Earlier this week, John Schwartz, the National Legal Correspondent for the New York Times, wrote a story on the implications of social media for lawyers. I a disagreed with the underlying message of his story and blogged my position.

Schwartz being a good reporter was monitoring his name or the url of the story from nytimes.com via a blog search and a newsreader. Perhaps, the New York Times uses a more sophisticated means to follow what is being said about their stories. In any case, the folks who work there are smart enough to monitor what is being said about them and their work product on the net.

A day after my blog post I got an email from Schwartz commenting on what I said. I reply via email with my position and though we may disagree on this issue, I asked if he’d be interested in having lunch next time I was in New York City. He responded, ‘Sure.’ I then connected with Schwartz on LinkedIn so I’d remember to look him up when I head to New York.

Now what are the odds a snot nosed kid who grew up and practiced law in a small town on the Mississippi River gets the chance to meet the the National Legal Correspondent for the New York Times when he goes to New York? John can make light of the fancy title, but to me, meeting folks like this is still a big deal.

Imagine I don’t have a blog. After reading the story, I call up John and say ‘Hey, I think you’re out to lunch on that story, let me give you my two cents, let’s exchange emails, let’s connect on LinkedIn, and when I am in the city, let’s do lunch.’ Maybe John says great. But many reporters would say ‘who the hell are you?’ And I don’t think I would have had the balls to do it.

But my blog allowed me to express my view, connect with John, and meet him down the road. I’m establishing a relationship with an influencer when it comes to the law. Reporters at major publications have that status.

What does that relationship do for me? I don’t know, but I’ll take it. Maybe John uses me as a source to get info on a story he’s doing (truth be told, he did call me last week on the above story). Maybe I get to share my views on how lawyers can network through the Internet to help others, do practice development, and improve the image of the legal profession. In that those are the things that get me out of bed each morning, that’s good.

I see so many law firms and other companies hiring PR agencies to pitch things to the press and line up interviews for their principals. Maybe it’s a great way to get news coverage and an excellent way for reporters to work up a story. But it’s awfully expensive and establishes no meaningful relationships between reporters and sources.

LexBlog’s been around for six years. We’ve never sent out a press release nor hired a PR person. I’ve talked to countless reporters, editors, and publishers in the trade press trade as well as in the mass media. Many have become friends. It’s all come about through my blog, as I used it here, and now Twitter.

PR professionals, especially those who know how to use social media and social networking, remain a great resource to law firms and other companies. But using your blog to build relationships with the press can go a long way.

Lawyers are often scared to death of the press, afraid they’ll say something that’ll get them in trouble or be ‘misquoted.’ Law firm communications professional are often charged with controlling communications with the press. ‘No one talks with anyone unless it’s vetted by me.’ That’s nuts.

Reporters, editors, and publishers are people just like you and me. They have a job to do and they like doing that job with people they know, people they like, and people who can be a great resource for them. Your blog can get you to be one of those people.