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Why blog?

October 27, 2011

Lawyers won’t start blogging because of their interest in a story circulating on Twitter concerning an academic row revolving around sexual harassment in humans, and oral sex in fruit bats.

But that did draw Dorothy Bishop, a Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, to blogging.

Professor Bishop’s piece in the Roundtable on the Oxbridge Biotech Review, on ‘Why Blog‘ is poignant for lawyers. Especially because of her mention of getting out of the ivory tower and interacting with non-academics through blogging. Think non-lawyers in your case.

Professor Bishop highlighted three aspects of blogging that make it an enjoyable and worthwhile activity for her that apply well to lawyers.

  • First, for an academic who is used to writing peer-reviewed articles for journals, it is liberating to be able to say what you think without having to accommodate the views of reviewers or editors. This is a two-edged sword. The peer review process has often been attacked, but I am a staunch believer in it despite its imperfections (see here). But if you only publish peer-reviewed work, and do so for many years, this leads to a tremendous sense of pent-up frustration, and it’s utterly delightful to just express yourself without barriers.
  • Second, and relatedly, blogging also avoids the delay between having an idea and it appearing in print. For some of my blogposts, I’ve had the idea of what I want to say when I wake up, written the post in under an hour, and then published it the same morning. Most posts take longer than this, especially if they require checking of facts, rather than just expressing an opinion, but once it’s written, I can publish a post right away.
  • Third, blogging reaches a much larger and diverse audience of readers than academic articles. Through blogging I have had interactions with academics and students from other disciplines, with journalists, with clinicians, with parents of children with developmental disorders, and with adults with dyslexia or autism. Both the age range and the geographic spread of my readers is likely to be much broader than for my journal articles. You can set your blog to allow comments, and some of my posts have attracted interesting and thoughtful reactions. Because of the broad range of readers, I get insights into how to explain things better, and I’m often made to rethink my viewpoint.

And to Professor Bishop’s surprise she found after sending out a brief tweet her first blog post on academic mobbing in cyberspace was being read and talked about.

And doesn’t Professor Bishop’s comment on what most academics think of blogs remind you of what most lawyers, and many legal marketing professionals, think of the value of blogging for a lawyer’s professional growth, networking opportunities, and reputation enhancement.

Those who evaluate academics for their ‘impact’ are as uncertain about blogging as this chimpanzee confronted with a camera: it doesn’t fit into their scheme of things and they don’t know how to respond to it. But they can’t dismiss it: my experience is like that of Kate Clancy, who noted: “My 2006 paper on iron-deficiency anemia and menstruation has been cited by six other papers; my 2011 blog post on this paper has been viewed tens of thousands of times and received almost sixty comments between its two postings.” I even did a post based on a rejected manuscript describing a technical analysis method: I was upfront about the fact it had been rejected and why. Despite its highly specialised topic, it’s had over 6000 hits, and I’ve been approached by an expert in the field to ask my permission to include my method in a comparative study. I’d call that impact.

And you have to love the comment left on Bishop’s post.

By blogging, you open up your ivory tower to the collective wisdom of the great ignorentsia, of whom I am a card carrying member. We also get to see that you are not all humorless.

There’s so much to be gained by blogging as a lawyer. Ask around of some practicing lawyers (and law professors) who have been it at for a while.

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