I was chatting with a young lawyer last week about starting a blog focused on special education law. A blog to help parents who felt they did not have a voice in getting their children with special needs the programs and resources they needed from their school district.

And better yet, his passion for the blog was driven by his own personal experiences as a student with special needs.

Wow. What an idea. What a resource for parents. What a way for a lawyer to network with other lawyers and non-legal advocates from coast to coast so as to improve the quality of his offerings to those in need. What a way to make sure parents with these needs get to a lawyer with skill, passion, and expertise needed, as opposed to lawyer willing to take anything that comes in the door. What a way to realize one’s aspirations to use their law degree to make real and meaningful difference in others lives.

But then as always comes the ‘I’m not sure it will work. What if I put the time and money into such a blog and it doesn’t work.’ What this lawyer, and so many others like him who I have talked with, was really telling me was I’m afraid to take a chance.

  • I’m afraid to trust you O’Keefe that this blog thing, which you describe as networking the Internet, will really work as a means of me getting legal work.
  • I’m afraid to invest in myself.
  • I’m afraid to do something different from other lawyers. To go with my emotions. To go with my dreams. To try and make a difference as opposed to trying to make a buck.
  • I’m afraid of trying the road less traveled by other lawyers. Do blogs and networking through the Internet really work? What if they don’t? What if client development on the Internet is all about being number 1, 2, or 3 on Google and I don’t get there over night with my blog? What if my prospective clients don’t find me on the net?
  • I’m afraid to put a few thousand dollars on my credit card.

At some point in your life guys, you need to make a move. You need to go for it. No one is going to come along and hand you the type of clients you want so you can do the type of work you dream of. Luck is the residue of planning, hard work, and moderate risk taking.

You’re so fortunate that at no time in the history of the legal profession has it been easier to get what you want.

  • Lawyers are lemmings following each other, even if it means off a cliff. Breaking out from the pack reduces your competition to a minimum and allows you to shine among peers when it comes to people looking for lawyers who care and who are innovative in their approach to helping others.
  • The Internet is the great equalizer. You can learn how to network through the Internet so as to run laps around lawyers and firms who have not a clue or the desire to discover how the Internet really works for practice and client development (we’re not talking websites).
  • Costs have never been lower. You can receive solutions and services from experts enabling you to network through the Internet at costs which pale as compared to the advertising and PR expenses incurred by lawyers just 10 years ago. Let the clueless lawyers continue to incur those expenses while you get the best from the most innovative in the profession.
  • Mentoring and networking opportunities so as to learn and grow your practice development skills have never been greater than with the advent of the Internet. Never before have so many other legal professionals willing to give of themselves been as accessible as through blogs, Twitter, social networking sites, and plain old email as today.
  • Lawyers do not take risks. Not even moderate risks as business people do in other industries. With just an once of risk, you can clear yourself from the pack. And should you fail (unlikely), dust off, get back up, and start over.
  • Most lawyers are lazy. Dam few lawyers will head out to Barnes and Noble on a Saturday to read business books filled with lessons from innovative business people. Few lawyers will really apply themselves to learn something new when it comes to practice and client development. Few lawyers will go to a business or marketing conference that does not offer CLE credits. Lawyers will pay others to do things for them, which doesn’t work when it comes to the Internet, but few lawyers will actually do something.
  • Lawyers don’t trust others as to things that are new. Though you may have been burned before (we all have), make a decision to trust someone who says they can help you. Lawyers who realize they can’t learn and do it all and hire someone to help have a real edge.

Seize the moment. There’s never been a better time to do so.

Do it for yourself. For your family. For your employees. For the people you can help. And for the image of our legal profession – we need a few caring champions.

  • Dan

    Amen, brother. Far too often, people, especially lawyers, overanalyze things. Yes, it may not work, but doing nothing sure as hell also will not work. Do it, and if it works, keep doing it. And if it doesn’t work, do something else.

  • Kevin, you are correct that there has never been a better time.
    I tell my clients and friends that this economy is the perfect time to step out of the box, and to figure out what marketing techniques and tactics you should be using. If you don’t know which ones to use, and most don’t as they are busy practicing law, then they just need to ask for help. Many lawyers and firms are scared to death, and have retreated in to their seemingly safe worlds of cost-cutting, lean staffing, reduced marketing and hiding their heads in the wrong sand.
    Firms, whether solos, small, medium, large or mega, should be seizing this opportunity to stand out from the crowd…and yes, there is definitely a crowd, and they are competitors, and they just might step up if your firms don’t.
    Don’t let fear paralyze your growth. How will you feel a few years down the road when asked what you did to weather the economy; to maintain and grow your practices and your firms? Will you be slightly embarrassed when you answer that you cut staff, cut marketing, cut participation in the community, reduced your ability to have discussions with current and potential clients, on and on and on? Or will you feel great because you took advantage of the silence being created by that group I just mentioned? Will you be able to hold your head high, knowing you took advantage of this time to focus on communicating and marketing like never before?
    You know, the choice is really yours, no one else’s.

  • One claim and fear I hear quite often from those who want to blog but not sure if and how to do it is “I don’t know what to say”. Especially now when there is much criticism on the ‘pointless babble’ of Twitter, raising the question of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to ‘talk about’ online.
    This is a dilemma that cascades throughout all industries – is a blog post suppose to be a perfected and polished article of a unique idea or is it a stream of consciousness a-la Robert Scoble? “what if I post something and nobody answers? does that equal saying something in a room full of people and being ignored?”.
    Understanding the online world as the exact reflection of the offline world as well as its opposite, at the same breath, is key. The online world, is exactly like the offline world in the variety of content it offers to us to express and engage with, one can discuss Nietzsche and Actor Network Theory as well as last night’s dinner and park walk. It creates a totally new social rules set where one must understand that ‘views’ and ‘comments’ ration will forever (well for now) stand on 1%-9%-90%.
    Danah Boyd just posted about the topic of ‘pointless babble accusations’ http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/08/16/twitter_pointle.html and the key idea is “Conversation is also more than the explicit back and forth between individuals asking questions and directly referencing one another. It’s about the more subtle back and forth that allow us to keep our connections going. It’s about the phatic communication and the gestures, the little updates and the awareness of what’s happening in space. We take the implicit nature of this for granted in physical environments yet, online, we have to perform each and every aspect of our interactions. What comes out may look valueless, but, often, it’s embedded in this broader ecology of social connectivity.”
    Somewhere between the ‘cheese sandwich at my desk’ tweet and extremely profound and revolutionary blog posts, there is a middle ground where normal and interesting conversation about the day to day issues of our lives can develop. That is where relationships building and online networking happens.
    ‘Interest’ is at the heart of ‘interesting’. If one writes passionately about something they are interested in, they will be followed, and not just in the ‘twitter way’, but followed as leaders.
    And as everyone here says, just do it.