I’m honing the feeds on my news aggregator (Feedly) in an effort to stimulate my thinking and engage readers of my blog and social media via better stories and insight.

Out goes the mindless “content marketing” feeds produced by those producing copy merely to draw attention.

In stays the stories and posts from those driving valuable discussion and thought. An A-List of people and sources such as:

The lack of diversity will be corrected as I continue to go through my feeds.

I’ve been using a news aggregator for almost twenty years as a source for news, for items to share and as a means of engaging the sources and subjects of the items I read from my aggregator.

But the volume of junk produced, some of which I thought important or insightful for whatever reason, has grown to the point it drowns out the insight from the A-Listers.

No one had coined the concept of “content marketing” when I began using an aggregator. People writing stories and posts did so in a real and authentic fashion in order to help others and stimulate thinking and discussion.

I could subscribe to new feeds from people I didn’t know and usually get some pretty good stuff. Same for subscribing to subjects (words and phrases).

No more. People write content, or have it written for them, in order to generate attention, subscribers and customers. Little insight, little value and no engagement.

So I started pulling an A-List together last night from the hundreds of sources and subjects in my reader.

If you look at the writings of these folks and the others I’ll add, you’ll see they cover areas far beyond my industry. These folks think out loud, giving me and others an opportunity to listen in – to learn and to be inspired.

I’ve found my news aggregator pretty boring of late. What used to be an hour or two each morning of reading some great stuff and sharing it on social media has slowed to a crawl.

Little learning. No meeting new people and engaging those I already knew through sharing what I was reading,

I miss my old news aggregator, as well as the relationships and, truth be told, the business it generated via engagement and the stimulation of business ideas.

So I am going to create an A-List and see if I can get things rolling again.

Stay tuned.

Conceptualizing legal blogs, worldwide, as a community makes it easier to conceptualize the network of information these bloggers are creating, the positive impact they are having and how LexBlog can work on a goal that is much bigger than itself – a worldwide legal blog community, including every legal blog.

This from an interview with Geo-Cities co-founder, David Bohnett, who was struggling with a way to describe the Internet.

And one day in 1994, it just came to him. His hosting site didn’t need a technological innovation. It needed a conceptual one. Users needed a new way of navigating the web. So he sketched out a plan to make his website feel more like a real neighborhood.

Geo-Cities was an Internet company creating websites. “Communities” were easy to understand as a place you live or go to.

“GeoCities was creating these communities and then conceptualizing them as places you could go as neighborhoods on the net. So you could be a citizen of a country, and you could then be a netizen of somewhere like Geocities.”

Garry Vander Voort, my former COO and still a consultant to LexBlog sent Bohnett’s quote to me after we were discussing a worldwide legal blog community.

“I love this revelation and need to remind myself of this all the time. Tech is always complex to someone, even when it seems easy.  You can throw tech at the problem, but if you can reconceptualize, it widens the reach of your product.

How is X similar to something people already know? How does one lean into that?

LexBlog needs a definable and quantifiable cause – indexing every credible legal blog in the world in our legal blog community is something we can lean into.

It’s not impossible.

  • There is a defined number of legal blogs
  • Blogs are not living under rocks, they want to be seen
  • LexBlog is a the leading name when it comes to legal blogs
  • Law firms and law firms want their blogs indexed in LexBlog. It’s free, increases visibility to lawyers/blogs, provides a SEO bump and syndicates blog posts across LexBlog’s syndication network.

How does LexBlog generate revenue? This, for my team members.

Think of legal blogs as homes.

The writings, art and music (“the works”) prepared by people in the homes LexBlog stores in a data base. We deliver relevant “works” to those wanting to syndicate such “works” on one of our media players (our licensed syndication portal product). They, of course, can play their own media on the media players. 

Relevant “works” with meta data (name, location, contact info, schools, memberships, social media attributes) can also be syndicated via our API to other platforms, whether they be research/AI platforms, law firm websites or other sites. The user of our API will pay a licensing fee.

With thousands of legal blogs (homes) in our community, LexBlog looks for blogs whose technology is lacking. Stability, speed, security and mobility, among other things.

Think of it as a contractor which every community member likes as a result of what the contractor has done for them preparing and circulating reports of those houses with erosion problems, foundation issues and old shingles.

LexBlog knocks on the door and offers to help where we can, with a professional platform eliminating all the defects.

Those homes (blogs) seeking to use our platform join the thousands of others already paying an annual licensing fee for use of the platform.

You’re getting my thinking out loud. LexBlog’s thinking on legal blogs as a community is far from cooked.

Content for lawyers is the currency of engagement. Content is not the end goal.

Leah Schloss, Baker McKenzie’s associate director for North American
communications, as part of Baker’s being recognized as the leading law firm in Good2bSocial’s The Social Law Firm Index shared:

We want our content to resonate with people. We don’t want to put out content that people aren’t engaging with.

The content we put out there is for our clients and what they say they need from us. We think of our content as part of a conversation with our clients and audience. (Emphasis added)

The end game in legal blogging is not to publish a blog post. That’s just a start.

The conversation – the dialogue which ensues from “content” is what leading bloggers are after. It’s from this engagement that reputations and relationships are born.

Attending a social event for networking, lawyers keen to business development are not focused on the words they speak – the content – they’re focused on the conversation, the engagement and relationships.

Recognition that content is merely the currency of engagement is made all the more important with the advent of social media.

Social media, ala LinkedIn, is how lawyers take their content – their words – out to network with people, just as they would take their words – their content – out to network at a face to face social event.

Baker McKenzie recognizes exactly that. Schloss, in discussing how important the firm views LinkedIn:

Training and then retraining is super important. We’re constantly training employees on sharing on social media. I also really impress on people that the more personal the post, the better. They need to make it relevant to the people they’re posting to.

We’ll hear from clients that one of our pieces of thought leadership was helpful, or it spoke to them on their end. We love hearing that sort of feedback.”

Business development as a lawyer is all about a reputation and relationships.

Content may get you to first base, but recognition that content is merely the currency of engagement leading to relationships and a reputation will get you home.

Election coverage now comes from blogs.

Whether they be blogs run by the mainstream media, blogs that have the status of mainsteam media, such as FiveThirtyEight, blogs published by legal commenators, or citizen bloggers, blogs dominate election coverage.

In addition, what Americans read on social media is often a report originally published on a blog.

This was not the case not that long ago.

Sixteen years ago, the Boston Globe’s Teresa Hanafin, reporting from. the Democratic National Convention shared the following:

They don’t have space in the media pavilion, and are forced to pay exorbitant prices for lunch at the press café – unless they are willing to wait in long lines at McDonald’s in the FleetCenter or bring their own food.

The crowded workspace they do have is in the rafters of the convention hall, which they would be sharing with pigeons if this were the old Boston Garden.

Who are they?

They are bloggers: Those who write weblogs, online journals of sorts with regular entries chronicling anything from the latest in tech gadgets to opinions on the Iraq war to personal reflections on their favorite band or the joys of growing eggplant – most with extensive links to other weblogs or websites, helping to fulfill the promise of the Internet by serving as one part of the connective tissue that is the worldwide Web.

They may not have much in the way of amenities here, but they are wearing a piece of gold around their necks: Credentials certifying them as members of the media sanctioned to cover the Democratic National Convention.

Dave Winer, the godfather of blogging and attending the convention, aptly shared with Hanafin blogging’s status then.

Blogging has already played a substantial role in the presidential campaign of 2004. However, its role on the local level, in the House races and Senate races and in state races, is going to be much greater than it is on the national level.

Blogs are essentially a decentralization technology; it makes it easy for an individual to create a publication and to influence other people and to share ideas, and so forth.

This is a milestone, but it’s not the last milestone…In four years at the political conventions, basically everybody will be a blogger. Politically active people who don’t have weblogs will have a hard time competing with those who do.”

Blogs have democratized journalism. As Winer says, blogs are a decentralizaton technology.

Rather than one to many, we’re now a many to many in the reporting of election news – through bloggers and their ancillary social media.

“Half of my blog posts are below average, but I don’t know which half.”

This from author and speaker Seth Godin discussing on Faceboook today his latest book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work.

Godin explains that shipping is the work of saying, “Here, I made this for you.” Lots of time, though, it doesn’t work.

But Godin, the publisher of over 7,000 blog posts is not sitting around polishing while waiting for perfect.

“I’m doing my best to learn, to pay attention and to get better for next time. Perfect is just a place to hide.”

Godin has been blogging at Seths Blog for eighteen years. His blog has made him a household name.

He’s not worried about the length of a blog post, its demonstration of intellect, the images on the post, its search engine performance, the distribution of the blog or stats.

We don’t ship because we’re creative, we’re creative because we ship, per Godin.

Legal bloggers are not creative in their intellect, they’re creative because they ship. They post regularly, not hiding in a place called perfect.

Godin’s right. We’ve been brain washed in law school and in the practice of law into thinking we need to be perfect.

We just need to be creative to feel good in our blogging. Feeling good will keep us keep blogging.

Creative need not be all the hard.

Per Godin, creative merely means what a human would do in their best moment of being generous, of doing something that might not work, of doing something for someone else with humanity. It doesn’t mean flash.

Moving into a larger home has enabled me to open boxes of books and magazines from years back. Doing so I stumbled across the November, 2003 edition of Business 2.0, the Fortune and Business Week magazine of the startup world.

You see, evolving from trial lawyer to legal tech entrepreneur I couldn’t read enough about startups. No idea why me, but my greatest fear was that the tech world would pass me by without my being on the front of the wave.

Jeff Bezos was on to something, and I needed to figure how to develop a startup for people looking for legal information and services.

My passion was all the more intense when LexisNexis aquired my first startup, a virtual legal community, launched in 1996. “I lost my baby and will never have another great idea,” I worried while working out my garage while playing out the last month of my non-compete in November of 2003.

Then it happened, seventeen years ago this month. Late one evening, I picked up the November edition of Business 2.0 off a stack of boxes along side my desk chair in my garage.

No idea why, but I stopped to read a half page (non-feature) story by Om Malik, under a heading, Startups, entitled “Blogging for Dollars” in a magazine 160 pages long.

In August 2001, Ben and Mena Trott joined what was Silicon Valley’s fastest growing demographic: dotcommers without jobs. Laid off by an Internet design firm, the programmer and his Web designer wife began publishing a weblog to idle away their unemployment. Not satisfied with the available blogging sofware, the Trotts sat down to write a better program.

The result–an elegant content manager called Movable Typebecame an instant hit. Posted in 2001, Movable Type powered more than 20,000 weblogs within a year. It has been downloded half a million times, and the roster of users includes publishers Primedia and Gruner & Jahr. “It’s the gold stabdard,” says Rafat Ali, editor of PaidContent.org, an online publication that tracks digital content.”

Not knowing what a program was, let alone what to do with a program if I downloaded one, it was not until I read on, about the Trott’s next product, that I took any interest in this weblog software thing.

“...Six Apart (the name refers to the six-day gap between Ben’s and Medan’s birth dates), expects the money [small amount of venture capital raised] to go a long way. By December, the company says, it will have 10,000 users of its latest product Typepad, each paying $10 a month for hosted weblog sofware. With just five full-time employees, including the Trotts, Six Apart is on track to have postive cash flow by year’s end.

Like AOL, folks saw enough value to pay a monthly subscription. And more inspiring, getting the company in the black within sixty to ninety days.

Yes, my passion was acccess to legal services for the masses, but this AOL-like uptake of 10,000 paying subscribers within 90 days was way too interesting not to look further.

The monies from the LexisNexis sale would only last so long and if I was going to do a another startup, I didn’t want to raise venture capital this time. Getting in the black asap, or at least having an ongoing subscription revenue stream to tide me over was important.

Mind you, it was not weblog or blogging software that piqued my interest. I had never heard of a weblog, a blog or content management software.

I just wanted to look under the rock to see what it was that people valued enough to pay $10 a month. Enough people to get a company profitable in a few months.

It was only after swiping my credit card and cluelessy walking through the set up of my TypePad blog that I realized this weblog software had something to do with publishing one’s thoughts to the Internet.

Thoughts that when published to the Internet by me quickly attracted lawyers from across to the country to my corner of the world in a garage. Lawyers looking for help on how they, too, could use this weblog software to share what they knew with people looking for help.

So much has transpired in the last seventeen years, personally and professionally. But as I sit here in my den in the front of the house, about sixty feet from the garage, I can’t help but feel some of the excitment of startup as we roll out of this year and into the next.

New team members joining the company, new products, new partners, with the pandemic the increasing importance of our publishing software and a growing passion for reducing the growing chasm this country has in access to legal services.

Much the like the Trotts, I am an accidential entrepreneur. It was only after I was out of a job that I discovered something bigger than myself – blogging.

But had it not been for the Trotts and Malik, in penning his piece, there is no chance I would have found my way into blogging, nor would we have so many legal bloggers sharing what they know to help other people.

At Clio Con (Clio’s Cloud Nine annual conference) a couple weeks ago, Seth Godin advised lawyers that they should be seeking the minimum viable audience in their business development efforts.

Godin has made blogging a lynchpin in growing his name and reputation as a speaker and author. His almost twenty years of blogging on Seth’s Blog, a blog publication, separate and apart from his website, has made him a household name in the marketing field.

Godin’s Clio discussion may as well have been directed to blogging lawyers. After all, it’s the blogging lawyers who get the opportunity to build a strong name and develop business in a niche more than other lawyers — and to do so much faster.

Why a minimal viable audience? Read what Godin shared on his blog a couple years ago:

Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact.

And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone.

You can see the problem.

When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.

When you have your eyes firmly focused on the minimum viable audience, you will double down on all the changes you seek to make. Your quality, your story and your impact will all get better.

And then, ironically enough, the word will spread.

Legal blogging to the minimum viable audience works.

Look at the FMLA, equine law, fashion law, cannabis law, China Law, E. coli, cruise law, foreign service of process, NY business divorce, Texas Appellate law and countless other niche blogs.

The lawyers behind these blogs are known nationally and, in many cases, internationally.

The blogging lawyers have honed their legal skills in their niches like other lawyers. They’ll appear in the top few items on Google on a relevant search. And they’re household names when it comes to referrals.

Life’s too short to be a wandering generality.

Take Godin’s counsel, look for the minimum viable audience when legal blogging.

“Connecting lawyers with people, for good, since 2003,” feels like a much nicer – or at least a more mature – mantra than “We build blogs for lawyers.” The latter from when we kicked things off at LexBlog in November, 2003.

The Internet is about connecting with people in a real and intimate way. Always has been, always will be.

There’s no such thing as differentiating between a “virtual world” and a “face-to-face” world.” One world, different mediums of engagement. Engagement leading to intimate relationships of trust.

The last two weeks I heard again about the latent legal market in the United States. First at Clio Con and this week at LMA Annual.

Depending on the survey, seventy-five to eighty-five percent of people with a legal issue – and who may be able to afford a lawyer – do not use a lawyer.

The big reasons are that they don’t trust lawyers, they don’t know what lawyers do and, even if they did, they don’t know how to find a good lawyer.

Shows you that despite lawyers, collectively, spending billions of dollars on advertising and marketing – directories, SEO, content marketing, Google AdWords, Google my Business, hiring marcom professionals, and more – lawyers are not connecting with their market.

Market meaning people, whether consumer, corporate executive, in-house counsel, small business person or another lawyer.

“Connecting” with people in an intimate fashion so they know you as “the lawyer” in a niche who cares about what they do and who they to do it for – and stays abreast of developments in their field – is how you reach this latent legal market.

Since 2003, I’ve felt blogging to be a remedy to the chasm between lawyers and people. A chasm that denies millions of legal services and leaves hundreds of thousands of lawyers living hand to mouth.

But, for whatever reason, I’ve not always felt comfortable wearing a mantra for blogging proclaiming a higher purpose on my sleeve.

Building blogs for lawyers, legal blogs and strategic consulting, managed WordPress platform for the law, networking through the Internet, digital media solutions for the law and legal blog community. All tag lines or glib phrases describing what we do.

None of them felt right. ”Blah, blah, blah.”

They were tactics, not a mission.

None felt like something team members would proudly say when responding to a family member who asked over Thanksgiving dinner where they worked.

“LexBlog, we connect lawyers with people, for good,” sounds nice as a team member passes the cranberries across the table.

I don’t know that we need to be repeating our mantra – our purpose – everywhere. But we sure as heck should know why we exist, why we get up each morning and why we spend more time at LexBlog than with our families.

Rather than talking tactics with team members, something I am known to notoriously hate and suck at, I need to be talking the why.

I’ve always liked Clio’s mission of “transforming the practice of law, for good.” And in pursuit of that mission, developing seamless solutions so that lawyers can connect with people and deliver legal services so as to help lawyers reach this huge latent legal market.

For good, meaning not only to help people, but for once and for all – after all the well intentioned talk of others that they were going to do so.

It’s this mission that drives Clio’s team members, keeps their team members and lands smart, passionate, gritty and driven new team members.

And which lands new customers. Customers who want to work with a partner focused on something bigger than themselves. A partner focused on the greater good.

So with Jack consenting and telling me a one off just means more are joining the cause, I’m going to start wearing the mantra of “connecting lawyers with people, for good” on my sleeve.

And talking about our cause with my team members and partners.

As a community of legal bloggers, not just LexBlog, we can connect lawyers with people, for good.

Developing legal business through publishing is in large part about developing relationships.

The content is the currency of engagement that builds and nurtures relationships. The content enables you to engage someone.

Maybe it’s the networking you do with someone who likes or comments on content that you share on LinkedIn.

Maybe it’s virtually meeting someone whose article you shared on Twitter.

Maybe it’s the discussion that ensues from your emailing a client or prospective client something that you or someone else wrote.

Taking it up a notch, one could use an aggregation and curation engine, ala LexBlog’s Syndication Portal product, to showcase a large number of content publishers and organizations.

How so?

Look at Sheppard Mullin’s ‘In The Know’ aggregating and curating blog posts from the firm’s over thirty legal blogs or the firm’s ‘Coronavirus Insights’ publication which aggregates and curates their lawyers’ blog posts relating to the virus and pandemic.

Now imagine a publication along the lines of those two aggregating and curating the blog posts and content written by third parties?

Why and how so?

To build relationships and a strong reputation.

If you’re doing IP work in the pharmaceutical industry, imagine aggregating relevant content published by pharmaceuticals, scientists, academics, associations, financiers or even other lawyers.

You’ll receive thanks and kudos presenting you with ample opportunities for engagement and discussions leading to relationships.

You’ll build a reputation for caring for others and for having a strong interest in staying up to speed with developments and people in your niche.

All of this without heavy lifting via RSS feeds from consenting publishers (they gladly consent for the visibility) coming into a common data base for syndication onto a niche publication sponsored and published by you.

Publishing is unquestionably valuable for business development. But keep in mind what you publish need not be your own content. You can generate a reputation and relationships by publishing content by third parties.

Before talking with a larger law firm this morning, I made a few notes on what I’d be thinking about as a larger firm when starting a first blog. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

One, Pick a winner. It’s not time to launch a blog for a group of lawyers for the heck of it, because they just want to blog or because they just saw a blog in a competing law firm and thought they should have one too.

You need to pick a winning area of the law and a winning lawyer or group of lawyers. Lawyers who are passionate about blogging and the area of the law that will be covered.

This blog is going to be your role model for blogging lawyers to come.

Blogging has to work in developing millions of dollars in new revenue, per blogging lawyer, per year. Killing off this new revenue generator for any number of lawyers in your firm who may express a future interest in blogging by dismissing blogs as an effective business development tool because this first blog didn’t work would be a major loss.

If you’re in marketing, business development or communications and leading or coordinating this blog initiative, you need to make it an enjoyable and rewarding experience. You don’t want to be pushing a rope.

Two, choose a niche. Niche law blogs have generally proven to do much better than blogs focused on general areas of the law. Such blogs can become must have insight and commentary for a targeted audience. They’ll bring early success, something you want on a first blog.

Rather than immigration law, how about immigration law for the pharmaceutical industry.

Three, choose a growth area, look to the future. Lawyers tend to focus on what they’re doing now or have done in the past.

Hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, said he experienced so much success because he was taught: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Look for areas of the law and niches in an industry that are predicted to grow.

Blogging lawyers who focused on fashion law before fashion law was even a thing and the cannabis industry before marijuana was legalized did very, very well for themselves.

Such blogs can demonstrate to the firm how networking through the net, via blogging, can help the firm grow new business.

Three, find and empower passionate bloggers. Passion is what you’ll find behind any successful law blog.

Do the lawyers love the area of the law, love representing the clients in the area, are they excited about building a name and relationships in the area? If not the leading lawyer(s) in the group, look for passion in associate lawyers – and empower them.

You’ll need blog champions for this blog and future blogs. Such role models arise out of passion.

Four, look for business development acumen in the blogging lawyers. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

Some lawyers aren’t wired for business development. Blogging is networking through the Internet, not just writing legal copy.

Though every blogger need not get business development, you’re going to need to have one or two who do.

Connecting the dots in an engaging and authentic fashion is important. So is seeing how ancillary social media fits in.

Business development in the law is about building a strong name and relationships. Blogging and the net didn’t change that.

Five, establish a clear goal. A goal is more than having a blog and a goal is not met by traffic and web stats.

A goal may be:

  • Learning the power of blogging as a business development tool within a year.
  • Understanding how blogging fits in the culture of our firm.
  • Using the blog to serve existing clients. “We built this blog for you as way to keep you abreast of developments and to share our insight.” Good clients are hard to get, this is one way to keep them.
  • Business development – building relationships and a reputation with a very targeted audience.
  • Revenue. Individual blogging lawyers are generating seven figures a year in new revenue from relationships they’ve built from blogging. Even a deadline to start accruing such revenue after two years is not bad as compared to other business development channels.

Six, and having little fun here, get a sound blog partner for a platform and strategy. If you choose someone other than LexBlog and don’t succeed, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😊