Nellie Bowles penned a wonderful piece in the The New York Times this week on ‘Report for America,’ a non-profit organization, modeled after AmeriCorps, aiming to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed newsrooms by 2022.
Molly Born, one of the first selected for the program who covers the coal fields for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, told Bowles,
I felt like I needed to give something back to a place that has given a lot to me, and journalism is the way for me to do that.
It’s important to have reporters based in parts of America where some people feel misunderstood. It just helps us get a greater understanding of who we are and who our neighbors are.
Bowles report on the plight of journalists sounds earily similar to the plight of small law in communities across our country – even blogging lawyers.
Historically, reporters would start their careers at small publications and move on to progressively larger ones. These days, young journalists tend to find work right out of college — but the jobs they end up with often don’t require them to take time talking to story subjects face to face or learning about different communities.
“Maybe they have done that Brooklyn thing, where you spend a year or two in a cubicle working for a blog,” Charles Sennott [co-founder of Report for America, who covered wars and insurgencies in more than a dozen countries as the Jerusalem-based Middle East bureau chief for The Boston Globe], 55, said. “But that’s not the same as being on the ground doing the real work, knocking on a door and walking into someone’s kitchen.”
In 1990, daily and weekly newspaper publishers employed about 455,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2016, that number had fallen to 173,000.
How many lawyers are getting first hand experience, eye to eye, with a client? Many lawyers feel trapped doing work for other lawyers, never having having client interaction.
Other lawyers know no better than kicking out or buying content as a way to “market” themsleves. These lawyers have no clue what blogging really is nor how blogging works to build trust, a name and a book of business.
Law blogs penned by small firm lawyers addressing the needs of individuals and small businesses could be much the same as Report America.
Less than 20% of the people in this country have meaningful access to the law. Crushing student loans drive law grads to large law, less demand for small town law, tech driven efficiencies driving down prices and alternative online legal services are only making matters worse – for both people needing a lawyer and for lawyers who’d like to help them.
Leading legal ethics lawyer, Will Hornsby, and himself a champion for access to legal services wrote almost 20 years ago about personal plight areas of the law. By personal plight, Hornsby meant areas of the law in which an individual or small business person needed a lawyer right now.
Personal plight includes bankruptcy, workers compensation, divorce, employment, criminal, real estate, personal injury, immigration, disability, social security, estate planning and more.
Blog (law) for America in the form of blogging lawyers covering personal plight areas of law for two or three hundred communities could be quite a force.
Blogs by local lawyers not only provide meaningful information, but establish trust – something lawyers sorely lack when it comes to individuals and small businesses.
Unlike corp members in Report America, lawyers don’t need a stipend or grant of $40,000 for two years. Lawyers have a revenue model – it’s called getting paid for the legal services you render. Law blogs generate work.
In addition to generating revenue, law grads get first hand experience talking with clients face to face – across the kitchen table, if you will.
Blog (law) for America is a win-win. Individuals and small business people get access to localized law from a local attorney who cares about their city or town and who knows the nuances of the law being applied locally. These folks learn to trust a local lawyer who enjoys what they do and whom earns an okay living.
Lawyers who want to, do real law, person to person, and earn a living doing so.