This from Carolyn Elefant (@carolynelefant), a Washington D.C. based attorney specializing renewable energies and widely respected author and speaker on practice management issues for small law firms, in an open letter to law schools.
If there is a single skill that I wish law schools would focus on, it should be blogging. I know I’m biased – I’m a blogger myself – but the discipline of writing regularly combined with the urgency of getting timely posts to press – has improved my legal writing immensely. Incorporating blogging into legal education is moronically easy. Professors could assign students to blog about the daily lecture, relevant topics (e.g., students could blog about bankruptcy law). Doesn’t have to be every day; maybe 3-4 posts per class per semester. Blogging would also get students comfortable with blogging software which is another key skill since they could offer to blog for practicing lawyers and help build up content.
Lost on non-bloggers, and perhaps law schools is the learning component of blogging.
The importance of blogging isn’t limited to writing blogs. Students gain insight from reading. If you want to learn about criminal law – both the substantive issues and the practice,there is, hands down, no better place than the criminal defense blogs listed here, most of them by lawyers in the trenches. But there are substantive blogs for lots of other practice areas. In fact, I’m not even suggesting that lawyers stick to law related blogs. I track the future of lawyer and trends that I post on here or here not at law sites but rather places like TechCrunch which are months ahead of anything that makes its way down to legal. For my practice area, I’m more like to look at green finance sites rather than blogs on energy law. What’s important is to keep current and engaged.
In addition to improved writing and learning, I’ll add a third reason why law schools ought to get students blogging. Meeting people.
No single thing in my life, and I am sure Elefant’s life, has enabled to me to meet so many bright, innovative, and giving people. Imagine law students developing relationships with law students, law professors, lawyers, business leaders, reporters, association leaders, and publishers from across the country — or world. The type of relationships that foster learning and mentorship. The type of relationships that lead to jobs.
As a law school, please be realistic as to the skills needed to practice law and who’s going to employee your grads. Blogging is not a skill that you ought to look at as being taught in trade school. Blogging is substantive in nature – reading, writing, and collaborative learning.
You taught me legal writing my first year of law school in 1979. Legal writing, beyond briefs and memorandums, has changed. Collaborative and learned writing is taking place on WordPress, not Word. Writing to learn and network is taking place online, with one-third of the sites being run on WordPress, the printing press of the future.
As a small business employer, I want employees who know how to continue learning, to network online, and help generate new business. They need to know how to blog and use social media coming in. That’s not lost on law firm employers.
Ask Elefant, a lawyer in D.C with a sophisticated practice, who she’d take on as a new lawyer. One, like most, without a clue as to blogging, or a law student who had blogged for a couple years in an area of the law they were looking to learn. It would be the second. Hands down.
What’s more valuable experience for a law grad today? Law review or blogging. I know what most law schools and law students would say, but I’m not so certain that’s the case.
A law school which empowers students to blog is the exception today. Let’s make it the norm a few years from now. Doing so would be a win/win across the board. For students learning and seeking employment. For law schools looking to prepare their grads for the future. And for law firms who need grads ready to practice and do business.
If you are law school dean, professor, or other professional interested in developing a program (even a pilot program) to teach blogging, LexBlog and I are happy help.