Marketer and author, Seth Godin, writes, this morning, about your big idea and why it’s definitely worth pursuing.

It’s probably not completely original.

It’s probably not breathtaking in scope.

It’s probably not immediately popular.

But… it’s definitely worth pursuing, consistently and persistently for years and years.

If you care. If it’s generous and helpful and worth the journey.

All the big ideas that made a difference follow this pattern.

Resonates with me. I’ve chased ideas before, and I’m chasing a new one.

Always out of care, generosity and the desire to help people.

Focusing on the more people we can help opposed to how much money we can make is scary, but works.

I put up a forty by eighty inch map of the world on the wall off my office this week.

The purpose being to track the progress of LexBlog’s goal of a worldwide legal blogging community.

Every legal blog and legal blogger in the world reflected in one place, syndicated to partner publications and included in legal research and AI platforms.

Not necessarily breathtaking. We can find every blogger, contact them and get their permission for inclusion and syndication.

If it takes years, that’s okay.

LexBog had seven customer legal blogs after one year and about sixty after two years. Blogs were not immediately popular.

We’re building the community because we care about lawyers and the people they serve.

We’re looking to making legal services more accessible by making lawyers more relevant, more trusted and more authentic.

Maybe, like Godin says, a big idea that makes a difference.

Opening Facebook just now, the first two posts were from friends facing down cancer.

One a face to face friend, whose partner is suffering from the residuals of cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy is hard enough, alone, let alone dealing with the conditions that develop from the chemo and the drugs used to treat both the chemo and the residual conditions.

Not minor side effects, we’re talking life threatening side effects that land one in the hospital. The CCU and ICU.

That’s the case with the second post, this from a facebook friend, who I met and got to know through Facebook as she’s a widely known veteran journalist.

Hospital for the holidays keeping hope alive. I know it very well from Jill’s cancer fight which landed her in the hospital at this time last year.

I imagine this friend in her hospital bed, iPhone or iPad in hand, updating us all, as she regularly does.

An update to those who care. A post to “engage” when you most need to feel you’re “engaging.” I certainly felt the need last year.

Nothing updates and engages like Facebook. You’re not going to call and write letters to everyone.

More people use Facebook than anything else online.

Facebook’s algorithms get what you post to those would receive the most value from your post. How else would I see friends sharing posts on cancer and the holidays?

Having lost Jill to cancer, I want to help others where I can. Maybe it’s sharing our story so others can learn how to face cancer and how to help their friends and loved ones who are cancer patients.

I also want to offer support to those suffering from cancer, especially now at Christmas.

Facebook, like no other medium, gives me the opportunity to do this.

Facebook is taking a beating in the media.

It’s become popular for folks to brag that they do not use Facebook. Your loss.

For me, Zuck has brought us all a little closer and given us the opportunity to help more people.

I am finding that to be a very good thing – especially when it comes to fighting cancer at Christmas.

Victoria Hudgins penned a piece at Law.com earlier this week that the hard truth behind the ROSS shutdown is that legal tech is cash poor.

Investors and software providers informed Hudgins that other legal tech companies were equally cash poor and could easily meet a similar fate.

There’s nothing particularly newsworthy or unique about any tech startup being cash poor, let alone legal tech startups.

Cash is king in any startup, even in a venture capital funded one. You’re watching cash more closely than growing revenue.

In many cases a valuation driven venture capitalist will want you spending the cash quickly – to increase the valuation for another funding round or for an acquisition.

A startup, especially a venture capital funded one, is not a company saving for a rainy day.

Nor is it a company for the faint of art. How to spend the cash and where to cutback can change in a minute. And when you don’t control the board, which VC funded founders do not, these decisions may not be all yours.

You may may be told on a Tuesday afternoon that a 20% reduction in overhead is required rather than getting the next traunch of funding, as previously promised.

Knowing that sort of reduction requires massive layoffs of friends, you ask by when. You’re told, “Friday.”

When it comes time for bridge funding before a sale or the next round of funding, the founders are taken off the payroll. That’s assuming founders were even on the payroll to start with.

Taken off the payroll means putting every expense for a family with five kids on a credit card.

You’ve never lived until you’re hoping against hope that your credit card still has something on it when you’re at the check out line at the grocery store with a cart filled for a family of seven – or you’ve called your wife and asked her to move the car down to the ferry parking lot so it wouldn’t be repossessed by GMAC Financing. (God Bless you, Jill)

Cash is tight in most every tech startup, including legal tech startups. That’s okay, the living on the edge drives innovation and attracts more innovators to your company – even customers who, believe it or not, like a little of the “Wild Wild West.”

ROSS got thrown a big curveball. They got sued by the largest legal publisher in the world.

I can’t imagine too many venture capitalists, current ROSS funders or new ones, who would be willing to fund the defense of a law suit by a Goliath, possibly trying to turn legal tech innovation back in time.

The suit could put the company at risk and certainly use up a ton of cash needed for development, marketing and sales. Enough said for VC’s.

Legal tech startups are going to continue to blossom. Innovation, technology, access to legal services, efficiencies, and improved flow of legal information are much more likely to come from startups than larger companies.

Some legal tech startups will succeed, some will struggle, some will sell to large companies and private equity concerns and some will flourish for years on their own.

No matter the case, legal tech startups, especially in the early years, are going to be cash poor.

Bottom line, a big kudos to legal tech founders who got outside their comfort zone to do what others would not.

As LexBlog’s legal blog grows, I got to thinking if lawyers had access to today’s secondary law. They do not.

Secondary law, as opposed to primary law of cases, codes/statutes and regulations, are sources that explain, criticize, discuss, or help locate primary law. 

Examples of secondary law could include a law review or law journal. 

Though not precedent, I routinely cited and read pieces from the American Law Review to a judge as a persuasive. It worked regularly, having the word of an authority in a niche. 

Today, by virtue niche authorities who now blog, some of the best secondary law is in legal blogs. 

Yet, most legal research companies do not include legal blogs in their databases.

One LexBlog partner does, other legal research platforms do not. 

The larger legal research companies may want to keep secondary law behind a paywall, just as they do for primary law.

In the case of newer legal research companies, I don’t know the issue, Maybe it’s partnerships they have precluding legal blogs. Maybe it’s priorities. 

Technology is not the problem. LexBlog collects the blog posts and accompanying metadata and can make it available via an API. 

As LexBlog’s products expand beyond that of a blog platform to the byproducts of a legal blogging community, the evolution of secondary law to include legal blogs will likely have us in in the middle of access to such law.

I’m honing the feeds on my news aggregator (Feedly) in an effort to stimulate my thinking and engage readers of my blog and social media via better stories and insight.

Out goes the mindless “content marketing” feeds produced by those producing copy merely to draw attention.

In stays the stories and posts from those driving valuable discussion and thought. An A-List of people and sources such as:

The lack of diversity will be corrected as I continue to go through my feeds.

I’ve been using a news aggregator for almost twenty years as a source for news, for items to share and as a means of engaging the sources and subjects of the items I read from my aggregator.

But the volume of junk produced, some of which I thought important or insightful for whatever reason, has grown to the point it drowns out the insight from the A-Listers.

No one had coined the concept of “content marketing” when I began using an aggregator. People writing stories and posts did so in a real and authentic fashion in order to help others and stimulate thinking and discussion.

I could subscribe to new feeds from people I didn’t know and usually get some pretty good stuff. Same for subscribing to subjects (words and phrases).

No more. People write content, or have it written for them, in order to generate attention, subscribers and customers. Little insight, little value and no engagement.

So I started pulling an A-List together last night from the hundreds of sources and subjects in my reader.

If you look at the writings of these folks and the others I’ll add, you’ll see they cover areas far beyond my industry. These folks think out loud, giving me and others an opportunity to listen in – to learn and to be inspired.

I’ve found my news aggregator pretty boring of late. What used to be an hour or two each morning of reading some great stuff and sharing it on social media has slowed to a crawl.

Little learning. No meeting new people and engaging those I already knew through sharing what I was reading,

I miss my old news aggregator, as well as the relationships and, truth be told, the business it generated via engagement and the stimulation of business ideas.

So I am going to create an A-List and see if I can get things rolling again.

Stay tuned.

Conceptualizing legal blogs, worldwide, as a community makes it easier to conceptualize the network of information these bloggers are creating, the positive impact they are having and how LexBlog can work on a goal that is much bigger than itself – a worldwide legal blog community, including every legal blog.

This from an interview with Geo-Cities co-founder, David Bohnett, who was struggling with a way to describe the Internet.

And one day in 1994, it just came to him. His hosting site didn’t need a technological innovation. It needed a conceptual one. Users needed a new way of navigating the web. So he sketched out a plan to make his website feel more like a real neighborhood.

Geo-Cities was an Internet company creating websites. “Communities” were easy to understand as a place you live or go to.

“GeoCities was creating these communities and then conceptualizing them as places you could go as neighborhoods on the net. So you could be a citizen of a country, and you could then be a netizen of somewhere like Geocities.”

Garry Vander Voort, my former COO and still a consultant to LexBlog sent Bohnett’s quote to me after we were discussing a worldwide legal blog community.

“I love this revelation and need to remind myself of this all the time. Tech is always complex to someone, even when it seems easy.  You can throw tech at the problem, but if you can reconceptualize, it widens the reach of your product.

How is X similar to something people already know? How does one lean into that?

LexBlog needs a definable and quantifiable cause – indexing every credible legal blog in the world in our legal blog community is something we can lean into.

It’s not impossible.

  • There is a defined number of legal blogs
  • Blogs are not living under rocks, they want to be seen
  • LexBlog is a the leading name when it comes to legal blogs
  • Law firms and law firms want their blogs indexed in LexBlog. It’s free, increases visibility to lawyers/blogs, provides a SEO bump and syndicates blog posts across LexBlog’s syndication network.

How does LexBlog generate revenue? This, for my team members.

Think of legal blogs as homes.

The writings, art and music (“the works”) prepared by people in the homes LexBlog stores in a data base. We deliver relevant “works” to those wanting to syndicate such “works” on one of our media players (our licensed syndication portal product). They, of course, can play their own media on the media players. 

Relevant “works” with meta data (name, location, contact info, schools, memberships, social media attributes) can also be syndicated via our API to other platforms, whether they be research/AI platforms, law firm websites or other sites. The user of our API will pay a licensing fee.

With thousands of legal blogs (homes) in our community, LexBlog looks for blogs whose technology is lacking. Stability, speed, security and mobility, among other things.

Think of it as a contractor which every community member likes as a result of what the contractor has done for them preparing and circulating reports of those houses with erosion problems, foundation issues and old shingles.

LexBlog knocks on the door and offers to help where we can, with a professional platform eliminating all the defects.

Those homes (blogs) seeking to use our platform join the thousands of others already paying an annual licensing fee for use of the platform.

You’re getting my thinking out loud. LexBlog’s thinking on legal blogs as a community is far from cooked.

Content for lawyers is the currency of engagement. Content is not the end goal.

Leah Schloss, Baker McKenzie’s associate director for North American
communications, as part of Baker’s being recognized as the leading law firm in Good2bSocial’s The Social Law Firm Index shared:

We want our content to resonate with people. We don’t want to put out content that people aren’t engaging with.

The content we put out there is for our clients and what they say they need from us. We think of our content as part of a conversation with our clients and audience. (Emphasis added)

The end game in legal blogging is not to publish a blog post. That’s just a start.

The conversation – the dialogue which ensues from “content” is what leading bloggers are after. It’s from this engagement that reputations and relationships are born.

Attending a social event for networking, lawyers keen to business development are not focused on the words they speak – the content – they’re focused on the conversation, the engagement and relationships.

Recognition that content is merely the currency of engagement is made all the more important with the advent of social media.

Social media, ala LinkedIn, is how lawyers take their content – their words – out to network with people, just as they would take their words – their content – out to network at a face to face social event.

Baker McKenzie recognizes exactly that. Schloss, in discussing how important the firm views LinkedIn:

Training and then retraining is super important. We’re constantly training employees on sharing on social media. I also really impress on people that the more personal the post, the better. They need to make it relevant to the people they’re posting to.

We’ll hear from clients that one of our pieces of thought leadership was helpful, or it spoke to them on their end. We love hearing that sort of feedback.”

Business development as a lawyer is all about a reputation and relationships.

Content may get you to first base, but recognition that content is merely the currency of engagement leading to relationships and a reputation will get you home.

Election coverage now comes from blogs.

Whether they be blogs run by the mainstream media, blogs that have the status of mainsteam media, such as FiveThirtyEight, blogs published by legal commenators, or citizen bloggers, blogs dominate election coverage.

In addition, what Americans read on social media is often a report originally published on a blog.

This was not the case not that long ago.

Sixteen years ago, the Boston Globe’s Teresa Hanafin, reporting from. the Democratic National Convention shared the following:

They don’t have space in the media pavilion, and are forced to pay exorbitant prices for lunch at the press café – unless they are willing to wait in long lines at McDonald’s in the FleetCenter or bring their own food.

The crowded workspace they do have is in the rafters of the convention hall, which they would be sharing with pigeons if this were the old Boston Garden.

Who are they?

They are bloggers: Those who write weblogs, online journals of sorts with regular entries chronicling anything from the latest in tech gadgets to opinions on the Iraq war to personal reflections on their favorite band or the joys of growing eggplant – most with extensive links to other weblogs or websites, helping to fulfill the promise of the Internet by serving as one part of the connective tissue that is the worldwide Web.

They may not have much in the way of amenities here, but they are wearing a piece of gold around their necks: Credentials certifying them as members of the media sanctioned to cover the Democratic National Convention.

Dave Winer, the godfather of blogging and attending the convention, aptly shared with Hanafin blogging’s status then.

Blogging has already played a substantial role in the presidential campaign of 2004. However, its role on the local level, in the House races and Senate races and in state races, is going to be much greater than it is on the national level.

Blogs are essentially a decentralization technology; it makes it easy for an individual to create a publication and to influence other people and to share ideas, and so forth.

This is a milestone, but it’s not the last milestone…In four years at the political conventions, basically everybody will be a blogger. Politically active people who don’t have weblogs will have a hard time competing with those who do.”

Blogs have democratized journalism. As Winer says, blogs are a decentralizaton technology.

Rather than one to many, we’re now a many to many in the reporting of election news – through bloggers and their ancillary social media.

“Half of my blog posts are below average, but I don’t know which half.”

This from author and speaker Seth Godin discussing on Faceboook today his latest book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work.

Godin explains that shipping is the work of saying, “Here, I made this for you.” Lots of time, though, it doesn’t work.

But Godin, the publisher of over 7,000 blog posts is not sitting around polishing while waiting for perfect.

“I’m doing my best to learn, to pay attention and to get better for next time. Perfect is just a place to hide.”

Godin has been blogging at Seths Blog for eighteen years. His blog has made him a household name.

He’s not worried about the length of a blog post, its demonstration of intellect, the images on the post, its search engine performance, the distribution of the blog or stats.

We don’t ship because we’re creative, we’re creative because we ship, per Godin.

Legal bloggers are not creative in their intellect, they’re creative because they ship. They post regularly, not hiding in a place called perfect.

Godin’s right. We’ve been brain washed in law school and in the practice of law into thinking we need to be perfect.

We just need to be creative to feel good in our blogging. Feeling good will keep us keep blogging.

Creative need not be all the hard.

Per Godin, creative merely means what a human would do in their best moment of being generous, of doing something that might not work, of doing something for someone else with humanity. It doesn’t mean flash.

Moving into a larger home has enabled me to open boxes of books and magazines from years back. Doing so I stumbled across the November, 2003 edition of Business 2.0, the Fortune and Business Week magazine of the startup world.

You see, evolving from trial lawyer to legal tech entrepreneur I couldn’t read enough about startups. No idea why me, but my greatest fear was that the tech world would pass me by without my being on the front of the wave.

Jeff Bezos was on to something, and I needed to figure how to develop a startup for people looking for legal information and services.

My passion was all the more intense when LexisNexis aquired my first startup, a virtual legal community, launched in 1996. “I lost my baby and will never have another great idea,” I worried while working out my garage while playing out the last month of my non-compete in November of 2003.

Then it happened, seventeen years ago this month. Late one evening, I picked up the November edition of Business 2.0 off a stack of boxes along side my desk chair in my garage.

No idea why, but I stopped to read a half page (non-feature) story by Om Malik, under a heading, Startups, entitled “Blogging for Dollars” in a magazine 160 pages long.

In August 2001, Ben and Mena Trott joined what was Silicon Valley’s fastest growing demographic: dotcommers without jobs. Laid off by an Internet design firm, the programmer and his Web designer wife began publishing a weblog to idle away their unemployment. Not satisfied with the available blogging sofware, the Trotts sat down to write a better program.

The result–an elegant content manager called Movable Typebecame an instant hit. Posted in 2001, Movable Type powered more than 20,000 weblogs within a year. It has been downloded half a million times, and the roster of users includes publishers Primedia and Gruner & Jahr. “It’s the gold stabdard,” says Rafat Ali, editor of PaidContent.org, an online publication that tracks digital content.”

Not knowing what a program was, let alone what to do with a program if I downloaded one, it was not until I read on, about the Trott’s next product, that I took any interest in this weblog software thing.

“...Six Apart (the name refers to the six-day gap between Ben’s and Medan’s birth dates), expects the money [small amount of venture capital raised] to go a long way. By December, the company says, it will have 10,000 users of its latest product Typepad, each paying $10 a month for hosted weblog sofware. With just five full-time employees, including the Trotts, Six Apart is on track to have postive cash flow by year’s end.

Like AOL, folks saw enough value to pay a monthly subscription. And more inspiring, getting the company in the black within sixty to ninety days.

Yes, my passion was acccess to legal services for the masses, but this AOL-like uptake of 10,000 paying subscribers within 90 days was way too interesting not to look further.

The monies from the LexisNexis sale would only last so long and if I was going to do a another startup, I didn’t want to raise venture capital this time. Getting in the black asap, or at least having an ongoing subscription revenue stream to tide me over was important.

Mind you, it was not weblog or blogging software that piqued my interest. I had never heard of a weblog, a blog or content management software.

I just wanted to look under the rock to see what it was that people valued enough to pay $10 a month. Enough people to get a company profitable in a few months.

It was only after swiping my credit card and cluelessy walking through the set up of my TypePad blog that I realized this weblog software had something to do with publishing one’s thoughts to the Internet.

Thoughts that when published to the Internet by me quickly attracted lawyers from across to the country to my corner of the world in a garage. Lawyers looking for help on how they, too, could use this weblog software to share what they knew with people looking for help.

So much has transpired in the last seventeen years, personally and professionally. But as I sit here in my den in the front of the house, about sixty feet from the garage, I can’t help but feel some of the excitment of startup as we roll out of this year and into the next.

New team members joining the company, new products, new partners, with the pandemic the increasing importance of our publishing software and a growing passion for reducing the growing chasm this country has in access to legal services.

Much the like the Trotts, I am an accidential entrepreneur. It was only after I was out of a job that I discovered something bigger than myself – blogging.

But had it not been for the Trotts and Malik, in penning his piece, there is no chance I would have found my way into blogging, nor would we have so many legal bloggers sharing what they know to help other people.