Automattic, the parent company of, announced last week a new way to make money on Subscription payments.

Though valuable to some website owners and bloggers, I don’t see the subscription revenue feature of value to legal bloggers.

From Artur Pizek, a chief architect at Automattic, introducing the subscription feature:

It’s hard to be creative when you’re worried about money. Running ads on your site helps, but for many creators, ad revenue isn’t enough. Top publishers and creators sustain their businesses by building reliable income streams through ongoing contributions.

Our new Recurring Payments feature for and Jetpack-powered sites lets you do just that: it’s a monetization tool for content creators who want to collect repeat contributions from their supporters, and it’s available with any paid plan on“

There are thousands of underemployed journalists, citizens journalists and laid off traditional journalists, who writing on niches for which they are passionate. Some are able to charge subscriptions.

Legal professionals blog for other reasons, or at least they should.

  • To build a strong name and reputation in a niche
  • To build relationships with influencers in their niche and/or locale – reporters, leading bloggers, association leaders, referral sources
  • To grow revenue – make money
  • To learn
  • To advance the law
  • To share insight and commentary with others

If a lawyer does the above, the lawyer need not worry about subscriptions.

I met with a lawyer this afternoon in Chicago who publishes two blogs. Beyond establishing him as a thought leader and a highly respected lawyer with the judiciary and fellow lawyers, his blogs are key to generating and retaining business. It’s not an exaggeration to say his blogs support his family.

Unlike some other journalists and businesses, lawyers already have a business model for publishing. It’s practicing law.

A lawyer who gets to do what they love for the people they’d love to work for as clients need not worry about subscriptions. They are already making money – in an amount far greater than subscription revenue.

Subscriptions would also backfire for a blogging lawyer. Legal blogging requires a publication to be open, indexed by Google and easily shareable by email and social media.

Limiting access to those who will pay a subscription will decrease the influence of the blogging lawyers and diminish business development.

Beyond publishing subscription revenue, the “Recurring Payments” feature does enable a site owner to accept ongoing payments from visitors directly on their site for any purpose.

Perhaps this could apply to legal publishers looking to sell forms, other content than blog posts and the like. For most legal professionals, using this feature will be more of a distraction than anything.

As mentioned above, the “Recurring Payments” feature is only available on sites and WordPress sites using Jetpack.

As way of background, WordPress is the open source web publishing software that is used by close to 70% of all websites (blog sites and other sites) using a content management system., owned by Automattic, is the largest install of WordPress sites.

Jetpack is a plug-in that Automattic owns that is run on sites and other WordPress sites that are using the plug-in.

A jewelry artist with an online store shared on Reddit that she was considering launching a blog to drive business.

She could think of “a lot” of tutorials she could write about making jewelry. She was concerned though that if she told people how to make jewelry, they wouldn’t buy from her, they’d make their own.

She added that her work was complicated so the risk of people watching the tutorials, buying the materials and making the jewelry may be pretty low.

I responded (yep, I hang out in the blogging community on Reddit):

”People buy from those they trust, and blogging brings trust in spades. Showing or telling someone how to do something is not going to cause you to lose customers. Lawyers were afraid to blog because they were giving away their advice, and people would not call them. The exact opposite occurred. The more a lawyer blogged, the more work they got.”

Maybe it sounds obvious that lawyers give away information in their blogs. However, there are still many lawyers who fear giving away too much information will result in people doing the legal work themselves. Others stick merely to reporting legal updates and news in their blog.

Of course, lawyers are not going to want to give specific advise in a blog, but there is more than enough room to share “how to” information with people. Look around the net.

The care you show by sharing detailed information establishes trust. People who have a relevant legal need are more apt to call those they trust – and to mention you to those with a relevant need.

You’ll be showcasing how you explain legal matters to people and the tone in which you do so. People get to know you and like you.

Google will like you personally sharing information for local people on a regular basis. It’s true.

Most importantly, giving information away shows people you are interested in them.

As Dale Carnegie said about selling, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.”

Answering common questions or sharing “how tos,” rather than solely blogging legal updates, news and commentary is a good way to grow business – not to have people do the legal work themselves.

One can own a race car, but that doesn’t mean you know how to drive it.

The same is true of a blog in the case of lawyers. Law firm websites everywhere have a page titled “blog.” Large law firms have multiple blogs.

But are the lawyers blogging? Do they know how to blog?

It’s a question being kicked around a lot at LexBlog of late. If we’re going to sell a law firm a professional turnkey blog solution, we have the obligation to make sure the lawyer(s) know how to blog.

Reflecting on the state of blogging and LexBlog’s place in it, LexBlog’s COO, Gary Vander Voort, put it well in his post about customer success.

“We need to make sure that we are not just giving people a spaceship, but are showing them how to use it. Because anyone can give someone a blog, the internet is full of solutions, but not everyone can make someone a blogger. So if someone has the right stuff, we need to be able to help them slip the surly bonds of earth, and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”

Blogging, versus having a blog, includes an appreciation of some of the following:

  • Clear goals
  • Role of passion
  • Blogs are the unedited voice of a person
  • Tight niche
  • Listening to leaders and influencers in your niche
  • Engaging those influencers in your blogging
  • Using social media personally so as to build trust and an audience
  • Understanding that blog posts are merely currency to be used in networking through the Internet, not the end goal
  • Success is measured in reputation, relationships and revenue, not web statistics and distribution

There is so much to be gained by lawyers connecting to people – consumers, small businesses, and general counsel – in blogging. The key is going beyond having a blog.

Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution writes what we’re all realizing, local journalism is in crisis.

”Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years. Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation.“

Newspapers don’t have the revenue to sustain themselves.

“The traditional business model that once supported local newspapers–relying on print subscribers and advertising to generate revenue–has become difficult to sustain as the audience for local news continues to shrink and advertising dollars disappear.”

And the reason is obvious. People do not consume or receive the news the way they used to.

”Few Americans today hold print subscriptions, and newspapers have struggled to amass digital subscribers. Meanwhile, news consumers have become less inclined to follow local sources of news, instead preferring to read, listen, and watch content from outlets focused on national news coverage. And, as the digital age has facilitated the emergence of a greater number of national news sources and highly specialized outlets, the reach of local news has diminished.”

At the same time the cost to become a citizen journalist and report news has never been lower. Publishing a blog and reporting on uncovered niches brings an instant audience.

Unlike newspapers, citizen journalists don’t need paid subscriptions to “make money” from blogging. The source of a blogger’s revenue needn’t be advertising either.

Lawyers make money as a result of their blogging – not from their blogging. Lawyers who blog on niche and engage influencers in the process build a strong word of mouth reputation and relationships. Clients, work and revenue follow – in amounts far greater than a niche publisher would earn from subscriptions or advertising.

Law firm published blogs covering local affairs would be widely read by a local community. Share the posts on Facebook and Twitter to extend the reach.

How so?

The blog’s coverage could be directly related to the work of a law firm, but need not.

Law blogs already cover probate litigation decisions in Florida, Chancery Court decisions in Delaware and IP cases in the Northern District of Illinois. The readers of these blogs as well as the lawyers publishing the blogs have benefited tremendously.

At the local level, maybe there’s the opportunity to cover certain types of administrative bodies, particularly matters before a court or municipal/county meetings. Could be a committee or a board.

The matters being covered may have little, if anything, to do with the type of work done by the firm. The goodwill and reputation earned in the process would be substantial.

A law firm needn’t cover everything and needn’t send over a lawyer to do the coverage. A journalism student intern or two from a local university would welcome the opportunity to report on governmental affairs of importance to the local electorate. The firm can oversee the reporting from an an editorial process.

Fifteen dollars an hour for twenty hours a week is just North of a thousand dollars a month. A publication titled in accord with what’s being covered branded as published by your law firm with interior pages about your firm’s dedication to the community and the legal services you offer is worth all of that.

Not very matter need be covered. Cover what you can, you’re doing more than others – and much more than the other law firms with no imagination. If you’d like to, cherry pick the matters based on what looks interesting.

Finally, much of what is done in courts and administrative bodies is reduced to a written or digital record. Report from there, without attending. It’s obviously what blogging lawyers commentating on cases do.

May sound crazy, but I have always thought publishing the police blotter in a small town would provide great exposure for a law firm.

Maybe a police blotter doesn’t feel right, but give some thought to picking up the growing void in municipal, county and court news coverage. After all, lawyers do – and should – play a role in educating the citizenry of the law and its role in society.

Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist for Amazon’s AWS and a key player in its growth, spends 80% of his time blogging.

Not just any blog, but a blog about AWS news and answers to questions that arise internally and externally in regard to AWS. The AWS News Blog.

AWS, if you are not familiar with it, is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies, and governments, on a metered pay-as-you-go basis. AWS dominates the cloud computing market and is the fastest growing Amazon segment, representing well over half of the company’s operating income – $7.3 billion in 2018, up almost $3 billion from the year before.

Barr celebrated fifteen years on the AWS Blog with a post about why the blog, why him and the status of AWS blogging today.

Read the whole post, Barr’s story is a good one.

I found it interesting that Barr was over at Microsoft, where I first witnessed large scale corporate blogging by developers. I was trying to figure out blogging from my garage. He also had an interest in Dave Winer’s work with XML and RSS – keys to us following the blogging of others, via syndication.

Instrumental for any blogger – corporate or legal blogger – is passion for what you’re going to cover. The light bulb went on for Barr that AWS was going to big a thing for Amazon when he saw web services being made available for developers en masse. Baar’s developers relations plan included a blog from the start.

Like all of us, Barr was not a natural born blogger – nor a good writer.

“I struggled a bit with “voice” in the early days, and could not decide if I was writing as the company, the group, the service, or simply as me. After some experimentation, I found that a personal, first-person style worked best and that’s what I settled on.”

Topics came in a random way (still do for me).

“In the early days, we did not have much of a process or a blog team. Interesting topics found their way in to my inbox, and I simply wrote about them as I saw fit. I had an incredible amount of freedom to pick and choose topics, and words, and I did my best to be a strong, accurate communicator while staying afield of controversies that would simply cause more work for my colleagues in Amazon PR.”

The AWS blog has become key to AWS’ growth and developer relations. Barr’s time allocated to blogging as grown, and “now stands at about 80%.”

Blog posts are no longer done randomly.

“We now have a strong team and an equally strong production process for new blog posts. Teams request a post by creating a ticket, attaching their PRFAQ (Press Release + FAQ, another type of Amazon document) and giving the bloggers early internal access to their service. We review the materials, ask hard questions, use the service, and draft our post. We share the drafts internally, read and respond to feedback, and eagerly await the go-ahead to publish.”

Rather than press releases pushed to the media and a few bloggers, the regular practice for law firms and legal tech companies, Amazon used the blog for developer relations. It’s developers, after all, that are going to be asking the tough questions, and ultimately be influencing the purchasing of AWS services.

With over 3100 posts under his belt, and plenty more on the way, here’s what Barr focuses on when writing a post.

  • Learn & Be Curious – This is an Amazon Leadership Principle. Writing is easy once I understand what I want to say. I study each PRFAQ, ask hard questions, and am never afraid to admit that I don’t grok some seemingly obvious point. Time after time I am seemingly at the absolute limit of what I can understand and absorb, but that never stops me from trying.
  • Accuracy – I never shade the truth, and I never use weasel words that could be interpreted in more than one way to give myself an out. The Internet is the ultimate fact-checking vehicle, and I don’t want to be wrong. If I am, I am more than happy to admit it, and to fix the issue.
  • Readability – I have plenty of words in my vocabulary, but I don’t feel the need to use all of them. I would rather use the most appropriate word than the longest and most obscure one. I am also cautious with acronyms and enterprise jargon, and try hard to keep my terabytes and tebibytes (ugh) straight.
  • Frugality – This is also an Amazon Leadership Principle, and I use it in an interesting way. I know that you are busy, and that you don’t need extra words or flowery language. So I try hard (this post notwithstanding) to keep most of my posts at 700 to 800 words. I’d rather you spend the time using the service and doing something useful.

I started to publish a blog during a year long covenant not to compete with LexisNexis. I was noodling around in my garage thinking of what to do next. When I stumbled into a blog, I saw it as delivering on two fronts.

One, I wanted learn to write, something I was never very good at. Two, I needed to get passionate about something to do for work. I feared, at then 47 years old, that I would never have another good idea fueled with passion to start another company. Maybe this blog thing would take me there.

So I was struck with some of Barr’s personal thoughts on blogging.

“Writing – Although I love to write, I was definitely not a natural-born writer. In fact, my high school English teacher gave me the lowest possible passing grade and told me that my future would be better if I could only write better. I stopped trying to grasp formal English, and instead started to observe how genuine writers used words & punctuation. That (and decades of practice) made all the difference.

Career Paths – Blogging and evangelism have turned out to be a great match for my skills and interests, but I did not figure this out until I was on the far side of 40. It is perfectly OK to be 20-something, 30-something, or even 40-something before you finally figure out who you are and what you like to do. Keep that in mind, and stay open and flexible to new avenues and new opportunities throughout your career.”

So much to be learned from successful bloggers.

For lawyers and law firms, that means sticking your head up and looking at the blogging being done by corporations, professionals and businesses outside the law.

For me, I am going to revisit my blog’s focus so that at least a portion of my blogging is focused on legal blogger relations for LexBlog. Maybe get some of our developers, support and editorial people contributing.

To show you why you need to stick your head up to see who you learn from, Jeff Barr accepted my Facebook friend request a few months ago when I had no idea he was part of the AWS blog. I just knew he was the Chief Evangelist at AWS, a heck of an interesting job, and that he posted interesting items from Seattle and around the world.

I’ve picked up plenty of lessons from Barr already, and I am sure I will learn more by following the AWS News Blog from now on.

I’m sharing below the table of contents, if you will, of a guide to legal blogging. I welcome your input on what I’m missing.

Why a guide to legal blogging?

Over the years, I have been asked more than once to write a book on the basics of legal blogging.

A lawyer in a larger firm asked during a recent program of blogging I was teaching if there was a book covering the strategy and how-to’s of legal blogging. She was interested in publishing a legal blog, but confessed she had a lot to learn.

I empathized with her on two fronts.

One, blogging strategically – and effectively – so as to develop a strong word of mouth reputation and relationships so as grow your business is an art.

Two, the available resources are limited.

I haven’t seen a book covering the below information. And, unfortunately, many of the programs on blogging conducted for lawyers and legal marketing professionals contain a lot of misinformation.

I am not sure I’ll write a book on legal blogging in the true sense. I barely have enough patience to sit in a chair for an hour, let alone write a book.

But I do have the desire to share with legal professionals what I have seen work so well for lawyers and other legal professionals. And to get this information and what I know out of solely a blog format.

There’s about 7,000 blog posts in here, and though they may cover what you need to know, you’d be hard pressed to find it in a meaningful way.

My gut tells me I’ll sit down and start cranking out some video explanations, whether by myself or in an interview/discussion format. Doing Facebook Live’s for interviews I’ve grown comfortable with video on my iPhone.

I’ll share the videos as recorded, get them transcribed for publication here and as part of LexBlog’s success and support materials – and as some sort of field guide to effective blogging for legal professionals.

I expect to get underway very soon.

Here’s a whole lot of topics I pulled together off the top of my head, along with what I’ve heard from successful legal bloggers.

  1. Role of passion
  2. Identifying a niche
  3. Looking for opportunities
  4. Establishing goals
  5. Group versus individual blog
  6. Relationship to practice areas and practice groups
  7. Independent publication on a domain apart from a law firm website
  8. Titling the blog
  9. Selecting a domain (url)
  10. Branding, identification of the publisher
  11. Branding by design
  12. Substantive categories, ie table of contents
  13. Tags
  14. Relationship of blog publication to law firm website
  15. Navigation – about the publisher, publisher’s services, publisher’s contact information
  16. Alternative technology platforms, what’s needed
  17. WordPress
  18. Managed platform
  19. Turnkey solution
  20. Posting – what, when and how
  21. Images in posts
  22. Default image for social media
  23. SEO (search engine optimization) – what is it and how does a publisher optimize their posts and blog
  24. Local search
  25. Yoast’s SEO plugin
  26. Conversation versus broadcasting
  27. Perfection is not needed
  28. Write in a conversational style, as you’d talk to a friend
  29. Listening tools – news aggregator, Twitter, newsletters, and social media
  30. Influencers in your niche
  31. Engagement
  32. Engage other legal bloggers in your niche, you’re not the only one
  33. Localize
  34. Reporting style of blogging, if own niche
  35. Personal voice
  36. Length of post
  37. Frequency
  38. When to blog
  39. Marketing your blog
  40. Use of LinkedIn
  41. Use of Twitter
  42. Use of Facebook
  43. Legal blogging, as distinguished from marketing
  44. Legal blogs as secondary law
  45. Ethics and liability

I was struck reading Li Jin’s recent piece on the passion economy being the future of work by how much the concept applies to lawyers and blogging.

Jin, an investment partner with Andreessen Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm, writes:

“The top-earning writer on the paid newsletter platform Substack earns more than $500,000 a year from reader subscriptions. The top content creator on Podia, a platform for video courses and digital memberships, makes more than $100,000 a month. And teachers across the US are bringing in thousands of dollars a month teaching live, virtual classes on Outschool and Juni Learning.

Though blogging lawyers are not monetizing their blogs directly in the form of subscriptions, lawyers are generating new business as a direct result of their blogging. In some cases, in excess of $1M a year.

Platforms, as in this case, blogging platforms, are democratizing opportunities for the passionate individual with a niche, says Lin.

“Whereas previously, the biggest online labor marketplaces flattened the individuality of workers, new platforms allow anyone to monetize unique skills.”

Jin may as well be writing about lawyers and blogging in her discussion of differentiating oneself and building relationships.

“New digital platforms enable people to earn a livelihood in a way that highlights their individuality. These platforms give providers greater ability to build customer relationships, increased support in growing their businesses, and better tools for differentiating themselves from the competition. In the process, they’re fueling a new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship”

These new platforms share a number of commonalities, per Lin, three of which are relevant to blogging today.

  • They’re accessible to everyone, not only existing businesses and professionals
  • They view individuality as a feature, not a bug
  • They open doors to new forms of work

A lawyer in a small firm blogging on China law puts himself along side large firms in terms of visibility. Though not able to land some of the cases a larger firm may, he’s developed an international reputation and a large client base based on his passion.

A young partner in a large firm kickstart’s the firm’s publishing of a privacy law blog and is now widely considered as one of the nation’s top privacy and security lawyers. She had the passion other lawyers lacked.

A junior partner in a larger firm, with a passion founded in her family’s history in the textile industry, launches a fashion law blog publication. She now does business worldwide in fashion law with her law school hosting a fashion law symposium which she runs.

The list goes on and on. This relatively new platform enabling blog publishing is enabling any lawyer to monetize their unique skills and passion.

Andreessen Horowitz, which has bet on the likes of Facebook and Twitter and is managing over $4B in assets, and Lin, are predicting that the passion economy will only continue to grow.

“New integrated platforms empower entrepreneurs to monetize individuality and creativity. In the coming years, the passion economy will to continue to grow. We envision a future in which the value of unique skills and knowledge can be unlocked, augmented, and surfaced to consumers.”

The Recorder’s Karen Sloan reported this week that an attorney-discipline blogger and a blog network owned by Pepperdine Law’s dean were hit with a defamation suit.

“The lawsuit was filed against Michael Frisch, adjunct professor and ethics counsel at Georgetown University Law Center, who is also the primary author of the Legal Profession Blog, which highlights attorney discipline cases across the country. The plaintiff in the suit brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is attorney John Paul Szymkowicz, who also named Law Professor Blogs LLC, a blogging network owned by Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine University Rick J. Caruso School of Law. Frisch’s Legal Profession Blog is a member of Law Professor Blogs.”

The complaint alleged that Frisch “engaged in false, defamatory, public, and vile personal attacks against J.P. Szymkowicz, culminating in their most recent accusations of legal misconduct, ‘elder care abuse,’ and ‘horrific elder abuse.’”

The last blog post ran in 2018 after all discipline charges against the plaintiff were dismissed.

I’ve seen very very few law suits brought against legal professionals as a result of their blogging. I have little problem telling lawyers that the risk of such suits is de minimus.

Having said that, legal bloggers would be wise to have insurance coverage against defamation and other claims.

Not so much to pay out on a viable claim, but to cover the costs of defense. Free speech and freedom of the press go a long way in protecting bloggers from successful claims.

I doubt that anyone’s malpractice insurance will cover a defamation claim arising out of blogging – unless one is successful in arguing to an insurer it was my negligence in the course of legal services while blogging that precipitated the claim.

But a general liability business policy or commercial liability insurance policy will provide “advertising coverage.” If the policy does not, look to purchase a rider for the policy. Advertising riders I have bought did not cost much.

Advertising injury coverage is a component of commercial general liability insurance that protects you against claims of stolen ideas, invasion of privacy, libel, slander and copyright infringement related to advertising. Advertising injury coverage is a type of personal injury insurance, as opposed to physical injury insurance, and may also be called personal and advertising injury coverage.

Any good lawyer knows when they’re approaching the third rail of what to say and what not to say. Most legal bloggers are afraid to take any position, let alone take a position that could be argued to be defamatory.

I’ve always viewed insurance as cheap and if needed, it’s there to cover you and your defense.

When practicing, I was sued for defamation by an insurance company as part of my investigating the company’s history of denying claims. Good counsel was hired by my general liability carrier who beat the insurance company through the trial and appellate courts.

Blogging, I had a lawyer tell me he was going to sue me for defamation and that he was going to ruin me and my family. I nicely explained that when he lost his suit, all he will have proven was that what I said was true. He went away – after a year or two.

I have also blogged about the shady practices of multi-billion companies. Though never threatened by the companies and knowing what I said was accurate or my opinion, it was nice to know when I nervously hit the publish button that I did have coverage.

Enough talking in relation to this lawyer’s defamation claim, I don’t want to be added as a defendant.

Lesson learned though, confirm you have the coverage – and if not, get it.

When comparing methods of looking for a lawyer, 59% of clients seek a referral from someone they know or have been in contact with.

Methods such as using an online search engine (17%) and visiting a lawyer’s website (17%), though important for some consumers of legal services, trailed referrals, substantially, as a source of legal business.

This, from Clio’s 2019 Legal Trend Report released at the Clio Cloud Conference in San Diego a couple weeks ago.

Whom did people go to for a referral to a lawyer?

“Friends and family members were the most common source for a referral (32%), followed by referrals from a lawyer (16%) or another non-legal professional (9%). (A non-legal professional could include an accountant, real estate agent, or someone else working in a profession related to a certain type of issue.)”

32% of clients seek a referral from a friend or or family member. 25% seek the referral from a professional of some sort.

The report further found “Of those who sought a referral first, only 16% also looked on their own.”

Almost 60% of people seek a referral when looking for a lawyer and less then 20% of those who seek a referral look on their own, separately.

What should legal professionals take from the Legal Trends Report?

  • The report is based on sound data. In addition to its own data from tens of thousands of legal professionals in the U.S., Clio surveyed 2,000 consumers to learn how clients ultimately choose one lawyer over another.
  • When looking at the Internet to grow business, lawyers should look at ways to use the Internet that will generate referrals, online and offline.
  • Look at what other lawyers are doing when it comes to the Internet, and try something different. As one legal blogger recently told me, “I zig, when others zag.” Building relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation through the Internet is something few lawyers do very well. Perhaps a golden opportunity.
  • Of course, not all clients rely on referrals to find a lawyer, many opt to search on their own. In which case websites, SEO, local search, directories, yellow pages and ratings become more important.
  • Though lawyers may benefit most from networking through the Internet to build relationships and a strong word of mouth presence, websites, search and other items remain important. Anyone getting a referral will go the firm’s website.
  • While lawyers are looking to grow their business, they may not be using the most effective methods to grow business. In addition, lawyers are looking to grow their business where the competition from other lawyers is most heavy.

Clio’s Legal Trends Report asks the right question.

“87% of lawyers agree they want their firms to grow over the next three years—and 67% say they want to grow more than a little. And when it comes to growth, lawyers rank revenues and client base as the top two areas they want to see grow. But how prepared are lawyers to achieve these goals?”

Legal publishing has long been the province of law reviews, law journals and traditional publishers.

But with publishing democratized by WordPress, first used for blogs and now the most widely used content management system in the world, blog software could represent the future for legal publishing.

The readership of legal blogs and publications published on open publishing software (vast majority being on WordPress), in all likelihood, already far surpasses the readership of law reviews.

Bill Henderson, a widely respected law professor, innovator, and editor of Legal Evolution, makes the case that what while some legal professionals are quick to call something a blog because it’s published on blog software and not rendered in a format used by traditional legal publishers, it can still be a legal publication in every sense of the word.

”Several times this summer, colleagues have referred to Legal Evolution as a blog. A couple times I’ve corrected them and said that Legal Evolution is a publication. After all, we have a publication schedule, subject matter focus, and contributor guidelines that are targeted and specific. See Post 092 (publishing contributor guidelines). But I’m done correcting my colleagues, as a friendly conversation is not the right time or place. Instead I’ll write it here and let the passage of time work its magic.“

Henderson credits me or, better put, blames me for argument that blogs are proving to be a disruptive force in legal publishing.

”To the extent this sows confusion, we can blame Kevin O’Keefe, the founder and CEO of LexBlog.  In the spring of 2016, Kevin visited Indiana Law to share his career journey with my students.  Over dinner that night, Kevin discussed the monthly traffic of vs. the ABA Journal vs. Above the Law.  The latter began its life as a blog, yet it was proving to be a profoundly disruptive force in legal publishing. Why? It was on the winning side of a massive demographic shift in readers and reading habits. Further, it was still gathering steam.

Kevin also discussed the massive investments he was making to both automate and improve online publishing. In effect, the cost of getting into the publishing business was dropping to near zero.  The only thing missing was specialized content someone wanted to write and that another group wanted to read.“

Like most successful legal publishers (and bloggers), Henderson’s focus for legal publishing was founded on a personal passion.

”…I was very interested in exploring applied research that focused on the legal market — rigorous enough to get traction with real-world problems (we’ve got no shortage of those) but written in an accessible and congenial style.  A year later, I shut down The Legal Whiteboard (which, for the record, was a blog) and launched Legal Evolution.”

LexBlog’s managed WordPress platform proved more than flexible enough for Henderson’s legal publication.

”As editor of Legal Evolution, I am trying to fill what I perceive as a gap in legal publishing — a reliance on data and theory (like the academy) but pointed at real-world issues that we’re actively engaged in solving (like legal practice). See Post 001. The content is often much longer (and more in-depth and technical) than legal journalism but much shorter (and less technical) than academic articles. We also believe in formal citations, as we are building a new body of knowledge in applied research that’s focused on the legal industry. Finally, we err on the side of accessibility (e.g., we favor contractions and relish Jae Um’semojis and her hilarious, brilliant graphics).“

Even if the readership of a niche legal publication doesn’t become substantial, it doesn’t matter. Legal publications, such as Henderson’s, published on WordPress, are focused on reaching the ‘Long Tail’ – the concept that the low cost of publishing and distribution enable small and unique audiences to be all that is needed.

”Legal Evolution’s publishing conventions — particularly length and technical content — reduce the number of readers. We don’t care because we’re focused on serious thinkers and innovators.  Yet, even among this smaller group, the number of monthly readers vastly exceeds the readership of a typical law review. Because our applied-research mission requires a robust engagement with practice, the new world of legal publishing — the cost structure, the control of visual presentation, the proximity to readers, the connectivity with relevant sources — has been an extraordinary opportunity to try new things and to build a community of interest. Everytime I look at Legal Evolution’s growing subscriber list, I’m astonished by the breadth and quality of our readership.”

Personally, it’s an honor for LexBlog and I to serve legal professionals the likes of Bill Henderson, who are making such a commitment to advance the legal business for the people and organizations we all serve.

Like Henderson, there are hundreds, if not thousands of legal publishers, including academics whom it would seem could benefit from real open publishing (no pdf’s) on a managed WordPress platform.

The benefits being, among others, reduced costs, better publishing platform, better reader experience, increased influence of the individual publishers (legal professionals), and increased relevance of the individual publishers with general legal community and the public.

Rather than law reviews and law journals moving to WordPress en masse, a sound approach may be the approach which Henderson and Northwestern law Professor Dan Linna followed in his LegalTech Lever

Identify your niche. Look at your community of followers and and fellow publishers. Look at a managed WordPress platform to get your publication up in weeks, not months. And build an audience that’s more engaged than that of a law review’s audience.

You’ll find an enhanced reputation, increased influence and a growing body of relationships. You’ll also find your influence on the advancement of law – for people – to be greater.