New York Criminal Defense Attorney, Scott Greenfield, penned what ought to be an inspirational post for lawyers who blog. In ‘Dead Lawyers Have No Enemies‘ he challenges us to take a stand in our law blogs.
Greenfield begins with what is far too often the status quo.
Many blawgers [legal bloggers as Greenfield calls them] actively avoid anything that might make a reader not agree with them. At most, they offer tepid opinions, then qualify them so that no one could ever be offended. They sacrifice strength and clarity, even having a point, for fear that it will upset someone, turn them away, make them hostile. They cannot bear the idea of someone not liking them.
If law bloggers are willing to stand for something, and accept disagreement, we can advance discussion in the law per Greenfield.
While blawgs are hardly as in depth as law review articles, they do offer substantive information and, to some greater or lesser extent, reflect a perspective on legal issues. They stand for something. Any time you take a chance, put an idea into the public marketplace and subject it peer (and general, as you have no control over who reads what you write), review, there’s a excellent chance that someone is going to disagree with you.
If you can’t handle disapproval, then you should not have a blawg.Greenfield is spot on that disapproval is okay. It’s how we learn.
Sometimes the enemy is someone you respect, and these are the ones worth addressing. Even people who respect one another can disagree, sometimes vehemently, but this is where the effort is meaningful and the dispute worth hashing out. This is also where some of the best discussions arise, where peer review is at its best…….Don’t fear the attack or disapproval. Embrace it. There’s no way you can stand for something without generating enemies online, as the universe of readers will naturally include those who will disagree and feel compelled to let you know that out there, in that vast digital wasteland, there is someone you don’t know who comes to your home to enlighten you with the fact that you are wrong, stupid, ugly and evil.
I acknowledge that in larger law firms taking too much of a stand can cause problems. The views of clients and fellow partners must be taken into account. Conflicts must be checked to make sure you’re not blogging on a case or matter which involves a client.
But it’s certainly possible for a lawyer to offer insight and commentary beyond the legal updates and alerts which some law firms limit their blogs to. We can’t learn anything from you nor can we benefit from your expertise in a niche if legal updates are pasted into your law blog by marketing personnel. You’re certainly not advancing legal dialogue.
It’s not a legitimate excuse to say we cannot offer insight and commentary on our law firm’s blog because we’re a conservative law firm, our general counsel says can’t say anything beyond an update on the law, or because of ethical concerns. They’re excuses, but no longer legitimate ones.
Lawyers in both large and small firms, as well as law professors, are offering insight and commentary on law blogs. They’re getting in disagreements with other lawyers via blog posts and in comments on blogs. Even on Twitter.
The wild thing is that lawyers willing to say something and take a stand on their blogs are getting known — as a good lawyers. Lawyers willing to offer insight and debate issues are enhancing their reputation as a trusted and reliable authoritity. Their word of mouth reputation as a good lawyer is growing.
And at the end of the day, don’t people and corporations want a lawyer who is willing to take a stand to represent them. During my years of practicing, I found they did.