This past week, two lawyers contacted me, asking how to be included in the Arizona Attorney Blog Network.

Fortunately, they contacted the right guy. After a few questions and a quick view of what kind of content they were posting, they were listed on our site.

But then I wondered, as I often do: What do those lawyers and law firms get out of the blogging experience? What are their goals for using the medium? And do they feel they’ve been successful?

(I know; I could simply ask them those questions. Well, they really just wanted us to post their content without a lot of jibber-jabber. But maybe next time.)

I admire those lawyers who opt to blog. They not only carve time out of busy practices; they also weather the critique, overt and covert, of others, who insist that blogging is either a time-sink or an ethical minefield—or both.

If you’ve ever wondered about the same issues, and if you think the answer is to abandon blogging, take a look at an interesting post from the U.K. Titled “Are Blogs Any Use to Law Firms?” it examines some of the elements that may make a blog not worth a lawyer’s time.

But if you’re nodding in agreement, you should pause your head-bob to read Joe Reevy’s complete post carefully. No; he’s really not saying that blogging is a waste of time—quite the opposite. Instead, he makes concrete suggestions that may yield more positive results for your legal blog.

If you consider and implement Reevy’s three strategies for success, you will likely see a spike in engagement with your audience. And that—not just increased billings—is what it’s really all about.

Lawyer-Word-Cloud

Keep up with what’s happening at the State Bar Annual Convention by following us on Twitter! Get short, timely messages (including photos, speaker presentations and more) from Arizona Attorney Magazine’s staff. If you, your firm or employer are active on Twitter, just insert the hashtag #azbarcon into all of your Convention tweets to allow them to be read and searched by fellow attendees and the entire legal community.

The Twitter links will take you to updates in our Convention Daily—news items and photos that will appear on the magazine blog, Facebook and Tumblr pages, and in our News Center:

For more detail, click on the image below for gigantification.

Twitter at Convention flier 2014

Letterpress BlogAttorneys looking for a strategic edge in a tough economy should take a few minutes to read how some New Hampshire lawyers are enhancing their practices and raising their profile.

Their solution? Blogging. And the lawyers interviewed by the talented Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association share the reasons that a law blog makes the difference. Here’s part of the story opening:

“‘I thought [blogging] was a great idea, but I figured other people must already be doing it,’” says [attorney Kysa] Crusco. ‘When I went home and did a web search, it turned out that there weren’t many, if any, family law blogs. The nhfamilylawblog.com URL was available, so I reserved it and contacted Lexblog. They got my blog up and running, and I started writing. I was able to see an immediate effect in articles that I posted and the potential clients that were calling for a consultation.’”

Kysa touches on what continues to be a surprise to me, 15 years after the first law blog was launched (though there’s debate on who was first): The surprise that, all these years later, relatively few lawyers write a blog. And that is a missed opportunity.

Let’s examine the necessary elements:

  1. There are 26 tools—if you count every letter of the alphabet.
  2. There is some modicum of writing ability.
  3. There is some practice knowledge.
  4. There is a small (and shrinking) technology aspect.

We already know that lawyers avoid math, not words, and every lawyer I know possesses a large amount of practice knowledge. So … what’s the boggle?

Typically, it comes down to a misunderstanding of strategy or—more particularly—differentiation. Here’s what I mean.

You probably think that potential clients can distinguish you from other lawyers in your practice area because, um, you went to a good law school. Or because you were in the Order of the Coif. Or served as Assistant Managing Editor on your law journal.

Of course, none of that distinguishes you (except to your mom, who always asks what was up with that “Assistant” in your title).

What does distinguish you is something that is wholly unique. No, not your fingerprint or hair whorl. I mean—writing.

The “creating content is hard” worry may be a significant one to you. But remember that more and more people will gauge your abilities not by your resume, but by a smidgen of content on your website. And they will devour that content; if it’s helpful stuff, they will come to you for more.

New Hampshire Bar Association logoThose who want to buy legal services are not seeking a terrific writer, so don’t let that put you off. But they do seek a person behind the website. They want to hear how you think.

A blog can do that. Sure, it takes a commitment of time. But at least it’s not math.

I was particularly intrigued by some of the findings of the New Hampshire Bar:

“To research this article, Bar News reached out to Bar members to submit information about their blogs and we have compiled a selective list. We also have conducted numerous searches on Google—just as many potential clients do—to find New Hampshire lawyers’ articles and blogs. The results were disappointing. There are only a few freestanding blogs offering timely advice that showcase the ability of lawyers to plainly explain current questions of law. Unfortunately, many blogs or articles on law firm websites are either out of date or populated by content designed not for readers, but for search-engine robots.”

blogging cartoon via AMP

Blogging: It’s just not that hard. (click to enlarge.)

I wonder what my results would be if I were to search for Arizona lawyer blogs. This past year, we did start a Blog Network on which any Arizona lawyer may add their link (and where we currently have more than 60). But there must be more out there.

And before you abandon blogging plans as a fad or idea that doesn’t gel with the profession, remember, as Dan Wise writes, “While SEO techniques are helpful in the 21st century world of digital marketing, certain old-fashioned values still apply: Success comes to those who prepare carefully and commit themselves to a strategy for the long haul.”

Sound like you? I thought so. Now, go back and finish that New Hampshire story.

Please contact me if you ever want to talk about blogging. I’m curious how it affects your practice.

Amtrak writing writer residency

On offer: The chance to ride the rails and write about it.

How many of you would like to engage the creative process while never having to consider acquiring life’s annoying essentials, like food and shelter.

If so, there may be a few opportunities for you (and me).

The news stories I link to today not only engage the artist in most of us; they also are perfectly matched to Change of Venue Friday, that casual day when no one really wants to read about the new rules of arbitration (or whatever else is cooking in the legal profession).

So I invite you to kick back and enjoy a vision of yourself as an artiste, accompanied by your own financial backers.

The first story is one you may have seen: Amtrak is looking for writers. That’s right; your benevolent backer would be none other than America’s passenger-railway system.

Here is a news story that explains Amtrak’s plan to plop writers into a cozy berth from which they will trip the light linguistic.

If you’re ready to board that train, here is a link to Amtrak’s own blog, where you can get more information and complete their application. And yes, there is a dining and adult-beverage car (we are writers, are we not?).

(And for you attorneys still hesitant about blogging: Amtrak is blogging, which is the sound of you officially becoming a super-late-adopter.)

Here’s the serious skinny:

“Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.”

“Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.”

Sign me up! (And yes, that means I’m applying.)

If a less rollicking journey is what your writing arm requires, consider Detroit. That’s where a nonprofit called Write a House is creating a unique “writer’s residency.”

As this news story explains, the organization is repairing vacant and blighted homes to give them to writers.

I was intrigued to see that it was an editor at the marvelous Curbed, the real estate site, who was one of the founders of Write a House. Well, if an editor is involved, it must have been well vetted! (No kidding, we editors have got it goin’ on.)

Pertinent info:

“Write A House will accept applications from working, “low-income” writers in the spring, who will be asked to send writing samples and a letter of intent. The judges include former National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, poet Major Jackson, writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton and editor of the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publishing house Sean McDonald. Writers from all over the world, or living just a few miles away, are all encouraged to apply.”

Well, if my Amtrak train makes a stop in Motor City, I’ll stop by your house and we can trade writing stories. In the meantime, let’s apply ourselves!

Have a wonderful—and writerly—weekend.

law-librarians-of-congress-blog-banner

After taking Christmas Day off (a holiday miracle), I continue the Christmas theme today by pointing you to some film reviews from an unlikely source—law librarians.

Specifically, today I point you to the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress. Titled In Custodio Legis, the blog ranges far afield on topics that the librarians think may be engaging to legal readers. And so we get movie reviews.

What makes this post oh-so-timely is that the author decides to provide reviews of Christmas movies. And these are not reviews like many other folks would do them. You know, “If there’s any movie I’d suggest curling up with this season, it’s Miracle on 34th Street.” Not even close.

To get what I mean, here is how the assembled librarians examined that film:

“The film concerns a man named Kris Kringle, who works as a Santa Claus for Macy’s and who, by his shining example, inspires even Mr. Macy and his chief competitor to embrace the spirit of giving during the season. Kris, due to an unfortunate event, ends up being the subject of a competency hearing because he believes he is the real St. Nick!”

“New York State at the time of the movie (immediately after World War II) had several methods for committing individuals who were thought to be a danger to themselves or others. One such procedure was upon the finding of ‘… a judge of a court of record of the city or county, or a justice of the supreme court of the judicial district in which the alleged mentally ill person resides or may be …’. Kris is tried in New York City by a Supreme Court judge (in New York the Supreme Court is not a court of appeals). The local prosecutor represents the State and Kris is represented by his friend, Fred Gayley. The procedures followed in court are not very accurate. Fred is able to convince the court, in part through the sage advice of the judge’s political advisor, to accept the existence of Santa Claus. The issue in dispute then shifts to the validity of Kris’ assertion.”

Do you get the idea? These are reviews that lawyers and judges can sink their teeth into.

Library of Congress logo

Here’s some more:

“The Blog Team suggested Home Alone and Love Actually as other possible candidates. For Home Alone the legal issue would be at what age, if any, does Illinois state law allow children to be home alone. I checked the Illinois code on this point and found that Illinois defined a neglected minor as any child under the age of 14 who is left at home alone unsupervised by a parent or guardian for an unreasonable period of time. However this specific section of the Illinois code, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d) was not passed until 2009—almost 20 years after the movie originally occurred.”

I’ll leave you to discover what they said about Love Actually, and how they remind us that a viewing of Gremlins could be aided by a close reading of The Restatement of Torts.

Read the entire post here.

After you do that, be sure to bookmark the blog, because these are some brilliantly messed up individuals—exactly like many of my favorite people in the law! Merry Christmas Redux.

Bar Association of San Francisco logoThis may be odd, but when I travel for work or otherwise, I enjoy coming across legal news or a legal organization that is compelling or that provides significant value to attorneyslike here or here or here.

Don’t judge.

This week, I’m in San Francisco, and I’m pleased to report that the Bar Association of San Francisco does both those things.

Granted, I’m biased, as I know a few of the folks who run that bar, but I’m often pleased by the work that emanates from their offices. In member engagement, publications and online offerings, they are a leader and worthy of stealing from emulating.

San Francisco Attorney Magazine cover

You can read about the BASF here. But I point you to a few praiseworthy items.

First, here is a BASF initiative that was mentioned at the annual NABE Wednesday morning meeting by the group’s Executive Director, Daniel Burkhardt.

It is called the “Mind the Gap Initiative,” which aims to “provide recent law school graduates who are unemployed or underemployed with training, work experience, mentorship and debt reduction information.” You really need to read about the initiative’s five elements here.

Second, I am blown away by a new blog launched by the BASF. It’s called “Legal By the Bay,” and you should read it (and bookmark it) here.

Legal By the Bay includes constantly changing content, all aggregated in a variety of intuitive categories, including technology, family law, work life balance, dispute resolution and others.

There are many law blogs I enjoy and read regularly. But there are a few that I am routinely jealous of. What Colorado does is one. And now Legal By the Bay is another.

Finally, because I love print as much as digital, let me point you to a great, SF-style magazine story that I’m considering appropriating for our own Arizona Attorney.

The article, happily, is not about a drowsy new statute or regulation. Instead, it explores the trend of lawyers who like to bicycle—either to work or otherwise.

Lawyers in form-fitting Spandex may not seem to be the most appealing idea, but the BASF made it work—and in the process revealed a unique side of its membership.

Well done.

In a future Arizona Attorney, look for our coverage of lawyers who scale mountains, or brave triathlons, or get their own coffee. Just do it.

Youngest-ever barrister Gabrielle Turnquest. How old? She was able to buy a pint just this year.

Youngest-ever barrister Gabrielle Turnquest. How old? She was able to buy a pint just this year.

We just got the news that an 18-year-old is about to become a barrister, the youngest ever. And what did you do this week?

As the story goes, U.S. citizen Gabrielle Turnquest, 18, will become “the youngest person in the history of the English and Welsh legal system to be called to The Bar after passing The Bar Professional Training Course.” Her achievement was formally recognized at a London ceremony yesterday, July 30.

More on that in a bit. But one element that caught my eye was the future she spies for herself. As the university reported, “She is returning to the USA this fall to continue studying towards fulfilling her aspiration of forging a career as a fashion law specialist.”

A fashion law specialist! Though the whole 18-year-old thing is amazing enough, I find Gabrielle’s aspirations pretty enchanting. Don’t we all think there are plenty of (you name the practice niche) lawyers practicing already? Do we need another to tout that traditional practice as a faux goal?

How many new lawyers try to convince themselves that they have a passion—PASSION!—for discovery and document review, or parking-structure zoning, or some other category that may make a fine living but that likely does not stir the blood?

(Before I get angry missives from attorneys who do exactly those things, let me make clear: Those are wonderful practice areas. But did you really (really?) imagine way back on your first day of law school that you would spend your life billing all those hours for your fertilizer and feed practice? Methinks not.)

And fashion law may not be a pie-in-the-sky dream. One of my favorite new blogs to relish is titled The Fashion Law. It is written by Julie Zerbo, who describes the blog as “one of the leading authoritative sources dedicated to the field of fashion law and the business of fashion. It also serves as a showcase of emerging and established design talent.”

If you are interested in who’s suing whom in the fashion world (and more), The Fashion Law may be the leading authoritative source.

It’s a marvelous mashup of many areas of law we all took in law school, plus a little Project Runway and What Not To Wear—which is exactly the wonderful career I wish for Ms. Turnquest.

Fashion Law Blog 3

That’s right: Fashion and law

She is graduating from The University of Law, of which I was not familiar. The university is a relative legal newcomer. As it describes itself:

“The University of Law is the largest provider of professional legal education and training in Europe with centres in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Guildford, Manchester and York. Previously The College of Law, we were granted university title in November 2012.”

More information about the university is here.

And here is the university’s press release:

A University of Law graduate is to become the youngest person in the history of the English and Welsh legal system to pass The Bar exams at just 18 years of age. Gabrielle Turnquest will be called to The Bar of England and Wales through the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn on July 30, 2013, the youngest person in the Bar’s more than 600 year history to do so as a graduate.

Gabrielle, who is from Windermere, Florida, undertook The University of Law’s Bar Professional Training Course following passing the Graduate Diploma in Law when she was 17 years old. She is returning to the USA this fall to continue studying towards fulfilling her aspiration of forging a career as a fashion law specialist.

Historically, a trainee lawyer had to be 21 years old to be eligible for the call to The Bar but this was removed in 2009 when the Consolidated Regulations of the Four Inns of Court were replaced by the Bar Training Regulations.  The average age of a student graduating from the BPTC course is 27*. Gabrielle has already made history at her previous University, Liberty University in Virginia, where she became the youngest person to be conferred an undergraduate degree at that institution having completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the age of 16.

Under The University of Law’s Bar training programs, overseas students can undertake training at its centres that is internationally relevant, helping them to gain an international perspective and qualify for other countries’ Bar and solicitor training requirements.

Gabrielle will also be called to the Bahamas Bar, the country of her parental heritage.  She will then return to the USA and attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to pursue a programme in Apparel Industry Management.  This will equip her with the necessary skills needed to venture into the niche market of fashion law.  Alongside this course she will also prepare and sit the multi state Bar in the USA.

Gabrielle Turnquest said: “I am honoured to be the youngest graduate student to pass the Bar exams in England and Wales and grateful to The University of Law for helping me achieve this milestone. Studying at the University of Law has broadened my horizons and introduced me to a global legal system that will help me in my future career in the international fashion industry.”

Nigel Savage, President and Provost at The University of Law, said: “Like Gabrielle, students from across the globe are recognising the importance of having a legal qualification that is widely recognised in other legal jurisdictions. The growing globalisation of law firms and the need for more international expertise means that it is becoming increasingly more important for young legal professionals to have experience across different legal markets if they are going to maximise the number of job opportunities that are available to them.”

Globally the legal services market is thriving and is expected to increase to $751bn (£480bn) over the next three years, which represents an annual average growth rate of 5% between now and 2015**.  Over half of the revenue of the largest 100 law firms in the UK is now being generated by international law firms based in London putting the UK firmly on the map as a global legal hub and also opening up greater opportunities for UK law firms operating overseas.

asu bonn un climate change negotiations polar bear

The climate is changing, along with the increasing impressiveness of law students.

Well done to law student bloggers. You are engaging in an activity that will distinguish you as you move into a challenging profession.

That’s what I thought as I read the blog posts of ASU students fortunate enough to attend a climate change conference in Europe. They covered the events and their participation well and with wit (e.g., “The first [] plenary was surprisingly dramatic, the hotel wifi is atrocious for an international event, the hotel buffet reminded one student of Reno, NV”). And apparently their posts received more than 1,500 visits.

As I reported previously, the students presented research on international legal regimes at the gathering in Bonn, Germany. Their involvement grew out of research they did with Professors Daniel Bodansky and Daniel Rothenberg.

You can read all the student posts here.

Here’s hoping that the blogging skill is one they continue to hone as they return and move toward law practice. As a wise man once said, strategy is nothing more than the ability to differentiate yourself from your peers (more on strategy next week).

blog_word_imageIn the blogging realm, there may be a handful of bloggers committed to the topic of climate change and law. And when you restrict the pool to one state only, there may be no one covering that increasingly important territory. Now that’s differentiation.

The days of waiting silently for your “turn” to exhibit your skill in a niche are long gone. Today, a law student or new lawyer may—should—develop blog content along with a voice that conveys knowledge and commands attention.

Keep blogging, exhibit your knowledge and your passion, and folks will notice.

Have a great weekend. And if you haven’t started a blog, give it some thought.

Letterpress BlogLearning what lawyers are up to is an avocation (and vocation) that occupies much of my time. And for that task, I can think of few other time investments as valuable as reading their blogs.

Sure, stopping by their offices and events is great, but that offers only a limited view inside law practice. But an aggregation of blog posts is revealing. It shows the multitude of challenges, pleasures and worries that lawyer brains are heir to.

Maybe because I’m a writer, I tend to believe that writing (when it’s substantive) reflects thinking. Therefore, if you want to know what folks are thinking, get reading.

That’s part of what drove the creation of our Arizona Attorney Magazine Blog Network a year or so ago. Let’s aggregate all of this brain power, and all of this writing, in one spot. Link them together, let the attorneys get some more traffic, and let readers enjoy the convenience of one-stop thinking.

In case you were wondering, here’s how it works.

On the bottom of the magazine News Center (launched alongside the Blog Network) you may have spotted a few blogs. That is our ever-changing roster of blogs I opt to highlight. They likely have new and interesting content. That changing list includes about five or six blogs. (And only one at a time can include the lawyer headshot.) See what I mean?

Arizona Attorney Blog Network screen shot 1More value awaits. If you click that button that reads “View All Blog Network Members,” then you can do just that.

Arizona Attorney Blog Network screen shot 2Once you’re there, you can scan the 50-ish attorneys currently in our network.

(Want to be added? Send me your URL and an author headshot. I’ll review it to be sure it should be in a lawyer network; if so, I’ll post it tout de suite. If you add your blog to the network, your blog remains your blog wherever it’s sited. We merely link to it, driving more readers—and SEO traffic—your way.)

Currently, you’ll see that our lead item points you to the blog of attorney Kim Brown. Her blog demonstrates perfectly the kind of valuable content you might get from reading lawyer blogs. Her lead item right now is asking the question of how similar a law firm partnership is to a typical marriage. She addresses the issue with humor but also with some serious takeaways that lawyers must consider when they review a partnership opportunity.

I hope you want to be part of the conversation. We always welcome new writers. And even if you’d merely view the thinking of Arizona attorneys, be sure to link to the page or sign up for the RSS feed. We’ll keep on blogging.

And I leave you with a hilarious blogging cartoon, shared with me by the great communicators at Association Media & Publishing.

blogging cartoon via AMP

Phoenix School of Law Lawyers as Peacemakers conferenceYou are: Planning to attend a noteworthy legal conference, but would like the opportunity to use your writing and reporting skills to share a follow-up with Arizona’s legal community.

We are: Arizona’s legal community, eager to share your story on the magazine blog.

The Phoenix School of Law Lawyers as Peacemakers and Healers Conference runs this Friday night through Sunday. Currently, it appears no one here at the magazine will be able to attend this remarkable gathering. But if you’re planning to be there and would like to write a story, with attribution, we would like to talk with you.

Ideally, likely writers will be unaffiliated with the conference except as an attendee. Lawyers and law students who have an interest should contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Here is the website for the Lawyers as Peacemakers and Healers Conference, which runs February 22 through 24. And you can Like it on Facebook here.

For background, click here for last year’s program.

And as a great service to the legal community, event organizers have posted video recordings of all presentations from last year.

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