The move of the Legal Bytes newsletter from print to web was a no-brainer for Reed Smith attorney Joseph Rosenbaum, head of the AmLaw200 firm’s Advertising Technology & Media group.
"By 2008," Joe says of his Legal Bytes blog, "I realized that my format – small, insightful, narrative pieces, virtually always referencing more robust information – covering a wide variety of topics at the intersection of law, advertising, technology, media and entertainment, finance, travel and more, was perfect for a blog format."
Reed Smith as a firm has 11 total blogs on the LexBlog Network, and Joe says that blogging has benefited both the firm’s attorneys and their clients.
"Blogging has fostered our own internal communication, has allowed clients to quickly get a sense of the variety of issues and, bluntly, helps everyone appreciate the value of cross-selling and deepening the relationships of trust and confidence with our clients," Joe says.
We caught up with Joe for this LexBlog Q&A to learn more about the rewards of blogging and the responsibility of a digital media blog to stay relevant.
See our email exchange with Joe, after the jump.
Lisa Kennelly: Why did you decide to start a blog?
Joe Rosenbaum: I have been publishing Legal Bytes monthly as a one page (two sides of a page) newsletter since 1996 – literally mailing dozens of pieces of mail each month. When I joined Reed Smith, it was right before 9/11 and there was a break, but then I resumed publishing that same way until 2009. By 2008, I realized that my format – small, insightful, narrative pieces, virtually always referencing more robust information – covering a wide variety of topics at the intersection of law, advertising, technology, media and entertainment, finance, travel and more, was perfect for a blog format. I also felt, given the subject matter, that we should be in the 21st Century instead of just reporting about it. I also consistently lamented the fact that archives weren’t searchable and that when timely items broke in mid-month, I was constrained by a monthly schedule. This way, I could blog to give my readers timely information.
Lisa Kennelly: What has been most rewarding about blogging? What has been most challenging?
Joe Rosenbaum: The overwhelming responses and acceptance – and positive feedback from readers and colleagues. It’s more timely, people like it and can truly access it and refer to it anywhere without a PDF reader or a printer – although they can print out copies to read if they choose to do so. I have also seen continued growth in the subscription, readership and referral numbers – which means people are enjoying it and telling others to subscribe. The ability to get real-time feedback – literally hour by hour or day by day (although I do really have a full time job that I need to pay attention to as well) – tells me what and when I’m doing things right and, of course, wrong or dull as well.
The most challenging tactical issue was getting a large law firm to embrace social media, blogging and real-time conversations with readers – especially in a lighter, more narrative format than is traditional for most legal articles and online presence. At first, there was some thought to be very limiting about who, when and what subjects could be in blog format. The good news is that as the head of the Advertising Technology & Media group, my experiment was an easy one to sell and, in fairness, once the rationale was provided and the decision to go was taken, the firm has been bending over backwards to make it successful. The substantive challenges remain constant – ensuring material is timely, varied, interesting and enlightening AND articulating in a blog format that is readable and (dare I say this of legal material) enjoyable and entertaining!
Lisa Kennelly: Reed Smith has several firm blogs – does it make a difference to have the support of the firm or to know that other lawyers in the firm understand the value of blogs as well?
Joe Rosenbaum: Absolutely. Now blogs are a way of communicating and we and our clients are better for it. It is also important to remember that clients come to our firm with requests for advice, guidance, representation and transactions. It might be nice to think they are all law school case studies, but in reality, these almost always cut across legal topics and substantive skills and experience. Any given client matter can give rise to multiple issues in multiple areas, as well as across international boundaries. Blogging has fostered our own internal communication, has allowed clients to quickly get a sense of the variety of issues and, bluntly, helps everyone appreciate the value of cross-selling and deepening the relationships of trust and confidence with our clients. That’s the business we are in!
Lisa Kennelly: As a blog that actually covers issues of new and digital media, do you feel particular pressure/responsibility to blog regularly and remain up to date?
Joe Rosenbaum: [Insert a chuckle here.] You bet. Not so much pressure, as a responsibility and desire to make sure what I write about or the articles from others I solicit are timely and meaningful and give people some insights or stimulate their thoughts in areas they might not have thought about or recent developments they didn’t know about. In truth, the essence of blogs captures the essence of what journalists who look for the ‘scoop’ or write investigative pieces or find topics of interest to a broad audience have been doing since the very beginning – make sure they are writing about things people want to know, when and where they want it and in a way they can understand. Blogs may be different in format and the distribution channels may have moved from pulp (no disrespect intended) to electrons – but the essence remains the same because people still want the same "I enjoy reading that" reaction – and frankly that’s what I am after.
Lisa Kennelly: What was the origin of the "Light Bytes" section?
Joe Rosenbaum: Like the "Whatz Gnu?" and "Useless But Compelling Facts" trivia contest – and yes, I do give out prizes – I wanted the content to include a few things that can entertain, make people think, let people remember or simply learn a new fact, while at the same time letting them smile a little. There have been so many thoughtful and insightful things, so many extraordinary minds who have given us great ideas – whether they are profound thoughts about our world from Albert Einstein, words of hope from President Kennedy, prayers for a better world from Dr. Martin Luther King or simply some homespun humor from Will Rogers or wry wit of Groucho Marx – I like finding them, they teach me something when I do and I wanted to pass that on. Like the other non-legal tidbits, it adds a bit of entertainment, a very short diversion from the daily grind and perhaps, just maybe, a little enlightenment. That’s what Legal Bytes is ultimately all about anyway.
Interested in hearing more? Recent LexBlog Q & A posts:
- Patrick Smith of Iowa Employment Law Blog [11.10.09]
- Michelle May O’Neil of Dallas Divorce Law Blog [11.3.09]
- Kenneth Odza of Food Liability Law Blog [10.29.09]
- David Shulman of South Florida Estate Planning Law [10.23.09]
Or, see our full list of legal blog interviews.