that I can only imagine a lot of the social media companies review accompanies and whatnot that we use every day have an interest in. They know who he is. He went from not trying to figure out “how am I going to get the job in the firm that does all the things that everybody should be doing?” The worker bees type of situation, or hanging out my shingle to do family law, bankruptcy law, workers’ compensation law, all those types of things because a lot of people look at it that way.

He looked forward to an opportunity and he was looking more forward than I was even thinking about it. He was thinking about review, social media, those types of things, and defamation becoming an issue in defense of those defamation cases and what the constitutional issues would be with that thing. Lo and behold, he built himself a future by looking at opportunities. 

The last thing that I mentioned, and I’ll just write it down here so you can see it is, is #Blog4Good and remember that came that hashtag. We will be kicking around more often starting next week. What we want to do as a company at LexBlog, and I certainly want to do it (I think a lot of other lawyers do it at some of the Bar Associations) is empower lawyers to use blogging as a way to help people, consumers, small business people, corporations, in house counsel, and government agencies with legal insight and legal information on the issues that they’re facing as a result of the pandemic. They just don’t stop. It’s case law interpretations, it’s statutory, it’s executive orders. It just doesn’t stop and there’s no better people to help do that than the lawyers themselves.

It isn’t going to come from a stock information site. Bar Associations are going to do some things. They don’t have an unlimited resource to keep putting out information, but bloggers answering common questions, bloggers providing insight on the developments that they’re seeing and aggregating and curating that information so that people can see it, can be very, very powerful. If there’s ever been a time when we should be thinking about how we can step up to the plate, it’s now. There’s hopefully never going to be anything like this again in our lifetimes. If lawyers don’t step up to the plate and do something that’s meaningful and real and impactful for people that isn’t just thinking about themselves, it would be just a terrible shame.

What we’re doing is taking all of the content that relates to the COVID, which is almost every blog post today. We’re getting it aggregated and then we’re curating it. We are curating it out to the major city Bar Associations, we’re curating it out to state Bar Associations, we’re curating it into law firms so that if a law firm has (some firms have) 35 or 40 blogs, we take all their content because you’d have to go out to all of their blogs to find it. Get it into one place so that all their lawyers can find it and make it easily available to their clients. Have their clients be able to find that information and continue to look for more ways that we can aggregate and curate blog content by lawyers on the pandemic, on the virus. It’s sad to realize, that even though we’re just doing this today, this is going to be around a long time. If we get treatment for it, if we get a vaccine for it, it’s not going to be until next year at the earliest. We’re not going to be having normally functioning lives where people are going to go into office buildings and go and travel and do all the things that they did in business or consumers are going to be able to do those things and have jobs back that they ever had for years.

There’s plenty of time for lawyers trying to step up to the plate. We’ll help you with that. If you’re looking to blog or you’re looking just to have a site where you can put information to this let us know. Negligible cost at 37 bucks a month, or it’s free if you don’t have the resources for it for a blog. We’ll be working with the Bar Associations to make sure that the Bar Associations are letting all the members of their bars and the lawyers in their states know about the opportunity to join the blog for a good campaign. It’s just getting started and we’ll start to share more and more information about it in the coming weeks.

I hope you guys have a great weekend. It’s not like we can just walk out the office door and go do all the things we used to do, but enjoy and appreciate the things that you have. Talk to you later.