Seattle lawyer Karen Koehler is one of the most skilled trial attorneys in the state. The title of her blog, The Velvet Hammer, is a nickname created by her adversaries. And while the former President of the Washington State Association for Justice is as adept as they come within the courtroom, she stresses the fact that what lawyers are like outside of those confines is just as important.
“Social media really works the best in people who are willing to de-compartmentalize their life, to allow their professional life to touch their personal life,” Koehler said. "We are people too and I’m completely fine with being a human being in the public. That’s why I write the way I do, why I write about the things I do."
On The Velvet Hammer, Koehler’s personal blog, the topic of conversation can in back-to-back posts bounce from seminar recaps to insight gathered from the Justin Bieber movie. No matter the subject, each post presents high attention to detail and storytelling while conveying emotion and personality. It’s a far cry from what you will see on most blogs authored by personal injury lawyers.
"The worst are the headline grabbers, I call them the ‘tragic headline grabbers,’" Koehler said. "They just grab the tragic headlines and post them one after the other after the other. It’s like a running feed of disaster."
Agreeing with those of us at LexBlog, Koehler advised against this strategy for legal blogging.
"You’re creating a brand and so, if you’re a tragic headline grabber, that’s your brand, and you’re going to lumped in with all the other tragic headline grabbers. You will be indistinguishable," Koehler said. "People don’t put enough thought into ‘What kind of brand am I building? What kind of reputation do I want to have?’
"And for a personal injury lawyer your reputation is your most precious asset."
While maintaining that brand of integrity may be simpler in an attorney’s personal writings, Koehler carries the same philosophy over to the Spinal Cord Injury Law Blog she does in conjunction with her firm, Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio.
She explained that the practice of blogging is really the same thing she and other attorneys have done for years. Along with distributing a trial diary to a close collection of colleagues via email, Koehler also, like many other attorneys, participates on LISTSERVs.
"As trial lawyers we have these highly evolved trial lawyer groups and we write stories to each other, we give each other advice, we answer questions," Koehler said. "So many of them don’t realize that they’re already doing it, they just need to be pushed over onto a public platform."
For many attorneys, that push is often avoided in part due to the perceived time commitment involved with blogging. While many lawyers find success in a strict editorial schedule, Koehler instead takes the impromptu approach and blogs whenever inspiration hits her.
“Everyone’s heard of writers block and when you try to force it and regiment it like that, you end up with icky uninteresting stuff that people aren’t going to want to read, that was a torture for you to write and that took too long.”
“You have to find something you’re really interested in, that you love to write about, that’s easy for you to write about and then do it organically.”