For a unique take on intellectual property law issues, look no further than DuetsBlog, from the Minneapolis firm Winthrop & Weinstine. Intellectual property attorney Stephen Baird is one of the lead authors for this blog, which in both design and format is different from most other law blogs out there.

"A common business mantra heard from both legal and marketing camps is the recognition of a significant chasm that can divide legal and marketing types," Stephen says. "We had a vision of doing our part to bring these two camps together, and provide a place for a community of lawyers and non-lawyers, who care about marketing, to share ideas and opportunities for learning and professional development."

Their vision is realized every day, as this frequently updated blog receives comments and visitors from all over the web.

"Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this entire process is the positive feedback we receive from bloggers and others who visit the site," Stephen says. "Sometimes this comes in praise of good information and something new a visitor learned about a topic; increasingly it is turning into new relationships and tangible business."

We caught up with Stephen for this LexBlog Q&A to discuss more about the inspiration for the blog and why exactly they have a squirrel in their masthead.

See our email exchange with Stephen, after the jump.

Lisa Kennelly: What went into the firm’s decision to start a blog?

Stephen Baird: It is something that our Intellectual Property, Trademark and Brand Management Groups and our Marketing Director had been thinking about for some time, which led to extensive research conducted by our marketing department (headed by Deb Cochran) and IP group members about the advantages and disadvantages of a law firm blog, especially one devoted to intellectual property issues. Given our group’s passion for and experience in solving legal issues facing business marketers, we thought a blog focused on marketing topics would give professionals (both lawyers and non-lawyers) a great opportunity to advance/showcase their professional development and ideas while creating additional visibility for everyone involved. We also identified successful blogs including “vendors” who had a track record in helping lawyers launch and maintain blogs. Kevin O’Keefe came and spoke to a small group of our attorneys.

Our idea was again presented at the marketing committee who, let’s say, did not openly oppose the idea of a blog. Being lawyers, they were cautiously optimistic that it was a good idea and could benefit our clients and firm.

Lisa Kennelly: You allude to this on the About page, but the Duets blog is different from most intellectual property blogs out there. What is the philosophy behind this blog?

Stephen Baird: A common business mantra heard from both legal and marketing camps is the recognition of a significant chasm that can divide legal and marketing types. The About page and my inaugural Dr. No and the Parade of Horribles blog post identify some possible reasons for the chasm, but suffice it to say, DuetsBlog was born out of this chasm. We had a vision of doing our part to bring these two camps together, and provide a place for a community of lawyers and non-lawyers, who care about marketing, to share ideas and opportunities for learning and professional development. DuetsBlog is Winthrop & Weinstine’s Trademark & Brand Management Group’s effort to facilitate a more ambidextrous approach to the legal issues facing marketers, and promote early—and very graceful—collaborations among legal and marketing teams.

Because many marketing professionals have either a perception or experience that lawyers can be idea-stoppers, we wanted to keep DuetsBlog a few clicks away from Winthrop.com and create a distinct and separate brand for our blogging efforts.

Lisa Kennelly: Your blog has a unique design and format – what was the inspiration for the design (and why the squirrel in the masthead?)

Stephen Baird: We were convinced that to engage marketers in an ongoing dialogue and conversation with lawyers, we had to have a unique design, unlike any other typical law firm easily would adopt. We were also convinced, as intellectual property lawyers, that we had to have an inherently distinctive blog name, not a merely descriptive or generic one. Aaron Keller (of Capsule), who is the genius behind the squirrel and our design, and I have worked collaboratively on educational marketing and legal presentations to our clients and professional friends for the past several years, so we trusted his team in coming up with the name and the design. Basically, trademark and IP law is greatly about protecting your assets, something squirrels also know a lot about…

Lisa Kennelly: How do you coordinate having multiple authors for the blog?

Stephen Baird: Attorneys in the group have volunteered responsibility for certain days of the week. We also have one day (Tuesday) that is set aside for guest bloggers. Guest bloggers are by invitation.

Lisa Kennelly: All your authors are strong writers, as well – is there a selection process to write for Duets?

Stephen Baird: Fortunately, marketing/advertising professionals and lawyers are usually great writers. The only criterion is a passion for great work!

Lisa Kennelly: What has been most rewarding about blogging, and what has been most challenging?

Stephen Baird: Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this entire process is the positive feedback we receive from bloggers and others who visit the site…sometimes this comes in praise of good information and something new a visitor learned about a topic; increasingly it is turning into new relationships and tangible business. We never cease to be amazed by the wonderful contributions from those who have served as guest bloggers, so building new relationships with these talented professionals has been especially rewarding too. The comments left on the blog from around the globe has been another rewarding aspect of our efforts to reach out and bridge the gap between legal and marketing types. Our ultimate goal is to help clients further their own business goals and objectives by helping them protect their assets and intellectual property. Access to the stats has been fascinating and rewarding in that it gives us concrete data to know people are visiting and returning to the site.

The most challenging piece for any blogger is time management and keeping committed with the belief that the blog is making a difference for everyone involved…professional development for bloggers and visitors and helping reinforce the message that protecting intellectual property matters.

I have to give wonderful credit to our “blogging” lawyers Michael Olsen, Dan Kelly, Brad Walz, Sharon Armstrong, Karen Brennan, Tiffany Blofield and Brent Lorentz who keep computers churning, as well as our marketing team, Laura Gutierrez and Deb Cochran.

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