Kevin with founder and lawyer of SpringLaw, Lisa Stam, one of the first bloggers on Canada employment on human rights. Lisa and Kevin discuss how blogging has helped shaped her career, and share their tips for how younger attorneys can leverage blogging as a business development tool, at the seventh-annual #ClioCloud9 conference. 

Kevin O’Keefe:  Who am I talking with? 

Lisa Stam: I am Lisa Stam. 

Kevin: Lisa, we have worked together for how many years? 

Lisa: 10 years. 

Kevin: Never met before. 

Lisa: Never met. And it was 2008 when I first reached out to LexBlog. 

Kevin: Yeah. And would you, when you reached out in 2008? Obviously you’re a lawyer.

Lisa: Yes.

Kevin: Where were you working?

Lisa: I was an associate at a global firm in Toronto. And uh, when I ran it by the partners there and said I’d like to do this thing called blogging. It was like a deer in the headlights. They weren’t sure what I meant and I had to change all the colors of it so that it wouldn’t be associated with the firm because they hadn’t figured out how they’re going to fit social media into their eco system yet. So we, um, uh, it took a couple of months of, of just being allowed to blog. And now of course they have all kinds of blogs going on as everybody else does. 

Kevin: I remember that because when you’re starting a company and all of a sudden you go, “There’s a lawyer on the phone, I’m talking with a lawyer at Baker McKenzie. Are they gonna let her blog?”. 

Lisa: Well, you just said it out loud. What firm it was. I wasn’t allowed to ever identify what the firm was.

Kevin: (01:07) You didn’t, you haven’t. Probably good if they did. That would’ve actually served Baker, McKenzie and LexBlog, which they might even be a client. Long time ago they got into a fight with, I think Boeing & Boeing, with representing the football or soccer association. Sent out some cease and desists. Okay. Like an idiot, I wrote a post saying, “Baker McKenzie made an ass out of themselves on the internet by doing it”. 

Lisa: You know in the Toronto office, at the time, the managing partner and the head of my group, they were, they’re great, but it’s the reality of these great big firms that you are tied to whatever the mother-ship says you have to do. And so that was just, it took a long time to get it through, the infrastructure and the bureaucracy of a big firm. 

Kevin: It’s not like you don’t get things through a big firm. I mean, it’s not like you’re some average lawyer that’s going to get the opportunity to go work at that firm either. You’re obviously pretty capable. What were your goals when you started that blog? I mean what was going through your mind that even said, I’m going to go ask? Or that I want to go do this?

Lisa: (02:10) I actually credit the, um, the head of the group at the time who said, “You know, there’s all kinds of employment lawyers in Toronto. So find something that will distinguish you”. And I’ve always had a soft spot for tech, and the nerd world, and I do like a bit of Star Trek. Um, and I, I’ve done a wee bit of techie type stuff myself. So I just, I, so it was partly that I, I wanted to explore the world of blogging to understand the, the tech issues and pain points that clients were coming to me. So part of it was jumping in and learning. Part of it is just, it’s such an exponential way to communicate. And I, I could so quickly see that if everybody, just, if the four readers of my blog share it out to two friends, that’s way more than the people in an audience of the webinar that I just spent, or not webinar, but the in-person speaking engagement that I had.

Kevin: (02:58) No, and I remember, cause again when we were a small company and then you’d watch these successes. Cause weren’t you on national TV or something?

Lisa: Yeah, yup.

Kevin: Now that came because of the blog?

Lisa: I would show these stats to the group about, so uh, as soon as something would get tweeted out that the exponential power of Twitter in particular and why we need to get on social, um, instead of working so hard to get 60 clients showing up at a session and they’d be so excited if 60-ish clients would show up. And I’m like, “well I had 1200 people see my tweets through the exponential value of all”. If you start counting up the followers and yeah.

Kevin: And don’t get me wrong as I ask you these questions, LexBlog’s role in the world would be to obviously connect lawyers to people for good. By you being out there and sharing and saying commentary, people can know a little bit about what you know, how you think about things and how you might be to work with, but even taking a step further to empower and inspire legal bloggers. And given that platform, that’s true, but you’re an inspiration, whether you believe it or not, to a lot of lawyers that might be, you know, associates today thinking about getting that same talk, “You need to distinguish yourself from some way, because so many lawyers doing that sort of thing. How are you going to do that?”. And I’m assuming I’ve never been in those firms in a large firm, but you’re looking around the room thinking, “I don’t know if I’d liked to do all the stuff they’re doing to distinguish themselves, even though they did it”. 

Lisa: Yeah, yeah.

Kevin: but, “that may work, but that may not be for me”.

Lisa: It’s a new world as well. 

Kevin (4:44) It’s a new world. What would you tell someone in that, in that shoes? You were 10-11 years. What have you learned? What have you done to get through this process? What did it do for you?

Lisa: It gave me an instant voice. Instant, at the time, I’m pretty sure I was the first female employment lawyer in the city with a blog and now there’s, you know, and now there’s many.

Kevin: Yeah in Toronto. That’s a big city.

Lisa: Yeah, so I was the first one and it gave me this voice really quickly at what, six years out. So it was, it was a first, it gave me a platform to just, you know, give my views on things, but it also really forced me to hone my analysis and be super careful about what I was saying. Cause that was one of the arguments or discussion points I had with the, um, at the time with the firm is you will have a written record of everything I do. So if you need to monitor my content totally fine. Here’s the link. But you also send me out to speaking engagements and no one has any idea what I’m saying there. I might be completely wrong. So it, if you are forced to write it down, you’re going to hone the, the legal content and then the analysis and really think through your audience. 

Kevin: (5:50) There’s no doubt. Jerry Spence, great, people know him as the “Cowboy Lawyer from Wyoming” or whatever, but he used to talk about the number of senses that you can apply to what you’re thinking about that trial. That if you, if you wrote out your opening statement, it wasn’t to read it, but it was to think about it, write it out, to see it on the screen, and then maybe make my applications again. You’ve got that much going on. What the blog does: it gets you out there to think about “what are people thinking”.

Lisa: Yes, yes, I agree. Yeah. 

Kevin: It’s that critical analysis is really deepening on “this”. How might they respond? That’s what I think.

Lisa: And how are they receiving the information? So, um, what is the legal problem they want solved and how do we talk to that? Not, you know, “what am I credentials?” or you know, that I’m at a fancy law firm. It’s what, “what is their legal problem?” and, and what “kind of work do I want to do?”. So let me talk about that legal problem more than this legal problem. But you really get to any participation online, lets you talk to your audience right away and try to understand, well try to understand better what they’re looking for. 

Kevin: Well you’re networking through the internet.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin: You’re going places where most lawyers don’t go. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

Kevin: (7:05) What was the most surprising thing from blogging? And you continue to do it today. What has been the most surprising or what’s some story that some client came up with her says this or that about the blog or found you via the blog? I’m just curious.

Lisa: Yeah. The first couple of years when someone would reach out because of the blog or because of a tweet they saw about the blog, it was jaw dropping each time. It’s super exciting that the internet is now, it just feels, you know, our SEO is really good. And of course like how else do you get the clients? Um, in fact, the marketing budget of my firm now is pretty small because we just get out there and blog and write and, you know, do it that way. But the most surprising, um, I mean surprising at first was just how long it took for people to adopt it because it’s such a quick and easy access to, yeah.

Kevin: Yeah, the lawyers to adapt it. 

Lisa: Yeah, the lawyers to adapt it  and what isn’t surprising is how many lawyers still think that, um, that it’s not what lawyers should be doing. Right, that, that it’s “we’re giving away intellectual capital”. That was something I kept hearing and that we’re, you know, we’re, we’re, um, uh, making the, the profession, you know, uh, Walmart-izing the professional and all that stuff.

Kevin: That was the threshold question 15 years ago for LexBlog when I said, “okay, which firms should we contact?”. Those firms that are willing to give away their intellectual capital, because  most firms are not. Who’s sitting there publishing, if you will, putting things online, to give themselves up, themselves to people knowing that that’s how you get work. People don’t go “Oh my God, I got it for free, I don’t need a lawyer anymore”.

Lisa: (8:48) It’s a sales funnel. Like if you want to buy a pair of shoes, you go through a sales funnel. I mean, like, if you’re going to invest so much time, it’s such a personal thing like law.

Kevin: You don’t do surgery by going online and reading about it. You might hire that surgeon as a result or go to that surgeon. Today, you have you have your own firm. How many people at that firm?

Lisa: We have 10 in our firm now and I have to really give credit to the, the people that contribute to the blog now. So Hilary Page is a key piece of why we win awards. So I just want to make sure that she’s getting credit. Um, so we all blog and do it together, but I have a really strong team now that really helps contribute to us. 

Kevin: How long has Hilary been practicing?

Lisa: She’s a seven year lawyer and she’s someone who is an amazing lawyer and hates networking, hates cocktail parties, hates all of that. So her role is to write.

Kevin: I do too.

Lisa: Yeah. Such an old school, like who gets clients that way anymore, right? I mean, I’m, I’m at the conference here talking to people, but it’s because it’s, you know, we’re, we’re chatting about stuff besides law. 

Kevin: I’ve never met you and I come up and give you a hug. 

Lisa: (9:50) Yeah, that’s true.

Kevin: I mean, really, people know you. I’m sure you meet people in Toronto. They know you. 

Lisa: Well, you know what? So that table over there is the Lawyer Smack table and I participate in Lawyer Smack. So it’s a whole bunch of 

Kevin: Yeah, Keith has done a great job.

Lisa: Yeah. And, and I met all these people and I could finally put handles to faces, um, two days ago. You know, and it’s, it’s neat to have this whole community here already that I just only know through online, it’s a new world. 

Kevin: What could LexBlog do as a place that is aggregating and curating all these blog posts getting them up where more people you know, people potentially see them? What can we do for bloggers? I mean I’m hitting you kind of blind with that, but I was just thinking about it. With somebody has bloggers working with them, been blogging so long, what would bloggers like that have, if you had a magic wand?

Lisa: Yeah, well I have to say the first half year with LexBlog was critical to my career because you did such great onboard training really teaching me about the audience and whom I’m writing to, and thinking through that branding piece. As an associate at a firm where you have zero control over the firm’s branding, it’s, it was such a great opportunity to really think through your personal brand to get out there. So blogging is so, so keep doing that for sure. And offering up that, that marketing piece and that personal branding for lawyers to help find their voice. I think that’s a key piece for somebody who’s been doing it for a decade. Um, I don’t know. I anytime we ever have an issue, we just call me like there’s such great service. I, it is interesting how LexBlog is moving more and more to a more of a SaaS model than the, in the sort of the spoke thing at the beginning. 

Kevin: Yeah. The main reason and the tougher reason was that you have all these sites, a thousand plus sites. So if you wanted to update the technology, you got to go and touch all these things. Then each one of them would have, you want a little bit of that one, a little bit of that. Well then you have to do an update of a core technology. You’d have to catalog all of the plugins to see if they would work. And then what happens is that all these client’s think, that WordPress is great because there’s all these plugins, but they don’t know that the plugin that they liked the most was done by a kid in a basement in North Carolina and the kid goes away to college and then can’t be updated.

Lisa: Oh yeah, I believe it. that’s so funny.

Kevin: (12:00) I’m serious, and so their platforms aren’t fast, they’re insecure, they’re not stable, and we’re looking at it going, “yikes”. You know? No, we won’t do that because we can’t afford to make our platform insecure because we think people will get really spooked if porn goes up on some major for law firms blog or you can deal with that on your own. But what you just said was something I just wrote back to the team this morning and I said, “No more blogs, no more bloggers if they’re aren’t getting strategic coaching, really strategic coaching”. 

Lisa: Oh yeah, that’s important.

Kevin: Because what happened though, you might find, you might believe it, but the large firms wanting to keep things moving. So Stephen Covey always use this analogy in First Things First. They were going through the rain forest and the person up on top of the latter could see where they were headed. People down on the bottom that were chopping it, wanting to make good progress. The person up at the top goes, “you’re going the wrong way”. And they go, “it’s okay. We’re making really good progress”. So the law firms, as I went into the strategic consulting, we can’t slow the lawyers down. We’ve got to get this up. We only have so many meetings where they can participate in. So then when it became was content and content marketing and then buying data and buying software packages to measure the data. And the crazier yet it was like you’d come, you’d say, “Oh Kevin, I’m not getting the audience I would like to have”. I  thought, “we’ve got a software package for that. We can push it out to more people” and you go, “I’ll buy that”. 

Lisa: Yeah.

Kevin: So then you, then you said, “well how do I know how many people are seeing them?”, “Oh, we got a data package for that”. So now your platform, the distribution thing, and the data package and now you have really good lawyers spending their time and they’re not getting a return on that time. I get sad thinking about lawyers paying hundreds of dollars an hour in time and is a good lawyer, young or old, and they could be doing better for blogging based on what you just described.

Lisa: (14:02) Yeah, but I do think there’s, um, it’s such an opportunity for the younger lawyer to get their personal brand out there, but it’s certainly nothing we would ever learn in law school, ever. Um, and even just the business sense of “who are you writing to?”. You know, write to someone that you want to sell legal services to and not just what’s easier, you know, I mean, I do try and syndicate content of you know, issues that I’ve thought of over the years that we’ve thought about, um, over the last few months so that we’re not going off and doing first research. I think there’s a lot of strategies that you can do to make your blogging a lot more efficient. Um, but it’s 350 words, like it’s an hour, like that and you shouldn’t be spending more than that.

Kevin: (14:42) Yeah, it’s not a four or five hour deals where I’ve got to get it up. You know you learn when you get it up. Yeah. You’re here at Cleo? 

Lisa: Yes.

Kevin: What’d you think so far?

Lisa: I love it. This is my first Clio Con. Um, and I really got a kick out of the opening plenary with the big rock star show.

Kevin: Well, you’re a Canadian. 

Lisa: I know.

Kevin: They had the Canadian up on stage.

Lisa: I know, but it was so un-Canadian. To be so flashy and he was bragging about how cool Clio is. I was so proud of them. It was great. 

Kevin: What are you hoping to get out of it maybe you already got it? Maybe you already did?

Lisa: Well, I mean, for me a big target for our firm is U S employers with operations in Canada. So I love just talking to U S lawyers and that’s always been a big reason why we love working with LexBlog. It gave me this U.S. platform that I would never have in Canada. So that’s, it’s been a deliberate choice for me to stay with LexBlog because of the push out to U.S. counsel and other audience. But here I, you know, it’s still primarily American series, so I get to meet our neighbors. 

Kevin: It’s good stuff. It’s how you look it up. Services have to be delivered in a consumer driven economy.

Lisa: That’s the thing, right? We’re, we’re so keen to really build out our legal products instead of just legal services and there’s just a lot of good ideas and vendors here to talk to. 

Kevin: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. 

Lisa: Thank you, Kevin. Very good to meet in person.

Kevin: Likewise. Maybe we might see you around and have a drink later.