blog

This post is not aimed at lawyers whose practice is sailing along exactly as they would hope it would. Who have ample work, quality work, with clients who pay on time or early, and who never, ever argue about a bill. Who find creative pursuits within and among their legal work. Who have found particularly effective ways to differentiate themselves in a field of talented competitors. Whose hair is always just so.

Those folks will benefit not a whit from a recent blog post (not mine) that touting blogging as one of the top three Internet marketing activities.

And why (once again) does blogging matter? Because the definition of business strategy can be summed up in that one word that starts with “D”—differentiation. And blogging may be uniquely suited to convey an attorney’s talents, approach, and world view.

Um, yes, your world view matters to potential clients. Not your take on politics (better left to yourself). But the way you align yourself amidst challenging and thorny legal issues. The way you think through things, convey your position, and remain focused on the client at all times (the most important thing, of course).

Websites can do some of that lifting, but that’s where clients typically find the milquetoast puffery that reminds the world you are “full-service” (whatever that is), or that you were in an Order that had to do with the Coif (I go to Supercuts myself). That kind of stuff? It’s the opposite of differentiation.

So read this helpful post that describes blogging and two other online activities you should consider.

And if you’re still on the cyberspace fence, read this piece to hear how referral networks—via blogging—may be helpful to you.

US Department of Labor logoIt was only back on April 1 that a major dialogue was raised in Arizona about the negative results that flow from employee misclassification. That’s when Dr. David Weil of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division spoke to audiences in downtown Phoenix and elsewhere.

Dr. Weil spoke about the combination of carrots and sticks that would be brought to bear to face the challenge.

This week, we got to see a little of the stick as we read a press release. It opens:

“A nearly five-year federal investigation of illegal business practices by 16 defendants in Utah and Arizona has yielded $700,000 in back wages, damages, penalties and other guarantees for more than 1,000 construction industry workers in the Southwest, the U.S. Department of Labor announced today.”

“Consent judgments put an end to an effort by the defendants—operating collectively as CSG Workforce Partners, Universal Contracting, LLC and Arizona Tract/Arizona CLA—to claim that their workers were not employees. The defendants required the construction workers to become ‘member/owners’ of limited liability companies, stripping them of federal and state protections that come with employee status. These construction workers were building houses in Utah and Arizona as employees one day and then the next day were performing the same work on the same job sites for the same companies but without the protection of federal and state wage and safety laws. The companies, in turn, avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes.”

You can read the entire release here. All of the targeted Arizona firms are listed at the bottom, as is the case name and caption number.

Adding to the value of the news to Arizona lawyers and others is a blog post by Labor Secretary Tom Perez himself. In it, he describes the legal action being taken in Utah and Arizona. And he gives valuable insight into the way this nefarious business gets done:

“The state of Utah was a helpful partner in the Wage and Hour Division’s investigation of these defendants, providing information from the state’s Worker Classification Coordinated Enforcement Council, an entity created by the state legislature to combat misclassification. The state ultimately outlawed the defendants’ business model by requiring workers compensation and unemployment insurance for members of LLCs. In response, the companies packed up, headed to Arizona, and set up shop under a new name, but with the same scheme.”

Perez concludes:

“The Utah and Arizona judgments send a strong, clear message: employers can’t hide behind deceptive legal partnerships to cut corners and save money on the backs of their employees. It’s our hope that this and other enforcement actions will serve as a credible deterrent that influences behavior throughout the economy. Especially in the fissured workplace, we will continue to be vigilant about protecting workers, taxpayers and law-abiding employers.”

If you represent clients in related industries, is this a wake-up call? Is misclassification as big a problem as it’s made out to be? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

P.S. Arizona has another close link to the Secretary: Four high-school kids from the Grand Canyon State just won an ABA award for best Magna Carta video. Among the luminaries they met in Washington DC in mid-April was Labor Secretary Perez. Here they all are:

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez meets with Arizona high school students who won first place in the ABA's 2015 Magna Carta video competition, April 2015.

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez meets with Arizona high school students who won first place in the ABA’s 2015 Magna Carta video competition, April 2015. (Full story in the June 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine)

 

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Today I will happily be leading a webinar on the topic of blogging. So there may be no better day than this to share news from an event last week. That annual event, coincidentally, was the subject of my first legal blog post more than five years ago. (I know; you’re tearing up along with me.)

The Learned Hand luncheon continues to wow a packed room at the Hyatt Phoenix with its awards to smart legal luminaries. And the magic of the event continues to be the stellar speeches, not only be the worthy recipients, but also by their nominators. These folks bring it.

This year’s event was last Wednesday, March 11, and as always it is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Arizona Chapter.

AJC American Jewish Committee logoThis year’s honorees were Lawrence Robinson, Elliot Glicksman, and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. (I know; what took them so long?!)

I won’t go on about each of the honoree’s accomplishments. All of the folks were well selected, and, as always, the acceptance speeches were matched by the nominators’ speeches for verve and punch.

The luncheon provides attendees a moment to pause and hear from esteemed peers. As those lawyers and judges, we recall the best ideals of our profession. I’m confident that as listeners stream out onto the busy sidewalk, full from a salmon lunch, they are at least briefly refreshed as they head back to work. Ideally, the lessons they heard will take root and bear fruit in their own lives.

And if you have a moment, <strong>here is what I wrote five years ago, on the occasion of the same lunch in 2010 (when the honorees were Keri Lazarus Silvyn, E.G. “Ted” Noyes, Jr., and Debbie Hill).

blogging annual report 2014-page0001

The drone-y little stats monkeys at WordPress have done it again, providing a wealth of detail about this blog’s performance in the past year. You can read the complete report here.

Here’s a little of their overly kind blogbabble:

“Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. There were 623 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 183 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per day.”

Nice, right? But as I am committed to transparency, I must admit: The numbers disappoint me. And that is because blog readership is down.

I can hear your jaw hitting the floor, your disbelief is so palpable: “A nichey law blog, in Arizona, not garnering readers? Get out!”

(You can click to see the annual reports from 2013, 2012, and 2011 to see for yourself.)

Setting aside your hurtful snark (yes, I can detect it), there are a few reasons for the decline (from a high of 130,000 views in 2012 to last year’s 66,000):

  1. Not enough puppies and kittens
  2. Low-quality posts (or maybe too much law-ishness)
  3. Busier, less curious readers
  4. Facebook sucks

I am wagering my money on options 2 or 4. As a writer, I always have to be willing to look to myself first for reader disengagement. But then there’s Facebook …

Facebook’s own little algorithmic bots constantly vary the processes by which they prioritize and make visible people’s posts. I have heard from many mere mortals such as myself who have seen their readership plummet: Posts that formerly would garner 300 views now result in 17, or 11, or 4. And because Facebook is one of the places I post my blog every day, the impact has been severe.

The “solution” offered by Facebook’s dark lords is pay for play: Facebook paid ads will get us all back where we were, they claim.

Well, for those of us with little budgets and even less inclination to participate in the FB scam, I’m back to my other solutions: Ever improving my writing and composition, and, of course, more puppies. Here you go, and Happy New Year.

Legally speaking, these Corgis are not law-related at all. You're welcome, Facebook.

Legally speaking, these Corgis are not law-related at all. You’re welcome, Facebook.

Five years ago, this law blog started as a novel. Thanks and I'm sorry.

Five years ago, this law blog started as a novel. Thanks and I’m sorry. (Photo by mpclemens)

Five years is a long time to do anything—especially write a daily legal blog. But it was November 2009 when I launched this blog. How to celebrate?

Well, I won’t urge you to go back in blog time and to read old posts. But I will note this blog’s literary roots.

In case you don’t know, I started this blog as a method to publish a legal novel—written all in one month, November 2009, as part of a national novel-writing effort.

At the bottom of this post, I’ll share some links to a few chapters of the book. But before I do, here is how I previously described the adventure:

“Originally, in November 2009, this blog launched as a portal for my novel-in-progress titled ‘The Supremes’. It is a tale of a firm comprised mainly of retired state supreme court justices. They thought working together would be a great idea. Oy.”

“The novel effort was part of a national write-a-novel-in-a-month event. See here for more information on that crazy venture.”

nanowrimo novel writing postcard“Since then, I have blogged about law and law practice in one of the most, um, colorful states in the Union. Day in and day out, fascinating people and topics come to the fore, almost yearning to be transformed into blog posts. And so I oblige.”

“My novel was in memory of lawyer-author Peter Baird, who was a great friend and influence to many others, whether they were lawyers or writers. He died suddenly in late August 2009, and he will be missed.”

“Each novel chapter opens with a quotation from the respective portion of the United States Code. There are 50 ‘titles’ (chapters) in the Code, but we’ll see if there are 50 chapters. Time will tell.”

Here are the first few chapters. If you want to read more … I bet you can figure it out.

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

ABA blog question and data (Chart via Bob Ambrogi's Law Sites Blog.)

(Chart via Bob Ambrogi’s Law Sites Blog.)

Recent data from the American Bar Association suggests that fewer lawyers are blogging than have in the past. What this means … well, it could mean a few things.

Many folks—myself included—have advocated for the power of a blog to alter an attorney’s work life. Will a blog transform your law practice and rake in the clients? Probably not. Just like any tool at your disposal, this one can serve your particular needs—but you still have to identify what those needs are.

The hard work of determining your blog’s goals may have resulted in disappointment in the results—which were never clearly aimed for in the first place.

A very good roundup of the ABA’s new data is written by Bob Ambrogi. Among his mentions:

“Blogging was down among lawyers in all firm sizes except those in firms of 10-49 attorneys, where the percentage of lawyers who blog rose a point from 5% in 2013 to 6% this year. Among solos, the percentage who blog dropped from 12% to 10%; among those in firms of 2-9 attorneys, the percentage dropped from 11% to 8%; and in firms of 100 or more attorneys, the percentage went from 10% in 2013 to 9% this year.”

One interesting element of the ABA’s queries relates to its asking lawyers whether they “personally” maintain a blog (see chart above). Well, what else would they do?

As I have mentioned before, a debate exists over whether a lawyer’s blog is just another marketing tool, which no one (let alone potential clients) expects is penned by the lawyer herself.

Others (like me, for instance) see the blog as an opportunity to share your own thinking. It is not just like a lawyer bio, which we know a PR pro wrote. Neither is it like a brief, which everyone understands was drafted with the assistance of partners, associates and clerks.

As long as lawyers believe they can “farm out” the drafting of their own insights and legal perambulations, I’d wager that the decline in blogging may not be a bad thing.

What do you think?

 

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.

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