Over the years I’ve spent a lot of money for the services of PR professionals.

They were good folks with a tough job. First, while not working inside in my law firms and companies, they had to learn as much as possible about me and what made my firms tick. Second, while being pounded on to make an unknown famous overnight, they had to beg and borrow to get me an interview or the company a mention in the press. Third, they had to do it on a limited budget.

But we needed those PR professionals because they had the needed contacts in the press. And they, not us, knew how to communicate with the media.

With blogs and social networks, you, as a lawyer, have every opportunity to make contacts in the press. Plus with user generated content and email taking the formality out of communications, you’re certainly capable of communicating with the press.

You also have a the growing advantage of the press coming to you – to your online community that is. Per Brian Chin, our Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Senior Online Producer, 3.5 percent of the journalists working in the newsrooms of American newspapers now work online full time. “That’s 2,000 out of the 57,000 in the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ 2007 newsroom census.”

At the P-I, Brian says there are 10 of them — out of about 180 — who work full time on SeattlePI.com and other digital products.

As a blogging lawyer, get to know those online journalists. When appropriate, blog about their stories and blog posts (yes, like Brian, they have blogs), comment at their blogs, monitor their RSS feeds, drop them an email from time to time. Share story ideas and be a resource to them in your area of expertise. Offer to get together for lunch or coffee. They’re just people too.

With you blogging, you’ve entered the citizen journalist realm – a complement to the professional journalists. Together with the professional journalists you are now covering more legal news and commentary than when only the professionals did so.

How about coffee Brian? I’m just down the waterfront in Pioneer Square.

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