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Doug Cornelius of Goodwin Procter [LexBlog Q & A]

February 18, 2008

Happy President’s Day. To those readers sitting at home monitoring their feeds instead of working today, we’ve got a great LexBlog Q & A to tide you over with.

The guest? Blogging attorney Doug Cornelius, a Boston-based associate with Goodwin Procter. Doug runs two blogs that showcase his areas of expertise: KM Space, focusing on knowledge management/legal technology issues; and Real Estate Space, dealing with real estate law.

In a phone interview last week, we spoke with Doug about his firm’s take on blogging,  legal advertising rules and their impact on the legal blogosphere, and more. See it all after the jump.

1. Rob La Gatta: Why do you blog?

Doug Cornelius: I blog for lots of different reasons.

  • One, I blog just for personal knowledge management – I grab and write about things that I want to be able to find later.
  • I blog to keep my fellow KM team members aware of what’s catching my attention or the things that I’m working on.
  • I blog to keep a conversation going with people that I know.

Actually, I recently put up a post on that last point, called Putting the ‘Social’ Into Social Media. It’s great being able to exchange these conversations back and forth to people, and then when you actually run into them, you can have fantastic real time conversations; then when you have to leave, you can keep it going.

2. Rob La Gatta: Are you the only lawyer from Goodwin Procter who is blogging?

Doug Cornelius:

There are actually two others: one is David Hobbie, whose blog Caselines is a little more sporadic, focusing on litigation knowledge management. And one of our attorneys at the Palo Alto office has a personal blog.

2a. Rob La Gatta: Do you get a sense of how receptive the firm is to these blogs?

Doug Cornelius: They don’t know what to do with it…which I think is true of a lot of law firms.

Our blogging policy is currently one sentence in the larger attorney manual (although I’ve heard rumblings that they’re starting to work on a more substantial blogging policy). If you notice, on my blog there’s not a whole lot of references to Goodwin Procter. They’re not clear what they want the association to be, and I’m happy to go either way – either to not mention them at all, or bring them onboard.

I think blogs offer a fantastic opportunity to make yourself known out there and to make people aware of your expertise. Over the past year, since I’ve been blogging, I’ve had so many more opportunities – people wanting me to speak and write articles who view me as an expert now, just because I’m expressing the things I know. I’m not sure whether I’m any more of an expert than I was a year ago, but just by exposing yourself out there, people see you.

3. Rob La Gatta: I saw that when Dennis Kennedy included you in his 2007 Blawggie Awards, he mentioned specifically how he respects your ability to live blog. What value do you see in live blogging events?

Doug Cornelius: The big thing for me – and I’ve discovered this periodically as I go through the stacks of papers on my desk – is when you go to some conference, you think its great, and you take all these notes…but they end up just sitting on a notepad somewhere, not being particularly useful for you or your colleagues.

At this point, with the live blogging, I’m capturing my notes and the stuff that I find interesting…at the same time, I’m sharing all that information with the people back in the office and with the rest of the readers: “Here’s a conference I went to, here’s some information that I found interesting and that perhaps you’ll find interesting as well.”

There are challenges. I was interested to see in Kevin’s recent post that the ABA Tech Show is embracing these web 2.0 technologies, by having the Flickr feeds and the tags and all the other things flowing in there. Having just been at Legal Tech, where the wi-fi was spotty and expensive, and there weren’t power plugs, it was not easy to actually blog.

There are still a lot of barriers to live blogging, and I think you’re starting to see more at conferences to make it easier: can you get an Internet connection? Can you get a power source in there? Can you actually put information ahead of time so you can link to people? It allows much more for “living notes.”

4. Rob La Gatta: Do you believe laws governing legal advertising, which differ from state to state, are hindering the growth of the legal blogosphere?

Doug Cornelius: Yes, I do.

I think people are not sure what implications these laws are having. Can you call yourself the Pit Bull Litigator Blog? If you’re down in Florida, you probably can’t (based on some of their advertising rules). It’s clear, from what I see, that a lot of the state bars haven’t quite got up to speed to analyze it…in part because it’s not even all that easy to define what a blog is. What makes it different than any other attorney website? What makes it different than someone just e-mailing you or faxing you publications periodically?

People are getting tied up in the form and the substance, but what it comes down to is you need to be truthful and you need to be honest. Don’t do anything in a blog that you wouldn’t otherwise be doing; and, largely, don’t be stupid. That ends up being a great blogging policy. You are an attorney: this is a reflection of your personal and professional stature, so write as if people are actually reading it. It’s often hard to gauge who is reading it and when they’re reading it, but people are reading it.

5. Rob La Gatta:

Now that you’ve been at it for a year, what do you see as the most rewarding element of it?

Doug Cornelius: The most rewarding element is creating connections with people that I may never have otherwise met before. There are enough people out there that have persistent searches on particular topics or their names that, within an hour after you’ve posted on a subject, if it’s something they’re interested in, they’re going to comment on it. Then that connection is created, and the conversation begins.

Some of the people I communicate with often are in the Canary Islands, Chicago, Australia, the UK, other parts of the United States…it’s just a massive communication network that gets created, very quickly and very easily. And that carries over to across the different social media, and translates into live conversations.

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

Or, see our full list of legal blog interviews.

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