Gerald Maatman is a partner in Seyfarth‘s Labor and Employment practice, specializing in class action suits. He has handled countless class action litigation challenges and represented clients in some of the most significant court cases in corporate America. He has also been teaching Trial Practice and Trial Advocacy Law at Northwestern University for thirty years. Gerald additionally authors the legal blog Workplace Class Action Blog and is editor-in-chief of the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, which has been published every year since 2003. Outside of the law, Gerald is a Civil War buff who is currently writing a book concerning that chapter of history.
Gerald discusses the work that goes into the annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report and how it helps provide inspiration for blog. He describes his blogging philosophy and how 2020 has impacted his blogging subjects and work in class action lawsuits. He then discusses why he started blogging and why anyone who isn’t needs to catch up. Gerald details how the Workplace Class Action Blog gained traction in the early days of blogging and how things have changed since. He discusses the most important part of a blog today, how he coordinates with his co-authors and schedules for himself. The episode closes with Gerald by offering advice for future bloggers.
Here’s the full episode and, down below, we have a selection of the best exchanges:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do in your practice?
Sure. I defend employers, typically in class actions: very bet-the-company types of cases from coast to coast. At any one time, probably 50% of my work is in California and the rest is all over the country. I’m a partner in both our New York office and our Chicago office, and I’m also a professor of law at Northwestern; I teach trial practice. I have a passion for writing and speaking and simply communicating with people, so I spend a good chunk of my time thinking about issues in the law issues and issues in the cases that either I’m confronting or the clients are confronting. I try to blog about it and share some of those thoughts with others.
You’ve described the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report as a book, and it really is. This year’s edition is 850 pages; that’s a lot of work.
It’s a lot of work. We live and breathe it 24/7. Every morning, we review every lawsuit filed in the United States that has class implications. And we look at every ruling either in a federal or state court to check it again at noon and then in the evening. And we have a team team with responsibility for different areas of the country and different subjects. We create analyses of each ruling, each class action settlement. We put it in a database and begin to run trends and try to identify those trends.
I’m sure the report provides a lot of fodder for the blog.
Yes, it does. My theory behind the blog is:“If I were a reader what would I find interesting?” And that controls how often we blog. There might be three posts in a day or there might be one in a three day period. It simply depends on what’s going on in the world of law. I’ve always thought that a great rule of thumb is, “Can I read this and, in one minute, understand what the issue is, and be more educated as a result of interacting with that blog? Can I learn something from it?” And so we try to make a short, sweet point, and engage people in terms of that level of analysis.
Why did you start blogging? How has it served you since starting?
I remember law before the Internet, and what I learned in terms of servicing clients is that the speed of law went from the dark ages to warp speed in terms of having to be responsive, having to deal with things. So I was trying to figure out “How can I be the best lawyer I can be in terms of being able to solve a problem for a client?” And that involved leveraging technology, using technology, and then actually trying to figure out answers to problems and questions before somebody even asked. And that’s where the blog idea came up.
I decided I was going to talk about things that haven’t happened to a particular company but might happen, and what occurs in court and what are solutions to avoid this or if you get caught in it, how to deal with it. And so the blog came about in terms of what I would call preventive lawyering. “Read this account for it, and you can avoid it.” And so it kind of started there and then dovetailed with the class action report and got bigger and bigger and bigger. Now, blogging, going on Twitter and LinkedIn, and posting things is just like breathing air. It’s the natural part of the day. It started out as a client service business development but it’s come to represent something more.
For me it’s about you connect to people. How do you engage with them and create new friendships and relationships? How do you learn from them. To me, blogging and reading blogs is about learning and creating a better awareness, and so I really like it. It creates a community of interest where everyone benefits. Building expertise and building your brand, teaching and mentoring are all reasons to blog. To me, if you’re not blogging, you’re behind the curve.
What advice do you have for future bloggers?
What you’re about to embark on is not a 100yd dash, it’s a marathon. You have to be committed for the long term. You can’t measure your success on a per blog basis, you have to measure it over time in terms of engaging an audience and building that audience. You start small, and just keep doing it and stay at it and there will be value in that. You’re going to become a better lawyer and account of it, both in the way you communicate in the way you solve problems for people and you confront problems and craft solutions. I’m quite a fan and cheerleader of someone who wants to engage in blogging.
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