Some things will come and go, but I agree with Euan Semple (@euan), a leading authority on the impact of the web on business, that blogging still matters in business – and always will.
It’s not about marketing, or SEO, or “going viral.” It is not about internal “enterprise social” or external “social media.” It is not even about the platforms or tools on which you choose to write. It is much simpler and much more powerful. It is about developing our awareness, our communication skills, and our collective intelligence. It is about thinking harder and writing better. Blogging is a means by which to rediscover your voice, to learn to share your thoughts with others, and by doing so to help us all get smarter faster.
This is hard for most lawyers.
- Are you even aware of your true voice anymore?
- Do you share your thoughts with others in an open and engaging fashion?
- Do you write with passion and thought?
- Do you write in a down to earth conversational style which demonstrates empathy for your readers?
- Do you write in a way that engages others – others who will engage you in return, and from which you’ll both learn?
I don’t mean to beat you up, but the law is not a profession that promotes individualism and expression.
Semple may as well have been writing for lawyers, as opposed to the business community in general.
From an early age we are taught that there are correct ways of writing. Whether this is essays at school or business reports. There is a set way to do things and an expected use of language and style. We are taught to undervalue our own perceptions and perspectives. Individuality is frowned on. We are trained instead to defer to authorities outside ourselves. We stick to rules and style guides to ensure that our writing is acceptable.
Semple’s right that we’re not going to change what makes for good writing overnight. Law school and years of practicing have engrained in us the ‘proper’ legal and business style of writing.
Legal newsletters, articles, and alerts written for online or offline publication did’t improve writing. They may have made it worse and even more conforming to the profession’s standards.
A business blog, whether internal or external, provides a place to play and grow per Semple.
We can make the blog our own and we can write with our own voice. We can learn to notice more and value our insights. We can learn to use plain language and say what we mean. We can write in a way intended to be read by others like us and in doing so encourage them to follow our lead. ≈
Can lawyers really play? To blog as a way to learn to write in their own voice? To learn to use plain language and say what they mean? To learn to notice more and value their insights?
I walk into most law firms and say I’m there to help their lawyers play via blogging and I’ll be thrown out on my keister. But it’s happening.
Lawyers, through blogging, have learned to write in their own voice, to share their thoughts and opinions, and value their insights. Look at:
- Robin Shea of Constangy, Brooks, and Smith, publisher of the Employment and Labor Insider
- Charles Sartain of Looper Reed, publisher of Energy and the Law
- Brooks Pierce’s David Smith and his SEC Miscellany
- Bill Ruskin of Epstein Becker Green, publisher of the Toxic Tort Litigation Blog
- Steptoe and Johnson’s Steptoe Cyber Blog and Skating on Stilts, published by its partner, Stewart Baker, the former general counsel of the NSA.
If lawyers are to connect with members of the public (consumers or business people) we must write in plain talk and express our insight. Otherwise we’ll neither make the law accessible nor establish trust with the people we serve.
If we’re to come to enjoy what we do, we’re going to need to feel comfortable expressing our opinions and value our insight in areas we’re passionate about.
There may be no better place for lawyers to play and to learn to do these things than through blogging.
Sure, blogging is an excellent way for lawyers to enhance their reputation as a trusted and reliable authority, and by doing so to grow their business. But blogging will always have its place in doing something more – in helping lawyers rediscover their voice, write in plain talk, and to learn to share their opinions.
Those blogging lawyers who are already doing so are reinventing the way lawyers write and showing the profession that it can be done.