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Should we be teaching blogging and WordPress at law schools?

law school blogging classWith all the recent discussion of law schools leaving students unprepared for the real world and the thousands of law grads without jobs, maybe we ought to be teaching blogging at law schools. Jacques Von Lunen in Vancouver, Washington’s Columbian reports on blogging pioneer, Lorelle VanFossen (@lorelleonwp), teaching WordPress at Clark College. The class, not just for developers, is attracting students in business and other majors. I’m right with Von Lunen that WordPress has become ubiquitous and knowing it can be a great benefit for many careers. Including the law. Per Bob Hughes, the head of Clark College’s computer technology department, “WordPress is the ideal complement to existing Clark College classes. Students can add the software to their design, marketing, business or programming skill sets.” I’m not suggesting that law schools turn into trade schools. But writing, and in effect publishing, is at the heart of being an attorney. So is collaboration and networking to learn from other attorneys and thought leaders. Online writing, networking and collaboration, of which blogging (and in turn WordPress), is at the center of, is becoming more important than writing and networking offline today. As with Clark College, you need not make blogging a regular part of the law school curriculum. You can test it or offer it as adjunct class to law students. Law schools concerned about getting their students jobs, and I hope that includes all of them, would be well served to introduce their students to blogging. There’s no better way for a law student to network with leading lawyers, alums and potential employers than blogging. There’s no better way for a law student to demonstrate their passion for and desire to get into a niche area of the law than blogging. Law students aren’t likely to come into law school knowing how to blog. By and large, law students are not computer programers and developers. Nor are they journalism grads. Law students could use a little help and encouragement. Want to get your law school on the map for recruiting students and law professors? Demonstrate your scholarship through law blogs. Your law school’s law review is likely not a big draw. Finally, there’s potential employment for law grads outside the practice of law. Legal publishers, news companies, and law firms are going to be looking for students who know social media and blogging They’re also going to want people who know the law for those growing areas of online media. The average salary for developers knowing WordPress is $45,000. Add a law degree and you’ll likely hit $75 to $80,000. Not $150,000 as in big law on Wall Street, but a good start to chasing something you may love. Blogging, including WordPress, in deed has a place in forward thinking law schools.

  • http://thegirlsguidetolawschool.com Alison Monahan

    It seems to me there are two, slightly separate, factors (at least, maybe three). One is a general awareness of the tools that are out there, and what they can be used for. So, you know WordPress exists and understand how to use it for 95% of the things you want to do (relying on widgets, plugins, etc.). This sort of thing can, and should, be taught in law schools.
    Two, you can actually install WordPress, design a custom website, and make it happen. This is probably beyond the capacity of most law schools to teach, but that’s not really a problem. The interested few students learn it on their own, and everyone else pays a template designer a few thousand dollars when they decide to set up their first fancy website.
    Finally, there’s the law related to all of this. How does libel apply to the internet, etc. That’s what law schools are probably most comfortable with, but, ironically, it’s less useful than teaching students how this technology actually works. It’s hard to do a useful legal analysis of things you don’t fundamentally understand!
    (For context, I’m a former web developer who went to law school and now runs a website. Weird background, but useful.)

  • http://www.lawschooljoe.com Joseph Piper

    I am currently a law student at UNH School of Law and just started my own blog as part of an independent study for this spring. Over break I taught myself the basics of WordPress (with the help of my brother who works in SEO) and am learning more each time I use it.
    The goal of the project is to write a paper about how law firms can best utilize social media and blogging, so as part of the project, I figured I would blog for the semester.
    Part of the reason I wanted to do this was to become a more attractive hire out of law school (which is a good point made in the post) and to become knowledgable about something still in its infancy. I am still relatively new to the topic but can already see the networking potential and the value of a niche blog.
    As far as teaching WordPress and blogging in law school, I cannot see that happening as an independent course. A way it could work is incorporating it into a legal writing course and spending a few weeks on it but, at least at my school, I would be shocked if that happened.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/danjaffe Dan Jaffe

    Any law school that does not offer its students a path to practice competence is negligent, and blogging is an essential element of practice competence.
    While WordPress is a great platform and I think it’s general availability and use should be mentioned and its exploration explored, given the evolution of technology and how quickly things change, an overview of other available tools and emerging technologies would also be helpful.

  • http://lawyerist.com Sam Glover

    Oh, sure. It should totally share a semester with with Friendster for Lawyers and Match.com for Business Development.

  • http://cogentlegal.com/blog Morgan C. Smith

    The more that law schools can teach students practical skills for networking, visual presentations, communications and trial technology, the better. I would say not just blogging, but an array of basic new-media skills that are increasingly relevant in today’s legal marketplace. I wrote about this topic in my latest blog post (“Legal Media and Tech Skills for Attorneys: Advice to Help You Get Hired and Improve Your Practice” http://cogentlegal.com/blog/2012/01/10/legal-media-and-tech-skills-for-attorneys/ inspired in part by getting so many queries from out-of-work attorneys asking for advice about how to get a job and get ahead in the profession. Thanks for your post.

  • Irene Morgan

    Do you have a law student in your life? Do them a favor and tell them about JD Match. JD Match provides a free online service that uses a sophisticated matching algorithm to connect students with firms and firms with students. Send them this link http://bit.ly/AujGyA and help that special law student get a leg up today.

  • Irene Morgan

    Do you have a law student in your life? Do them a favor and tell them about JD Match. JD Match provides a free online service that uses a sophisticated matching algorithm to connect students with firms and firms with students. Send them this link http://bit.ly/AujGyA and help that special law student get a leg up today.

  • Anonymous

    I believe WordPress (or blogging in general) as well as other forms of social networking should be taught in law schools. These forms of communication have become even more accepted (and popular) than the traditional press releases and magazine write-ups. I feel students would be at more of a disadvantage entering a career without this valuable knowledge.