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Dan Harris of China Law Blog [LexBlog Q & A]

Sure, Seattle has a lot of bloggers – one recent study even suggested that 13% of folks here operate a blog. But of all the local content being produced through citizen journalism, the material written by international law attorney Dan Harris at the China Law Blog continues to turn heads.

It seems fitting, then, that we feature Dan for our LexBlog Q & A (an interview series that has by and large overlooked many of the Seattle-area bloggers). In an e-mail discussion last week, Dan answered some of our questions on the ins-and-outs of international blogging.

1. Rob La Gatta: Your firm focuses on general issues related to international law. What made you chose to start the blog with a specific focus on Chinese law?

Dan Harris: Great question. If we had infinite time, we would have done a Russian law blog and a Vietnamese law blog and a Korean law blog as well, but we don’t. We also considered doing an international law blog, but we thought that would be too general.

We chose to focus on China because China is so hot, and because we have a lawyer in China (soon to be two) completely fluent in Chinese. So we were better positioned to ramp up our China work than any other. Also, the reality is that time spent seeking to generate China work gets us more work than time spent seeking to generate any other kind of work.

2. Rob La Gatta: It seems like your posts could be of value to a number of different groups: lawyers, businesspeople, the general public, etc on both sides of the Pacific. Who is the blog primarily geared towards? Does that have any impact on how you present the material and compose your posts?

Dan Harris: I write nearly all of the posts with our potential clients in mind. Our potential clients are, at least in my mind, really the same as our existing clients: for the most part, owners or CFOs or CEOs or, less often, in-house attorneys at small to mid-sized companies. These companies are usually American (including Canada), sometimes German or British or Russian, and interested in going into China or expanding within China.

I assume they have some familiarity with law, and most of them also have familiarity with going international in places other than China. I assume they are intelligent and, maybe most importantly, still willing to hire us even if they may disagree with our position on certain China issues. I also assume that this person does not particularly like lawyers and absolutely detests lawyer-speak. I write all posts to this hypothetical person.

3. Rob La Gatta: How many blogs do you read that are actually products of China?

Dan Harris: Very few. I cannot read Chinese characters, and so I am forced to read those that are in English…and those, for the most part, are not in well written English. My co-blogger, Steve Dickinson, can read Mandarin and he reads a number of Chinese blogs. My sense is that Chinese blogs are very much like American blogs.

4. Rob La Gatta: The recent murder of a Chinese blogger, supposedly by government officials, has gotten the Chinese blogging community riled up – so much so that their government cannot even restrict everything they’re saying. Do you think this is indicative of technology’s future role in guiding Chinese politics?

Dan Harris: Not sure I am the person to ask about this. There are certainly many people out there in the blogosphere – David Wolf, Rebecca McKinnon, Shaun Rein, & Sam Flemming immediately come to mind – who know far more about the Chinese Internet and blogging than I do. But my sense is that blogging is critically important to China’s political maturation because its people look to the blogs for the truth even more than we do so in the U.S.

5. Rob La Gatta: Ultimately, what is it that keeps you blogging day in and day out?

Dan Harris: When I started, I did it to get business and I still do it to get business, but that is not what keeps me blogging day in and day out. Truth be told, we have so much business right now we can barely keep up. We have a new Chinese speaking lawyer who will start working for us out of Shanghai in May, and there are definitely days when I think about starting a countdown chart for that. We are also on the verge of bringing in a Seattle-based lawyer fluent in Chinese as well.

Yet I keep blogging, and the reason I do so is because I learn so much. I love that part about blogging. I like the learning, not in some sort of abstract sense but because it makes me a better lawyer…which, in the end, is what keeps the business flowing. I am typically the client contact on our China business, and though I will never know Chinese law as well as our lawyers who can read Mandarin, I do have to know it well enough to help clients in the initial stages of our representation before I hand over the rigorous part of the work to the real experts.

Interested in hearing more? Recent LexBlog Q & A posts:

Or, see our full list of legal blog interviews.

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