Group vs. Individual Blog

Good morning from Seattle. Good afternoon, to the rest of the country. I have a foggy day here before the sun is going to clear things up later this afternoon. It’s still pretty quiet on the streets of Seattle. I was out running earlier this morning. A few more cars are out, but it’s definitely a very quiet place while the stay at home order remains in place very clearly here on the West Coast. Some context for those that haven’t sat in before: we’re going through 45 chapters of a book for legal blogging and what it would mean to be effectively blogging as opposed to just blogging.

In today’s chapter, we’re going to talk about a group versus an individual blog, and what are the pluses, minuses. What are they? What  do you want to be thinking about, in the big context? The reason we’re doing this right now is because of the pandemic. This is a wonderful opportunity for lawyers to give back in a real caring and impactful way through blogging in areas in which they have expertise. LexBlog will make a blog available to lawyers, if they want to blog for $39 a month. You don’t have the resources available for the Blog For Good campaign, that’s okay. It’s free. Then these blogs are being aggregated by states and curated by state.

If a lawyer is blogging in New York, they might be part of the New York City Bar Association’s site, which is aggregating and curating information on blogs, which for right now, is all of COVID-related issues, whether for consumers, small business people, corporations, you name it. We’re doing that coast to coast and then we’ll stand internationally. Great example was yesterday talking to attorney Dan Schwartz from Connecticut. I asked him what it meant to blog during the pandemic, and he said it really provided an opportunity to care, an opportunity to help, and it felt impactful.

Dan is blogging to help businesses in the Connecticut area. He says nothing feels better right now than when someone might call up and ask about an issue that they know he’s familiar with, including the other lawyers that may not have the same expertise in employment law that he has generated partly through blogging. 

What we’re talking about today is a group versus an individual blog. What is a group blog? Well, by its nature, it’s more than one lawyer doing the blog. They tend to be practice groups for larger firms.

Smaller firms might have a blog that’s stuck in a website, which is a great way to bury something so it doesn’t get seen and build expertise, versus an individual blog outside of site, but it tends to be multiple people doing it. I tend to see more of them in a larger firm, where you have a practice group. You might have somebody sharing a group where people are being assigned to blog per time to time along the way. The challenge that can get into them is, what is the purpose in that larger firm? Is it to demonstrate a group expertise that, “We have deep expertise in this particular area, and so we’re very capable of representing larger businesses, or other organizations.”? In which case, they do work.

I can remember going all the way back to the early days of blogging, in which Davis Wright Tremaine launched one getting reports from the FTC in DC, as soon as they came out, probably less effectively than they do today, gave it on to a blog to demonstrate their expertise there. I think Davis Wright even came out in another blog, where they were going to be representing a media company, and the media company said, “We’re paying you a lot of money, how are you going to keep us up to speed on certain issues?” They said, “We’ll launch a blog.” And they did that.

What they were doing was demonstrating their expertise, but even taking it a step further and working to demonstrate it was for their clients. It’s a great way to basically say, “We built this for you. We didn’t build it for us. We didn’t build it to get attraction, we built it for you.” It makes a lot of sense to do that sort of thing. You’re building a library of information based on what’s in the heads of this group of people. Now, it also can take the weight off of people’s shoulders. I think blogging sometimes can be scary. Nobody wants to take on the onus of it, so we get a group.

The problem with that is that doesn’t necessarily play out that way. Sometimes it does, extraordinarily well, where people get excited about it. That is certainly happened. Dan Harris might leave the China Law blog, but there’s other people contributing. Dan’s a little bit of a tyrant as far as,”You blog or you will leave.” There’s other firms that have had blogs, I’ve seen Proskauer’s have some great group blogs. The blog in Minneapolis on issues of marks, worked extraordinarily well and even had lateral hires coming so that they could have the opportunity to write on that blog. That was a group blog.

The other challenge we run into is, does anybody remain as passionate about it? Is it what makes them tick? Is it what they’re excited to learn about? Is it excited about what they’re going to be recognized on? If it’s not, then it becomes a chore to write content. Then it’s this person’s job to write content, this person’s job to write content, this person should have to write content. I think there are some great blogs that are done that way where you do have people to sign in an editorial calendar. If you have people go out and teach blogging that don’t really blog, they’ll always talk about having an editorial calendar so that you can build your blog.

Just an awful lot of other great bloggers that will blog when the moment is right. They’ll blog when they have issues that they think need to be addressed, or that a question came up. It could come from anywhere. It could come at a conference. It could come from a prospective client bringing up an issue, all of those types of things. You have all of that to be thinking about. Is it going to take off? Or could it be a chore? The other thing that sometimes you have to think about is, how is it going to engage into the conversation that’s out there?

What I mean by that is, if I reference somebody in my blog, and they’ll see that because of the way that I’ll do that, then they’re recognizing me, and they’re more likely to cite me at some point in time, but your group blog maybe. Or maybe they won’t do that. Will they cite this group of lawyers on that particular blog? Or they represent it, or will they cite an individual lawyer? It gets to be a challenge. It can become a real challenge, in that regard. You have issues of firm politics. Do we want to let this lawyer do a blog? As much as firms want people to build their own book of business and want them to build a name, when push comes to shove, there have been stories that I’m familiar with. “Why do they get to do a blog? Why are they building all this reputation? Why are they doing this first on behalf of the firm?”

Now, maybe what they don’t recognize is that a lawyer might be bringing in $2 to $4 million a year and distributing it among other people. There’s lawyers that are bringing in $4 to $6 million a year and distributing that among other people that wouldn’t be coming in by virtue of the blog, but things can get somewhat petty. I’m biased towards an individual blog. At the same time, I recognize that we probably have more of the large firm blogs than anybody in the world. I’m not going to take a shot at our clients which we have done extremely well with their blogs, but I’m biased towards what I’ve seen them do for individual lawyers.

I see a lawyer like Hilary Bricken on cannabis law really become a rock star by who she is. I’ve seen Staci Riordan that before the word “fashion law” was known, start a fashion law blog. She was at Fox Rothschild back then and has since moved on to Nixon Peabody and leading the practice group there. If it wasn’t her blog, she wouldn’t be where she is today. If it wasn’t Hilary Bricken’s blog, she wouldn’t be where she has today. Now, if you take a lawyer like Tanya Forsheit, that was in Proskauer and she launched– might be the first privacy law blog, when privacy wasn’t that big an issue as far as being covered by lawyers.

She did get other lawyers in the firm, but she drove that and made a name for herself. She’s since gone on to two other firms and developed a national reputation by who she is. It might be a little bit easier to be in the group to say, “Okay, I’m protected. I don’t need to worry about blogging all the time. I have other people that can do this,” but then can be a little bit harder to make a name, unless you’re really going to be driven, and you want to be the star. I will ask people, if they’re sitting around a room planning out the strategy for their blog, for a practice group, who’s the person that’s got the most passion? Who’s driven by this subject?

I can’t see them, or at least until we started all using Zoom now. We didn’t have screens. I’m sure they were looking around, and I think there might have been some blank faces, and that’s not necessarily good. That you’re blogging just to put up content, which is good, but this isn’t content marketing. This is blogging. This is to build a reputation. This is to build a name for yourself. This is to engage. It’s almost like a conversation by engaging others. I think that individual names, individual blogs can cause that to go faster. What might we see over time? I could see having individual blogs by lawyers being aggregated and curated into sections at a law firm.

What does that mean? Well, that means if I’m in a firm with 1,000 lawyers, and I have my own individual blog, “This Is Kevin O’Keefe”, whatever, and the aggregation of content will recognize that this post is about a privacy issue in California. Boom, it goes there. It goes into that publication. That starts to get pretty slack because then everybody has got their blog, and it can automatically be recognized by the machines, and the machines will take that content to that place. That content would also go if I’m in a particular practice group, it would display that content on a website at a practice group.

It will display the content in a global magazine for the firm, so Shepperd Mullin now has one, which curates all their blogs. It curates all the COVID issues, so you’ll think about that. The lawyers are blogging on disparate blogs, I think over 30 or 35 blogs, most of them are blogging on COVID, but they might be blogging on some tech issues. They might be blogging on some other issues: climate, they might be blogging on health issues, all relating to COVID on different blogs. Well, now they’re all coming together into one place so that people can subscribe to that information. It becomes a body of information.

I think we could see more of that, and I think LexBlog is going to try to facilitate that to the extent that firms want to do that thing. You have your blog, you just log in and you write and where the contents go on to the disparate platforms. If you need to have something that is publishing to an individual, California Defamation Law blog, well, then it goes there, but it makes it very easy to start to move content around, rather than to get stuck into these silos and then just use a sophisticated publishing platform. It’s not like you’re publishing onto a website where things might be more hamstrung or require more money to do these types of things.

Another reason that I’m going back and forth a little bit on these things that we talked about before with a group blog, is that updating clients is really, “Okay, we’re going to keep you up to speed on this type of issue,” and have that information fed out to them and that group expertise. I think, my opinion, and when lawyers talk to me, I like the idea of an individual blog. Maybe another lawyer too in the firm that wants to join in. You have practical issues too, not practical as to the firm that may not be thinking the same way 10 years from now, issue might be, “Who takes this blog when, if you leave?”

Most of the firms today are thinking, “We don’t want the blog when you leave. We don’t want to have to maintain it. We don’t want anything to do it.” Some firms can take a short-sighted approach. “We don’t like you anymore. You used to be our friend, and we don’t like you, and we’d like to hurt you, and therefore, this blog that you started, while you were here is copyrighted in the firm name, and it stays.” A little bit short-sighted because the word gets out to clients of the firm and the people in the business community, and it makes the firm look petty.

I’ve heard that from a senior person at US Bank in Minneapolis, where they were surprised that somebody didn’t get to take their blog, and they asked me about it, and they thought it was rather funny that a firm wouldn’t. If a lawyer is publishing a book, and the firm steals it when they leave. I think that that’s the word that they used. There is going to be the practical issue and that tension where you’re going to say, “I’d like to make this my blog and build my reputation.” If it even gets to that, they have lawyers that continue their name and build a reputation on an ongoing basis by starting an individual blog, but I would probably go to the individual blog.

If I’m a chief marketing officer in a firm working in business development of the firm, and  it’s just me, and I’ve never managed business development and marketing in a firm, then I’d be thinking about looking for those rock stars in the firm and the future rock stars in the firm because if you have a 1,000 lawyers, there isn’t going to be 1,000 that are built to do business development and marketing. They might be 70. Well, some of those 70 are going to use the Internet. I’m going to damn well empower them to bring in a lot of money through the Internet, and I may not equalize them by having an individual blog or a group blog on a particular issue that they are passionate about, and I’m going to put them on that blog instead of nine people that don’t have that much passion on the issue.

The last thing on that point is individuals get cited like crazy. We take that blog, and that lawyer’s starting to write and write to reference leaders in the industry, whether legal, or business, or industry people, and all of a sudden they’re building a heck of a name. They’re going out speaking, they’re bringing in work, and that work benefits everybody in the firm. I would challenge firms to think about that also to empower the individual bloggers. Then if it’s worrisome to the firm that we’re empowering those individual bloggers, can we aggregate and curate that content into a publication, so similar to what Sheppard Mullins did with the pandemic and COVID virus.

Then that way, you’re bringing it all together, still; you could bring it together on the website, but you empower the individual. That’s basically all I want to cover for today. We have 41 more subjects to cover. This thing will go on every weekday, about eleven o’clock Pacific Time, and we’ll get it transcribed, we’ll put it up on YouTube, at some point to get this thing together, maybe make a book out of it, to bring some sense to legal blogging from some of the nonsensical information that might be out there. Again, on Blog For Good is a campaign where lawyers are stepping up to the plate and really caring for people in the time of the pandemic.

This goes from the largest firms in the world to the sole practitioners and those lawyers that are blogging on the issues that people need help on; people, corporations, consumers, small business people, you name it, other lawyers, government agencies, they all need help to decipher the issues that are coming through, and lawyers are sharing that information on blogs. They’re doing it in space, oftentimes 300 posts a day. We’re only seeing a fraction of that as we continue to add more aggregation. If you want to contribute, let us know. It’s either $39 a month, or it’s free; Lexblog will supplement this entire cause.

As I said before, that content is going to be aggregated and curated out on a state level through relationships with the Bar Associations and the Bar Associations will announce the opportunities for more lawyers to begin to contribute. At the same time, LexBlog is going from one large firm to another as we go from State Bar Association to another because not all of the law blogs from the firms that are being published are being aggregated into LexBlog, which then can form the shape of the Blog For Good, which is running on our Coronavirus Legal Daily site, and so all the content that’s being aggregated from all the firm’s come in there and that all comes in for free.

It’s the least we could do, having the technology to be able to help lawyers help people during these pretty tough times that are probably going to continue, for a good way to go. So that is Blog For Good. Hope you guys all have a great day. Bye.

Sophia Singh

I am a senior at Fordham University Rose Hill in the Bronx, majoring in political science and English with a history minor. I plan to attend law school after graduating. My writing on tenants’ rights in New York was inspired by my own…

I am a senior at Fordham University Rose Hill in the Bronx, majoring in political science and English with a history minor. I plan to attend law school after graduating. My writing on tenants’ rights in New York was inspired by my own experiences listening and learning from Bronx residents.

You can reach me at ssingh77@fordham.edu