Challenges Facing the Attorney Blogger
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Some bloggers have it relatively easy. They can sit down at the end of day and write about their day, explore mistakes made, or pour out their inner thoughts. The attorney blogger has some constraints because we aren’t always writing for writing’s sake—many practicing attorneys blog for marketing purposes. A piece exploring a recent legal error, while helpful for other practitioners, may not engender client confidence. Alternatively, a straight up marketing piece discussing a latest triumph may have readers yawning before they finish the piece. How to walk this delicate line?
A straight up marketing piece is probably boring
Whether I’m reading the New Yorker, the Atlantic, or Lawyerist, my favorite pieces are personal, sincere, and honest. As sports columnist Red Smith deadpanned, it’s easy to write well, “you simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” (I think I tend to apply this rule to public speeches as well—all of my favorite wedding toasts meet these criteria).
Alternatively, when a piece is not personal, sincere, and honest, but is instead trying to sell something, I usually lose interest. Have you ever been reading an airplane magazine’s article about Barbados (or a SkyMall product), only to become bored and have your eyes drift up to the top of the page where you discover you are not reading an article, but are, in fact, reading an “Advertisement.”
When writing a blog post or an article, I therefore adopt “personal, sincere, and honest,” as my guide. I know that if I strive in this direction, my piece has at least a shot of being interesting. That said, there may still be topics or events that I won’t touch—either for attorney-client privilege reasons or because I am a member of a legal community that I don’t want to alienate.
Don’t alienate your legal community
As an undergraduate, I recall learning that Nietzsche would pepper his writing with insults for his enemies (and even friends). As satisfying as that could be, I am not Nietzsche (for many reasons). As an attorney, sometimes we have challenging or even funny interactions with judges, co-counsel, and opposing counsel on our cases. I have a distinct feeling, however, that I would not endear myself to any of these groups if they read about themselves in a blog post. My foremost obligation (of course) is to clients. To that end, I try to write about my experiences generally and avoid writing about incidences where someone could recognize themselves and it would undermine my role as an advocate.
That said, we all know that we’re supposed to “show not tell,” in our writing. If we are simply describing events generally, we aren’t telling. My solution is a tad navel gazey, but I tend to write about myself, my faux pas, and my gaffes more than I write about others. This way I can show, without alienating friends and colleagues.
Within these limits is there a role for the attorney blogger?
Absolutely. As a newer attorney, I crave information and guidance about the practice of law—how have my peers achieved (or failed to achieve) work-life balance? What struggles are common to our practices? And the more personal these articles can be (within ethical and sensible boundaries), the more helpful I tend to find them. Because, let’s face it, there is a type of insight that only a practicing attorney can offer—even if our profession shapes the way in which we relate that information.
(image: Modern Busienss Concept from Shutterstock)