Charles Sartain is the leader of Gray Reed‘s Energy Litigation Practice Group, focusing on complex energy disputes in Texas and Louisiana. He represents oil and gas producers and investors, midstream transportation operators, and mineral and royalty owners. Charles additionally handles commercial disputes for health care providers, as well as other sects of business law. He is the author of Energy & The Law, a blog focused on legal updates in the energy industry.
Charles sat down with Bob Ambrogi to discuss what his practice focuses on, where his work is focused, and the culture of the energy industry, particularly the legal side. He also goes into why and how he started his blogging, his blogging style, building a readership, the impact of his blog on his work and influence, advocacy on the blog, bringing associates onto the blog, and how he finds things to write about. The conversation wraps up discussing the impact of the blog in his business life and advice for people getting started in blogging
Here’s the full episode and, down below, we have a selection of the best exchanges:
Before we talk about your blog, tell us about your practice.
Well, I’m an oil and gas litigator, really more of a general commercial litigator with a focus on the energy sector which is primarily oil and gas. I do some health care as well, but we represent mostly (but not exclusively) producers, operators, administrative companies, investors, and promoters that kind of operate the run-of-the-mill oil and gas company. I started in the industry as an in-house lawyer then decided that litigation was more fun than writing contracts, so I drifted off into litigation; that’s what I really liked.
It looks like you started your blog in 2012. How did you get started with blogging? What motivated you to want to start a blog?
My blogging muse came from a gentleman named Cordell Parvin. He’s a practicing lawyer who turned his business into helping other lawyers make rain. We were involved in a little program with Cordell, and he said “If you really want to get your expertise out, you need to blog.” And Cordell and I talked about it for two years. Every time I talked to him I said “yeah, I gotta start a blog, I gotta start a blog.” And he said “If you’re going to do this because you have to do it, you’ll never last. Do it because you want to do it.” So I did a couple and did a couple more and there it is. It helps me keep up with the law because I’m a litigator. It helps me keep up with substantive oil and gas laws. Cordell said “You gotta start doing it regularly,” and now we pretty much turn out one a week.
I’m curious; did you have any writing background other than as a lawyer prior to writing the blog? Any journalism experience?
No. That’s the other thing Cordell taught me. What I learned is writing for a general audience, writing as a bit of an entertainer instead of a purveyor of knowledge is not the same as writing for a judge. You’ve got 600 words. We’re talking Ernest Hemingway here, not William Faulkner. It’s got to be really to the point because they won’t stick around otherwise. I try to put some personality and humor into it; I don’t know what readers think about it, but I try.
Did you do anything in particular to develop a readership or did you just kind of let it happen naturally?
We pretty much let it happen. The firm promoted it, frankly; the marketing people try to get it out there as much as they can. It’s on the back of my business card, and of course, we get readership by Google searches. I’m inclined to think that some people, once they see it there, might start checking on it more frequently to see what’s up. I’m not the only one out there, so I’m sure they do the same thing with others too.
What have you learned about blogging that you might offer as advice to others who are getting started with it?
You have to write about something that you know about. You have to find an audience that wants to hear the topic that you know about. And you have to do it regularly. The hard part is getting into it enough to be committed to doing it regularly. So many blogs get started and kind of run out of gas. And then some other blogs are outstanding, but they haven’t found the audience they need so they don’t have a wide reach, which is unfortunate.
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