It’s a new calendar year, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on what defined the LexBlog Community—and much of the world and legal industry—in 2021. We started this retrospective look back in 2020, but this year we also want to look forward and—more importantly—see what our community predicts for the year ahead.
In this post, we’ll cover:
To supplement this report, we’ll also host a webinar on Wednesday, January 19th discussing its findings—and we’d love to see you there.
When we take a retrospective look at the past year, it’s easy to tell right away what the big legal stories were because our community penned countless posts covering these topics from a variety of angles. From a new president to an Olympic year to an overhaul of the stock market, there was plenty to talk and blog about.
Policies and legislation enacted by the Biden administration
As the year began and a new president was ushered in, the first thing our legal bloggers focused on was how the change in administration would affect various legal sectors. But did those predictions come true—what did Biden accomplish (or not accomplish) in 2021?
Harris Bricken’s Akshat Divatia is one blogger who, in 2020, wrote on what we should expect to see from Biden in the immigration department. This offers a great opportunity to see if those expectations were met, which is exactly what Divatia writes about on The HB Blog. With the appointment of a new DHS and signing three executive orders out the gate, the progress is there even if it’s slow.
“Many of President Biden’s early immigration actions have served to restore previously existing policies that were reversed by the previous administration…I am confident the Biden administration will continue to make steady progress toward returning the United States to its position as the beacon of hope described in 1883 by Emma Lazarus.”
“The passage of the IIJA provides exciting opportunities for construction industry professionals, not just in the traditional sectors of road, bridge, and rail repair and construction, but also emerging sectors such as climate resiliency and electric vehicle infrastructure. The full distribution of IIJA funds and its impact on the construction industry will only gradually be felt by the industry over the next five years, as the administration plans to focus on determining and funding “shovel-worthy” projects in addition to funding ‘shovel-ready’ projects.”
Rioters storm Capitol Hill
Perhaps the most memorable and equally historical event took place within the first few days of 2021 with the United States Capitol riot attacks. Scott Greenfield covered this in his usual fiery manner on Simple Justice.
“Spare me the excuses, the comparisons, the rationalizations. There is no excuse. Trump incited an attack on Congress. The Capitol was breached with the cooperation of the police. The House and Senate were ransacked by people carrying Trump and confederate flags. It’s not about the building, but about the integrity of our Republic.”
“At least four states—California, Colorado, New York and North Dakota – prohibit employers from firing employees for engaging in lawful off-duty activities. So, verbal support of litigation challenging the election or peaceful participation in the rally preceding the insurrection could not be a reason to terminate the employee in such states. But if the employee engaged in any violent conduct or broke other laws—such as storming the Capitol building or possibly even inciting or threatening violence on social media—that could cross the line into unlawful activity for which they could be fired.”
Vaccines and the continued conversation around COVID-19
Aside from a change in politics and policies, the legal conversation around COVID and masking and testing from the previous year evolved into one about vaccines and mandates.
Could employers make vaccination mandatory? If you’ve tested positive, do you still need to get vaccinated?
Vaccination was a tricky subject, but in May the EEOC updated its guidelines to allow for vaccine incentives. In a neatly bulleted post, Daniel Pasternak from Squire Patton Boggs covered exactly what employers could and could not do when it came to incentivizing employees on Employment Law Worldview.
“Employers may offer its employees the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the employer or an agent of the employer, so long as it voluntary…and so long as the opportunity is offered to all employees and not only certain groups.”
Shipman & Goodwin’s Dan Schwartz is always great when it comes to Q&A type posts, and this one in early August was especially relevant as the Delta variant was emerging and the topic around vaccination continued. He turned a news segment he appeared on into a great, informative post on Connecticut Employment Law Blog.
“Mandates don’t solve all the problems an employer has in dealing with the pandemic but it solves several including dealing with quarantines, contact tracing, symptom tracking, travel restrictions, PTO and more…It may not be for every employer but it’s a good solution for some. Time to think about it.”
And lastly, on the topic of the pandemic, Michael Bertoncini put together a piece one year after healthcare workers had to start meeting the demands of the pandemic on Jackson Lewis’ Healthcare Workplace Update. He looked at five questions for the future when COVID is no longer such a pertinent issue.
“Some healthcare systems have reported strong remote work performance by some of their back-office functions. Does this suggest a benefit to permanent work from home arrangements in those departments and converting their current workspace for clinical use? If so, employers need to plan for possible turnover among those employees who would prefer to come to the work site on a regular basis.”
Reddit users come together to buy GameStop stocks
The mass organization of a group on Reddit to buy up GameStop stocks and disrupt the intended shorting took the internet by storm. As there always are when complexities of the stock market come up, there were a lot of questions.
“Until last week, it appeared that GameStop was on its way to becoming yet another target of the activist short-selling machine. This was the week that investors decided to fight back…The fact that Redditers decided to take matters into their own hands in the face of yet another short-seller onslaught shows the dangerous consequences of policy inaction when it comes to enacting rules that safeguard against manipulative short selling in the social media era.”
Any good blogger should be keeping their eye on current trends and thinking about how it can relate to their industry. Rob Wiley P.C.’s Julie St. John did just that and applied this event to unions to illustrate the power of the collective working together on Texas Employment Lawyer.
“What happened with GameStop illustrates the power individuals can have when they work together…it is the same principal unions have stood behind in the workplace for decades. One worker standing up alone has very little power over an employer. But, when workers stand together, their collective power to make change is much greater.”
Concerns and legislation surrounding Tokyo “2020” Olympics
After an unprecedented year, the “2020” Olympics were postponed and finally held in Tokyo, though no fans would be in attendance. Even in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, there was still concern and disagreement from the host country and its citizens, though contractual and financial obligations would push the games ahead.
“Possible breach of contract claims are at the heart of Japan’s persistence to hold the Games. Even the one-year delay of the Games created financial penalties for Japanese organizers…Even though the COVID-19 pandemic was not foreseeable at the time of contract formation, Japan is committed to hosting the Games, pandemic or otherwise. No amount of money or time can save Japanese officials from hosting the Games. Even if the Games are wildly unpopular among the Japanese sponsors, they must go on.”
“Currently, men and women representing Team USA in the same sport can receive different compensation, which can result in a gender-based pay disparity…Introducing the bill, Senator Capito explained, ‘[I]t is only right that the women competing for the United States in global athletic competitions receive the same kind of pay and benefits as their male counterparts. This is an issue we can address together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans.'”
NCAA allows student-athletes to profit from name and likeliness
Student-athletes had previously never been allowed to profit off their status as an athlete—even though their universities could. In a short but sweet post, Fox Rothschild’s Michael Burke laid out the massive change in name, image, likeliness laws on the blog, Above the Fold.
“It will be interesting to see how NIL laws change the college landscape. Recruiting is one of many areas where NIL laws may have an effect. For example, a highly touted prospect with endorsements deals on the horizon might be swayed from School A to School B if School B is in a state with a less restrictive NIL law.”
Britney Spears conservatorship
The Britney Spears conservatorship case dominated media headlines for months. With the new interest came some confusion—like what exactly a conservatorship/guardianship is.
“It would be a shame if this single case, a first exposure to conservatorship and guardianship for many Americans, creates a negative attitude towards adult guardianship generally. While adult guardianship would certainly benefit from reform and additional monitoring, any reduction or elimination of guardianship systems would put the most vulnerable at risk.”
An interest in NFTs skyrockets
The growth and interest of NFTs bled into the mainstream this year. With policies and laws still developing around the matter, Louis Lehot and Catherine Zhu put together a useful checklist for those looking to create NFT marketplaces on Louis Lehot’s Medium Blog.
“If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that technology paradigms shift faster than the speed of law, policy and regulation. While contracts between two parties can be made and amended in a split second, the legal regime that governs does not always keep pace.”
What does the future hold? No one can say for sure, but you can make an educated guess when you’re an expert in the field. As the days dwindle, our community has blogged about what they think is in store for law in 2022.
Implications of Biden’s Build Back Better if it passes
The Build Back Better Bill has passed the House of Representatives, all that’s left is the Senate. If passed, the bill will be funded by large corporations and wealthy Americans in higher tax brackets. For business owners, John Milikowsky writes on Milikowsky Tax Law Blog, this means a probably increase in audit rates.
“Increasing taxes on large corporations and the wealthiest Americans does not cover the full proposed spending budget for the bill. 2022 will most likely see an increase in IRS audit rates if the bill passes to cover the remaining costs of the Build Back Better Act…This means the agency will start looking more heavily at the small to mid-sized businesses for late or unfiled tax filings, misclassified workers, and more. The fines and penalties associated with audit findings are lofty for business owners as IRS audit findings fund the new proposed Act. ”
Continuation of hybrid/remote work
And what could the new year hold for the work environment? It’s hard to say, but Loio turned a recent webinar into a blog post, highlighting what some upcoming changes to the legal landscape in 2022 could be.
“Yes, remote work practices are still a trend. The legal report by Thomson Reuters has confirmed that remote workflows will grow in 2022, whether out of necessity (cold weather and new COVID-19 variants) or as an employee benefit. Lawyers need new tools and strategies to evaluate, review, and coach teammates. What’s most important is to recreate face-to-face connections online.”
The team over at Seyfarth Shaw’s Workplace Law and Strategy also touched on the need to configure a healthy working environment when operating in a hybrid model.
“As more and more businesses embrace flexibility, we are seeing reports of creative solutions to boost personal engagement and foster collaboration and team-building, such as ‘keeping in touch’ days (where all staff or certain teams meet in the office on agreed days), making smaller satellite offices available in the suburbs, and more in-person training and celebrations.”
A potential revisiting of Roe v. Wade following Texas’s abortion ban
The passage of Texas’s Heartbeat Act sparked outcry and protests around the nation as the lingering fear of a loss of reproductive rights came true. Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser author the Women’s Rights NY blog and Saswat Pattanayak did a fantastic job covering the “Rally for Abortion Justice” in New York and the strong opposition to the ban.
“Pascale Bernard of Planned Parenthood was outraged at the endless saga of systemic racism and sexism: ‘History is repeating itself. Our foremothers have been here before. We have an obligation to be here for the women of Texas….Abortion care is health care. We are here today to rewrite history.'”
A historical ruling will follow next year as the Supreme Court has the potential to uphold a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and effectively challenge Roe v. Wade. Stuart Gerson looks to this case and the implications it will have on abortion rights on Epstein Becker’s Commercial Litigation Update.
“Given the division of views revealed in the case, pessimists as to the continued survival of Roe and Casey will find little reason to change their predictions. We likely won’t know about that until well into next year.”
A steady increase in unionization and labor activism
The pandemic brought to light a lot of unfair worker treatment, which in turn led to a massive increase in union organization and other union-adjacent activity. Jon Hyman‘s candid piece on the matter, partially in response to a broadcasted long-form exposé on unions, points out that the greater thing to note alongside the rise of unions is that they’re also winning.
“In fact, I believe we are on the cusp of the next great era of union organizing, spurred on by the pandemic. Indeed, data compiled by Richard Berman, the founder of the Center for Union Facts, support my hypothesis. Additionally, and as Berman further points out, ‘Most current HR professionals have no history in dealing with a partial workforce rebellion.'”
“In addition, the Board is considering making it easier for unions to organize workers by giving union organizers more access to employees, changing the election process to make it more difficult for employers to share their views on unionization, and allowing unions to organize small units or singular departments (a/k/a “micro-units”) versus having to organize larger groups of employees.”
More vaccine clarity in January
Early January, the Supreme Court has set oral arguments that will hopefully bring more clarity to vaccination mandates in the workplace. As it is now, uncertainty and speculation fill the air, Larry Perlman and Kate Pamperin talk about on Foley Lardner’s Labor & Employment Law Perspectives.
“This highly unusual development indicates that the Court desires to provide definitive answers as to whether the federal government’s vaccine mandates should be stayed or remain in effect while the various appellate courts analyze the merits of the mandates.”
Some threats to the economy in the coming months
The pandemic has upset the economy to say the least. It doesn’t look any better for 2022, where three key threats will be looming according to Kevin LaCroix. Supply-chain disruption, labor shortages and economic inflation are all expected in the months ahead, he says on the D&O Diary.
“Even if these various economic factors prove to be temporary, they are still going to be affecting companies in the short term, which could create both operating and litigation risk for many companies. The larger concern is what might happen if these economic factors prove to be more enduring. Many of these issues are going to play out during 2022, with potentially serious implications.”
Federal marijuana reform
“I am drawn to notion that, if the Biden team concludes that Congress is unlikely to get much (if anything) done on this front in 2022, it might look for “safe” executive action that serves as a political winner in this space. And, as I see it, a clemency initiative focused around certain marijuana offenders — maybe not one as robust as urged by many advocates, but still impactful — could be a huge political winner.”
We can measure the year in stories told and what everyone was talking about—but, unique to LexBlog, we can look back on the year with some fun data and stats from our community. With a network of over 31,000 bloggers and 1800 blogs, we can get our hands on numbers that do a good job reflecting on the legal community as a whole.
The busiest blog networks
With four out of the five of our busiest blogging firms have over 20 blogs with us—and then you have Marler Clark who is churning out multiple posts daily—it’s no surprise that they compromise the top five organizations with the most blog posts. Norton Rose Fulbright leads our community—barely—with 2,045 to Marler Clark’s 2,031. Squire Patton Boggs, Jackson Lewis and Mayer Brown follow closely behind, with 1,569, 1,524 and 1,167 posts respectively.
Total posts throughout the year
We had a little spike in blog posts in march as it meant one-year since the COVID pandemic hit the U.S. full-force. Our bloggers were really consistent throughout the year, averaging 5,224 posts each month—which comes out to a little over 174 blog posts published every single day.
Topics of conversation
Employment & labor leads our community as usual, but it was exciting to see a substantial jump in the international sector compared to last year. Out of the 62,000 posts that came through our community this year, almost 8,000 of them touched on employment & labor topics.
The big subjects of interest
A lot happened this year—as you read above. But the big stories weren’t the only things being consistently talked about. Here’s a helpful way to visualize some of the popular terms used throughout 2021. It’s no surprise that COVID dominated the blogging topics—as it probably will continue to for the foreseeable future—making up over 1/6 of the posts published. Biden, Supreme Court, vaccination, Twitter and union were all close behind. You can view the chart in more detail here.
One of the most beneficial things about a community is being able to look to others to improve oneself. The intel from peers who are successful is advantageous—and sharing those insights is what contributes to the success of the legal industry as a whole.
So, what are legal professionals looking to do in 2022 when it comes to business development, social presences and blogging strategy?
Digital publishing in 2022
First off, they’re looking to invest even more time than before in digital publishing.
2020 brought about a digital boom as people spent more and more time online. That trend isn’t going away anytime soon, so it only makes sense that the legal space should look to invest time where the general public is spending it.
And as everyone looks to put forth their best effort in the space, it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can to stand out.
Fiona Ong, Partner at Shawe Rosenthal, has goals for the new year in terms of reaching a bigger audience.
“We want to figure out how to reach an even broader audience with our e-communications—and how to better distinguish ourselves from the multitude of other firms putting out similar content.”
Where the industry is going in 2022
There’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes to the ever-evolving world that is the internet. Some social platforms peak while others plateau, and it’s smart to stay ahead of the curve and invest your time in the space that’s right for you.
Podcasting and video seem to be the two most popular formats that the legal community wants to invest their time in. Instagram and LinkedIn are close behind, with Facebook and Twitter right after.
The best people to ask about what the future may have in store are those who operate in the space. So—not in terms of legal cases or stories, but in terms of marketing—what do those who know the space better than anyone else have to say about it for 2022?
Walker & O’Neill’s Jim Walker sees blogs and podcasts overlapping as they continue to be the best way to build a lawyers’ reputation.
“Law blogs will continue to be the most effective and inexpensive tool to market a lawyer’s practice. 2022 will see be more and more lawyers finding an audience for law podcasts which will be incorporated into the blogging format.”
And on another note, Stuart Kaplow predicts that we’ll see some innovation in terms of business development strategies.
“It will grow vertically (more of the same) and horizontally (into spaces that might not heretofore have been thought of as appropriate for attorney marketing).”
Reflecting on some highlights from 2021
Looking back is one way to prepare for what lies ahead. Taking a retrospective look at past successes so you know what to repeat can be one of the most valuable things you do.
Walter McCrokle, Bradley’s Marketing Technology and Digital Strategist, shares his proudest moments within the firm from 2021.
“We have had several authors and practice areas who have been awarded thought leadership recognitions from various publishers/distributors including National Law Review and JD Supra. But some of the best stories I get to hear are when an author gets a hot lead or call from a potential client and ultimately earns their business (measurable, monetary ROI!!!).”
Anne Ayeni, the Director of Client Services at Ogletree Deakins, reflected on the year and the good her firm did serving the community amid the pandemic.
“We received praise from clients on timely, accurate, helpful pandemic guidance—plus popular interactive content on minimum wage changes.”
Making the switch to WordPress’s block editor
Bloggers on our platform might be used to the Classic Editor, but we’ve started the transitional phase over to the Block Editor which we’ll continue to roll out in 2022. This change will be accompanied by trainings at request as well as some informational videos to help make the change as smooth as possible.
Our Director of Technology Scott Fennell wrote on four big reasons we’re making this change and how we’re looking to do it as simply as possible.
“An interesting note about the Block Editor is that it offers such a wide array of layout and formatting options, that most of our work is to remove elements from it. Our customers thrive when they’re providing unique insights about the law, not when they’re toggling a color-picker or configuring a multi-column layout.”
Continued changes to our websites and products
We capped off the latter half of the year by officially launching our newest and most sleek blog design—Blog Pro. This product came together as as result of achieving the best for design elements and Google Core Web Vital measurements. To build on that momentum, we’ve updated our product and home pages for the LexBlog site. As 2022 continues, we’ll be continuously improving upon our products and online presence to continue giving you the best experience possible.
As Director of Customer Experience Brian Biddle noted, Blog Pro opened our eyes to improving other aspects fo the company.
“It’s making us rethink the way we look at our other products. I think it’s important to allow one realm of the company to impact others, so that’s really exciting to see.”
Expect to see more of 99 Park Row and This Week in Legal Blogging
It seems like our company blog has been around forever, but 99 Park Row didn’t launch until May of 2021. You could say it’s still in its early stages, but we’ve got plenty planned over there as we make strides into the new year. It’s allowed us a great space to feature team voices when it comes to LexBlog internal news as well as digital publishing insights altogether.
Our other medium, our podcast This Week in Legal Blogging, is up to episode 53. We’re excited to continue featuring blogging success stories—but you can expect a wider array of content in 2022. And if you happen to know anyone who’d make for a great guest, you can always email our Editor and Producer of the show.
The growth of the Open Legal Blog Archive
LexBlog is backing the Open Legal Blog Archive, which is aiming to properly preserve and index the surplus of available blogs online. Currently, the project has 1,800 legal blogs written by more than 31,000 authors. That number will only increase as we head further into 2022.
The Archive will always be free and open to the public to offer visibility to bloggers, assist in research and general awareness. Bob Ambrogi wrote more at LawSites following his interview with Kevin O’Keefe on This Week in Legal Blogging.
“While the archive will benefit those who read and research blogs, it will also benefit blog publishers by raising their profiles, O’Keefe says. Having their content in the more-structured environment of an archive will make it more accessible to a broader audience.”
Feel free to submit your legal blog for inclusion.