Technologist and inventor of the blog, Dave Winer, defined a blog as “the unedited voice of a person.”
In 2003, when I was beginning my stint as a fellow at Berkman Center [at Harvard Law School] , since I was going to be doing stuff with blogs, I felt it necessary to start by explaining what makes a blog a blog, and I concluded it wasn’t so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice.
If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)
I’m pretty much with Winer so it pains me to see what blogs have become in the legal industry — and across the corporate communications field for that matter.
I get that law firms are going to have group blogs with multiple contributors. Makes sense. There are some good ones.
But group blogs, and any blog, can be the unedited voice of a lawyer when lawyers cover and comment on items they’re most passionate about.
Most law blog subjects cast a broad net so letting lawyers each blog on what they are individually seeing and reading so as to engage in thought leadership in a real and authentic way works big time. Readers feel it — and so do the law bloggers.
Posts do not, and should not be approved by an editor. Doing so in any significant way throws water on the fire of good law bloggers. It’s hard enough blogging sometimes, let alone blogging and wondering what my editor is going to think.
I met a young lawyer in the Midwest who had a great idea for a blog. A real strategic commercial construction niche opportunity in which, among other things, he was going to engage and build relationships with overseas financiers and developers investing in his metropolitan area.
But every one of his blog posts needed to be edited by the chair of his practice group. The blog posts “sat on the desk” of the chair for a week or more. The young lawyer threw in the towel, no more blogging. The blog was “taken down.”
The lawyer and the firm was deprived of an opportunity to grow. I’m sure the associate has received various kinds of pressure to grow a book business otherwise. What a shame.
The best law blogs are not marketing, per se. Sure, a lawyer is going to build a name and business through blogging. But law blogging is part of legal dialogue, scholarship, commentary and information. It’s the stuff lawyers did long before legal marketing was approved ethically forty years ago this June.
Lawyers pen emails, letters, briefs and more. Lawyers go to networking events and conferences in areas the law they’re passionate about and openly discuss things.
Marketing can empower lawyers to blog and help facilitate blog publishing, but it makes little sense for marketing to be involved in blogging.
Blogging platforms themselves are as easy to use as email and writing on Word. Asking or accepting that lawyers “blog” on Word so others can copy and paste to the blog platform makes no sense. Lawyers will also never feel the sensation of blogging.
Hey, I get the spelling and grammar thing for lawyers. Do know though that I have better relationship with my readers as a result of them correcting my typos from time to time. Run a spell check, but focus on engaging in a conversation just as you would at a networking event, not the form.
Don’t get me started with others writing a lawyer’s blogs, as some marketers are selling. That’s nuts, unethical and certainly not the unedited voice of a person. Doesn’t even merit discussion.
We’re starved in this country for the real and authentic voice of a lawyer engaging with real people – corporate employees or consumers.
Blogs are the perfect vehicle for expressing the voice of a lawyer.
But make it the unedited voice of a person.