Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution writes what we’re all realizing, local journalism is in crisis.

”Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years. Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation.“

Newspapers don’t have the revenue to sustain themselves.

“The traditional business model that once supported local newspapers–relying on print subscribers and advertising to generate revenue–has become difficult to sustain as the audience for local news continues to shrink and advertising dollars disappear.”

And the reason is obvious. People do not consume or receive the news the way they used to.

”Few Americans today hold print subscriptions, and newspapers have struggled to amass digital subscribers. Meanwhile, news consumers have become less inclined to follow local sources of news, instead preferring to read, listen, and watch content from outlets focused on national news coverage. And, as the digital age has facilitated the emergence of a greater number of national news sources and highly specialized outlets, the reach of local news has diminished.”

At the same time the cost to become a citizen journalist and report news has never been lower. Publishing a blog and reporting on uncovered niches brings an instant audience.

Unlike newspapers, citizen journalists don’t need paid subscriptions to “make money” from blogging. The source of a blogger’s revenue needn’t be advertising either.

Lawyers make money as a result of their blogging – not from their blogging. Lawyers who blog on niche and engage influencers in the process build a strong word of mouth reputation and relationships. Clients, work and revenue follow – in amounts far greater than a niche publisher would earn from subscriptions or advertising.

Law firm published blogs covering local affairs would be widely read by a local community. Share the posts on Facebook and Twitter to extend the reach.

How so?

The blog’s coverage could be directly related to the work of a law firm, but need not.

Law blogs already cover probate litigation decisions in Florida, Chancery Court decisions in Delaware and IP cases in the Northern District of Illinois. The readers of these blogs as well as the lawyers publishing the blogs have benefited tremendously.

At the local level, maybe there’s the opportunity to cover certain types of administrative bodies, particularly matters before a court or municipal/county meetings. Could be a committee or a board.

The matters being covered may have little, if anything, to do with the type of work done by the firm. The goodwill and reputation earned in the process would be substantial.

A law firm needn’t cover everything and needn’t send over a lawyer to do the coverage. A journalism student intern or two from a local university would welcome the opportunity to report on governmental affairs of importance to the local electorate. The firm can oversee the reporting from an an editorial process.

Fifteen dollars an hour for twenty hours a week is just North of a thousand dollars a month. A publication titled in accord with what’s being covered branded as published by your law firm with interior pages about your firm’s dedication to the community and the legal services you offer is worth all of that.

Not very matter need be covered. Cover what you can, you’re doing more than others – and much more than the other law firms with no imagination. If you’d like to, cherry pick the matters based on what looks interesting.

Finally, much of what is done in courts and administrative bodies is reduced to a written or digital record. Report from there, without attending. It’s obviously what blogging lawyers commentating on cases do.

May sound crazy, but I have always thought publishing the police blotter in a small town would provide great exposure for a law firm.

Maybe a police blotter doesn’t feel right, but give some thought to picking up the growing void in municipal, county and court news coverage. After all, lawyers do – and should – play a role in educating the citizenry of the law and its role in society.

Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist for Amazon’s AWS and a key player in its growth, spends 80% of his time blogging.

Not just any blog, but a blog about AWS news and answers to questions that arise internally and externally in regard to AWS. The AWS News Blog.

AWS, if you are not familiar with it, is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies, and governments, on a metered pay-as-you-go basis. AWS dominates the cloud computing market and is the fastest growing Amazon segment, representing well over half of the company’s operating income – $7.3 billion in 2018, up almost $3 billion from the year before.

Barr celebrated fifteen years on the AWS Blog with a post about why the blog, why him and the status of AWS blogging today.

Read the whole post, Barr’s story is a good one.

I found it interesting that Barr was over at Microsoft, where I first witnessed large scale corporate blogging by developers. I was trying to figure out blogging from my garage. He also had an interest in Dave Winer’s work with XML and RSS – keys to us following the blogging of others, via syndication.

Instrumental for any blogger – corporate or legal blogger – is passion for what you’re going to cover. The light bulb went on for Barr that AWS was going to big a thing for Amazon when he saw web services being made available for developers en masse. Baar’s developers relations plan included a blog from the start.

Like all of us, Barr was not a natural born blogger – nor a good writer.

“I struggled a bit with “voice” in the early days, and could not decide if I was writing as the company, the group, the service, or simply as me. After some experimentation, I found that a personal, first-person style worked best and that’s what I settled on.”

Topics came in a random way (still do for me).

“In the early days, we did not have much of a process or a blog team. Interesting topics found their way in to my inbox, and I simply wrote about them as I saw fit. I had an incredible amount of freedom to pick and choose topics, and words, and I did my best to be a strong, accurate communicator while staying afield of controversies that would simply cause more work for my colleagues in Amazon PR.”

The AWS blog has become key to AWS’ growth and developer relations. Barr’s time allocated to blogging as grown, and “now stands at about 80%.”

Blog posts are no longer done randomly.

“We now have a strong team and an equally strong production process for new blog posts. Teams request a post by creating a ticket, attaching their PRFAQ (Press Release + FAQ, another type of Amazon document) and giving the bloggers early internal access to their service. We review the materials, ask hard questions, use the service, and draft our post. We share the drafts internally, read and respond to feedback, and eagerly await the go-ahead to publish.”

Rather than press releases pushed to the media and a few bloggers, the regular practice for law firms and legal tech companies, Amazon used the blog for developer relations. It’s developers, after all, that are going to be asking the tough questions, and ultimately be influencing the purchasing of AWS services.

With over 3100 posts under his belt, and plenty more on the way, here’s what Barr focuses on when writing a post.

  • Learn & Be Curious – This is an Amazon Leadership Principle. Writing is easy once I understand what I want to say. I study each PRFAQ, ask hard questions, and am never afraid to admit that I don’t grok some seemingly obvious point. Time after time I am seemingly at the absolute limit of what I can understand and absorb, but that never stops me from trying.
  • Accuracy – I never shade the truth, and I never use weasel words that could be interpreted in more than one way to give myself an out. The Internet is the ultimate fact-checking vehicle, and I don’t want to be wrong. If I am, I am more than happy to admit it, and to fix the issue.
  • Readability – I have plenty of words in my vocabulary, but I don’t feel the need to use all of them. I would rather use the most appropriate word than the longest and most obscure one. I am also cautious with acronyms and enterprise jargon, and try hard to keep my terabytes and tebibytes (ugh) straight.
  • Frugality – This is also an Amazon Leadership Principle, and I use it in an interesting way. I know that you are busy, and that you don’t need extra words or flowery language. So I try hard (this post notwithstanding) to keep most of my posts at 700 to 800 words. I’d rather you spend the time using the service and doing something useful.

I started to publish a blog during a year long covenant not to compete with LexisNexis. I was noodling around in my garage thinking of what to do next. When I stumbled into a blog, I saw it as delivering on two fronts.

One, I wanted learn to write, something I was never very good at. Two, I needed to get passionate about something to do for work. I feared, at then 47 years old, that I would never have another good idea fueled with passion to start another company. Maybe this blog thing would take me there.

So I was struck with some of Barr’s personal thoughts on blogging.

“Writing – Although I love to write, I was definitely not a natural-born writer. In fact, my high school English teacher gave me the lowest possible passing grade and told me that my future would be better if I could only write better. I stopped trying to grasp formal English, and instead started to observe how genuine writers used words & punctuation. That (and decades of practice) made all the difference.

Career Paths – Blogging and evangelism have turned out to be a great match for my skills and interests, but I did not figure this out until I was on the far side of 40. It is perfectly OK to be 20-something, 30-something, or even 40-something before you finally figure out who you are and what you like to do. Keep that in mind, and stay open and flexible to new avenues and new opportunities throughout your career.”

So much to be learned from successful bloggers.

For lawyers and law firms, that means sticking your head up and looking at the blogging being done by corporations, professionals and businesses outside the law.

For me, I am going to revisit my blog’s focus so that at least a portion of my blogging is focused on legal blogger relations for LexBlog. Maybe get some of our developers, support and editorial people contributing.

To show you why you need to stick your head up to see who you learn from, Jeff Barr accepted my Facebook friend request a few months ago when I had no idea he was part of the AWS blog. I just knew he was the Chief Evangelist at AWS, a heck of an interesting job, and that he posted interesting items from Seattle and around the world.

I’ve picked up plenty of lessons from Barr already, and I am sure I will learn more by following the AWS News Blog from now on.

I’m sharing below the table of contents, if you will, of a guide to legal blogging. I welcome your input on what I’m missing.

Why a guide to legal blogging?

Over the years, I have been asked more than once to write a book on the basics of legal blogging.

A lawyer in a larger firm asked during a recent program of blogging I was teaching if there was a book covering the strategy and how-to’s of legal blogging. She was interested in publishing a legal blog, but confessed she had a lot to learn.

I empathized with her on two fronts.

One, blogging strategically – and effectively – so as to develop a strong word of mouth reputation and relationships so as grow your business is an art.

Two, the available resources are limited.

I haven’t seen a book covering the below information. And, unfortunately, many of the programs on blogging conducted for lawyers and legal marketing professionals contain a lot of misinformation.

I am not sure I’ll write a book on legal blogging in the true sense. I barely have enough patience to sit in a chair for an hour, let alone write a book.

But I do have the desire to share with legal professionals what I have seen work so well for lawyers and other legal professionals. And to get this information and what I know out of solely a blog format.

There’s about 7,000 blog posts in here, and though they may cover what you need to know, you’d be hard pressed to find it in a meaningful way.

My gut tells me I’ll sit down and start cranking out some video explanations, whether by myself or in an interview/discussion format. Doing Facebook Live’s for interviews I’ve grown comfortable with video on my iPhone.

I’ll share the videos as recorded, get them transcribed for publication here and as part of LexBlog’s success and support materials – and as some sort of field guide to effective blogging for legal professionals.

I expect to get underway very soon.

Here’s a whole lot of topics I pulled together off the top of my head, along with what I’ve heard from successful legal bloggers.

  1. Role of passion
  2. Identifying a niche
  3. Looking for opportunities
  4. Establishing goals
  5. Group versus individual blog
  6. Relationship to practice areas and practice groups
  7. Independent publication on a domain apart from a law firm website
  8. Titling the blog
  9. Selecting a domain (url)
  10. Branding, identification of the publisher
  11. Branding by design
  12. Substantive categories, ie table of contents
  13. Tags
  14. Relationship of blog publication to law firm website
  15. Navigation – about the publisher, publisher’s services, publisher’s contact information
  16. Alternative technology platforms, what’s needed
  17. WordPress
  18. Managed platform
  19. Turnkey solution
  20. Posting – what, when and how
  21. Images in posts
  22. Default image for social media
  23. SEO (search engine optimization) – what is it and how does a publisher optimize their posts and blog
  24. Local search
  25. Yoast’s SEO plugin
  26. Conversation versus broadcasting
  27. Perfection is not needed
  28. Write in a conversational style, as you’d talk to a friend
  29. Listening tools – news aggregator, Twitter, newsletters, and social media
  30. Influencers in your niche
  31. Engagement
  32. Engage other legal bloggers in your niche, you’re not the only one
  33. Localize
  34. Reporting style of blogging, if own niche
  35. Personal voice
  36. Length of post
  37. Frequency
  38. When to blog
  39. Marketing your blog
  40. Use of LinkedIn
  41. Use of Twitter
  42. Use of Facebook
  43. Legal blogging, as distinguished from marketing
  44. Legal blogs as secondary law
  45. Ethics and liability

I was struck reading Li Jin’s recent piece on the passion economy being the future of work by how much the concept applies to lawyers and blogging.

Jin, an investment partner with Andreessen Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm, writes:

“The top-earning writer on the paid newsletter platform Substack earns more than $500,000 a year from reader subscriptions. The top content creator on Podia, a platform for video courses and digital memberships, makes more than $100,000 a month. And teachers across the US are bringing in thousands of dollars a month teaching live, virtual classes on Outschool and Juni Learning.

Though blogging lawyers are not monetizing their blogs directly in the form of subscriptions, lawyers are generating new business as a direct result of their blogging. In some cases, in excess of $1M a year.

Platforms, as in this case, blogging platforms, are democratizing opportunities for the passionate individual with a niche, says Lin.

“Whereas previously, the biggest online labor marketplaces flattened the individuality of workers, new platforms allow anyone to monetize unique skills.”

Jin may as well be writing about lawyers and blogging in her discussion of differentiating oneself and building relationships.

“New digital platforms enable people to earn a livelihood in a way that highlights their individuality. These platforms give providers greater ability to build customer relationships, increased support in growing their businesses, and better tools for differentiating themselves from the competition. In the process, they’re fueling a new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship”

These new platforms share a number of commonalities, per Lin, three of which are relevant to blogging today.

  • They’re accessible to everyone, not only existing businesses and professionals
  • They view individuality as a feature, not a bug
  • They open doors to new forms of work

A lawyer in a small firm blogging on China law puts himself along side large firms in terms of visibility. Though not able to land some of the cases a larger firm may, he’s developed an international reputation and a large client base based on his passion.

A young partner in a large firm kickstart’s the firm’s publishing of a privacy law blog and is now widely considered as one of the nation’s top privacy and security lawyers. She had the passion other lawyers lacked.

A junior partner in a larger firm, with a passion founded in her family’s history in the textile industry, launches a fashion law blog publication. She now does business worldwide in fashion law with her law school hosting a fashion law symposium which she runs.

The list goes on and on. This relatively new platform enabling blog publishing is enabling any lawyer to monetize their unique skills and passion.

Andreessen Horowitz, which has bet on the likes of Facebook and Twitter and is managing over $4B in assets, and Lin, are predicting that the passion economy will only continue to grow.

“New integrated platforms empower entrepreneurs to monetize individuality and creativity. In the coming years, the passion economy will to continue to grow. We envision a future in which the value of unique skills and knowledge can be unlocked, augmented, and surfaced to consumers.”

The Recorder’s Karen Sloan reported this week that an attorney-discipline blogger and a blog network owned by Pepperdine Law’s dean were hit with a defamation suit.

“The lawsuit was filed against Michael Frisch, adjunct professor and ethics counsel at Georgetown University Law Center, who is also the primary author of the Legal Profession Blog, which highlights attorney discipline cases across the country. The plaintiff in the suit brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is attorney John Paul Szymkowicz, who also named Law Professor Blogs LLC, a blogging network owned by Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine University Rick J. Caruso School of Law. Frisch’s Legal Profession Blog is a member of Law Professor Blogs.”

The complaint alleged that Frisch “engaged in false, defamatory, public, and vile personal attacks against J.P. Szymkowicz, culminating in their most recent accusations of legal misconduct, ‘elder care abuse,’ and ‘horrific elder abuse.’”

The last blog post ran in 2018 after all discipline charges against the plaintiff were dismissed.

I’ve seen very very few law suits brought against legal professionals as a result of their blogging. I have little problem telling lawyers that the risk of such suits is de minimus.

Having said that, legal bloggers would be wise to have insurance coverage against defamation and other claims.

Not so much to pay out on a viable claim, but to cover the costs of defense. Free speech and freedom of the press go a long way in protecting bloggers from successful claims.

I doubt that anyone’s malpractice insurance will cover a defamation claim arising out of blogging – unless one is successful in arguing to an insurer it was my negligence in the course of legal services while blogging that precipitated the claim.

But a general liability business policy or commercial liability insurance policy will provide “advertising coverage.” If the policy does not, look to purchase a rider for the policy. Advertising riders I have bought did not cost much.

Advertising injury coverage is a component of commercial general liability insurance that protects you against claims of stolen ideas, invasion of privacy, libel, slander and copyright infringement related to advertising. Advertising injury coverage is a type of personal injury insurance, as opposed to physical injury insurance, and may also be called personal and advertising injury coverage.

Any good lawyer knows when they’re approaching the third rail of what to say and what not to say. Most legal bloggers are afraid to take any position, let alone take a position that could be argued to be defamatory.

I’ve always viewed insurance as cheap and if needed, it’s there to cover you and your defense.

When practicing, I was sued for defamation by an insurance company as part of my investigating the company’s history of denying claims. Good counsel was hired by my general liability carrier who beat the insurance company through the trial and appellate courts.

Blogging, I had a lawyer tell me he was going to sue me for defamation and that he was going to ruin me and my family. I nicely explained that when he lost his suit, all he will have proven was that what I said was true. He went away – after a year or two.

I have also blogged about the shady practices of multi-billion companies. Though never threatened by the companies and knowing what I said was accurate or my opinion, it was nice to know when I nervously hit the publish button that I did have coverage.

Enough talking in relation to this lawyer’s defamation claim, I don’t want to be added as a defendant.

Lesson learned though, confirm you have the coverage – and if not, get it.

When comparing methods of looking for a lawyer, 59% of clients seek a referral from someone they know or have been in contact with.

Methods such as using an online search engine (17%) and visiting a lawyer’s website (17%), though important for some consumers of legal services, trailed referrals, substantially, as a source of legal business.

This, from Clio’s 2019 Legal Trend Report released at the Clio Cloud Conference in San Diego a couple weeks ago.

Whom did people go to for a referral to a lawyer?

“Friends and family members were the most common source for a referral (32%), followed by referrals from a lawyer (16%) or another non-legal professional (9%). (A non-legal professional could include an accountant, real estate agent, or someone else working in a profession related to a certain type of issue.)”

32% of clients seek a referral from a friend or or family member. 25% seek the referral from a professional of some sort.

The report further found “Of those who sought a referral first, only 16% also looked on their own.”

Almost 60% of people seek a referral when looking for a lawyer and less then 20% of those who seek a referral look on their own, separately.

What should legal professionals take from the Legal Trends Report?

  • The report is based on sound data. In addition to its own data from tens of thousands of legal professionals in the U.S., Clio surveyed 2,000 consumers to learn how clients ultimately choose one lawyer over another.
  • When looking at the Internet to grow business, lawyers should look at ways to use the Internet that will generate referrals, online and offline.
  • Look at what other lawyers are doing when it comes to the Internet, and try something different. As one legal blogger recently told me, “I zig, when others zag.” Building relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation through the Internet is something few lawyers do very well. Perhaps a golden opportunity.
  • Of course, not all clients rely on referrals to find a lawyer, many opt to search on their own. In which case websites, SEO, local search, directories, yellow pages and ratings become more important.
  • Though lawyers may benefit most from networking through the Internet to build relationships and a strong word of mouth presence, websites, search and other items remain important. Anyone getting a referral will go the firm’s website.
  • While lawyers are looking to grow their business, they may not be using the most effective methods to grow business. In addition, lawyers are looking to grow their business where the competition from other lawyers is most heavy.

Clio’s Legal Trends Report asks the right question.

“87% of lawyers agree they want their firms to grow over the next three years—and 67% say they want to grow more than a little. And when it comes to growth, lawyers rank revenues and client base as the top two areas they want to see grow. But how prepared are lawyers to achieve these goals?”

Legal publishing has long been the province of law reviews, law journals and traditional publishers.

But with publishing democratized by WordPress, first used for blogs and now the most widely used content management system in the world, blog software could represent the future for legal publishing.

The readership of legal blogs and publications published on open publishing software (vast majority being on WordPress), in all likelihood, already far surpasses the readership of law reviews.

Bill Henderson, a widely respected law professor, innovator, and editor of Legal Evolution, makes the case that what while some legal professionals are quick to call something a blog because it’s published on blog software and not rendered in a format used by traditional legal publishers, it can still be a legal publication in every sense of the word.

”Several times this summer, colleagues have referred to Legal Evolution as a blog. A couple times I’ve corrected them and said that Legal Evolution is a publication. After all, we have a publication schedule, subject matter focus, and contributor guidelines that are targeted and specific. See Post 092 (publishing contributor guidelines). But I’m done correcting my colleagues, as a friendly conversation is not the right time or place. Instead I’ll write it here and let the passage of time work its magic.“

Henderson credits me or, better put, blames me for argument that blogs are proving to be a disruptive force in legal publishing.

”To the extent this sows confusion, we can blame Kevin O’Keefe, the founder and CEO of LexBlog.  In the spring of 2016, Kevin visited Indiana Law to share his career journey with my students.  Over dinner that night, Kevin discussed the monthly traffic of Law.com vs. the ABA Journal vs. Above the Law.  The latter began its life as a blog, yet it was proving to be a profoundly disruptive force in legal publishing. Why? It was on the winning side of a massive demographic shift in readers and reading habits. Further, it was still gathering steam.

Kevin also discussed the massive investments he was making to both automate and improve online publishing. In effect, the cost of getting into the publishing business was dropping to near zero.  The only thing missing was specialized content someone wanted to write and that another group wanted to read.“

Like most successful legal publishers (and bloggers), Henderson’s focus for legal publishing was founded on a personal passion.

”…I was very interested in exploring applied research that focused on the legal market — rigorous enough to get traction with real-world problems (we’ve got no shortage of those) but written in an accessible and congenial style.  A year later, I shut down The Legal Whiteboard (which, for the record, was a blog) and launched Legal Evolution.”

LexBlog’s managed WordPress platform proved more than flexible enough for Henderson’s legal publication.

”As editor of Legal Evolution, I am trying to fill what I perceive as a gap in legal publishing — a reliance on data and theory (like the academy) but pointed at real-world issues that we’re actively engaged in solving (like legal practice). See Post 001. The content is often much longer (and more in-depth and technical) than legal journalism but much shorter (and less technical) than academic articles. We also believe in formal citations, as we are building a new body of knowledge in applied research that’s focused on the legal industry. Finally, we err on the side of accessibility (e.g., we favor contractions and relish Jae Um’semojis and her hilarious, brilliant graphics).“

Even if the readership of a niche legal publication doesn’t become substantial, it doesn’t matter. Legal publications, such as Henderson’s, published on WordPress, are focused on reaching the ‘Long Tail’ – the concept that the low cost of publishing and distribution enable small and unique audiences to be all that is needed.

”Legal Evolution’s publishing conventions — particularly length and technical content — reduce the number of readers. We don’t care because we’re focused on serious thinkers and innovators.  Yet, even among this smaller group, the number of monthly readers vastly exceeds the readership of a typical law review. Because our applied-research mission requires a robust engagement with practice, the new world of legal publishing — the cost structure, the control of visual presentation, the proximity to readers, the connectivity with relevant sources — has been an extraordinary opportunity to try new things and to build a community of interest. Everytime I look at Legal Evolution’s growing subscriber list, I’m astonished by the breadth and quality of our readership.”

Personally, it’s an honor for LexBlog and I to serve legal professionals the likes of Bill Henderson, who are making such a commitment to advance the legal business for the people and organizations we all serve.

Like Henderson, there are hundreds, if not thousands of legal publishers, including academics whom it would seem could benefit from real open publishing (no pdf’s) on a managed WordPress platform.

The benefits being, among others, reduced costs, better publishing platform, better reader experience, increased influence of the individual publishers (legal professionals), and increased relevance of the individual publishers with general legal community and the public.

Rather than law reviews and law journals moving to WordPress en masse, a sound approach may be the approach which Henderson and Northwestern law Professor Dan Linna followed in his LegalTech Lever

Identify your niche. Look at your community of followers and and fellow publishers. Look at a managed WordPress platform to get your publication up in weeks, not months. And build an audience that’s more engaged than that of a law review’s audience.

You’ll find an enhanced reputation, increased influence and a growing body of relationships. You’ll also find your influence on the advancement of law – for people – to be greater.

You can’t get through a ten minute conversation with Clio’s CEO and co-founder, Jack Newton, without discussing Clio’s mission – to transform the practice of law, for good.

Jack needn’t even bring up the company’s mission. Talking to him alone, leaves you asking, “What makes you guys tick? What makes your team so enthusiastic and driven? What has made Clio such a driving force in legal innovation? You’re not legal professionals, after all.”

Jack will tell you, it’s the mission.

The mission is more than words. The mission, in every sense of the word, was palpable at last week’s Clio’s Cloud Conference in San Diego.

LexBlog’s Editor-In-Chief, Bob Ambrogi, may have characterized this year’s Clio Con best – as a cult of innovation.

“[T]he word cult can carry a negative connotation, suggesting blind adherence to a religion or orthodoxy. But it can also mean, according to Merriam-Webster, a great devotion to an idea or movement, such as the cult of physical fitness. Wikipedia says cults often form around “novel beliefs and practices.”

Within the stilted environment of the legal profession, the ideas that prevailed at this conference were, indeed, “novel beliefs and practices.” Within the context of a profession known for its resistance to change, having 2,000 people together at one time who share a great devotion to such ideas made it feel a bit like a cult.

But, let me be clear: this is no blind adherence. These are professionals whose eyes are wide open to the future of legal practice and to the potential for their own firms. It is a cult in the most positive sense – a devotion to the idea of being better in their practices and for their clients — a devotion to innovation.“

And we’re not talking just practicing legal professionals. There were hundreds of legal tech companies and entrepreneurs represented. Not just hawking their wares, but getting feedback and raw enthusiasm from the lawyers they met in the exhibit halls or over a beer.

Talking to these legal tech entrepreneurs, many of whom left law firms when they saw an obvious problem needing a solution, you couldn’t help but feel tech and innovation are going to bring access to legal services in ways we could never have imagined.

I don’t know if they’re scared off by Clio’s mission, or its threat, but large legal companies, the likes of which you see at every other legal tech conference were conspicuous by their absence. LexisNexis, Thomson, Reuters, Walters Kluwer and Bloomberg Law to name a few.

Unlike other legal tech companies, Clio is literally a movement, with over 150,000 users in over 100 countries.

Its CEO sees the size of the U.S. market as one million lawyers – that means solo to the largest firms. The company is armed with recent series D funding of $250 million, placing its valuation at well North of a billion dollars, and is on track to a public offering.

As strange as it may sound to some large legal companies, the fastest way to build more of a following is to hang out with the growing thousands at Clio Con. My guess is that the legal professionals at Clio are more innovative and tech receptive than legal professionals at other conferences.

Large legal companies may also want to look at ways to integrate some of their products into Clio’s platform. I’d be very surprised if Clio is not the largest legal platform in the world, ala Salesforce in business, within the coming years.

Best of all though about Clio Con, year after year, is the Clio team.

From Sam Glover at Lawyerist:

“The Clio team is also one of the company’s best assets. One of the best parts about going to ClioCon is hanging out with all the upbeat, friendly Clions. Clio brought 140 Clions to the Clio Cloud Conference this year, which meant someone in a Clio shirt was always close by to lend a helping hand. Just like Clio as a software developer cares about its users, Clio as event planner obviously cares about its attendees. As a result, Clio Cloud Conference feels a bit like a celebration of lawyers and lawyering, even though there is plenty to learn, too.”

There is no other legal or legal tech conference that can match the Clio Con team in its enthusiasm, drive, passion and care. Perhaps it’s their not being legal professionals that enables them to see legal services – and service, in general, from a non-legal professional’s eye.

Beyond the boots on the ground, Jack’s prolific use of social media has rubbed off on his team members.

Whether I was on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn talking about Clio Con, members of the Clio team were engaging me. Marketing, tech leads, service, project management, sales and who have you, these folks love engaging people and understand the value of relationships.

I was struck by one Clio team member’s engagement of me on Twitter. That evening at a large social event I saw him walk by. I went up and introduced myself.

I asked him what made him join Clio and how he enjoyed what we was doing. He said he had known Jack for years and that Jack had been after him to join, throughout.

But only recently had he really come to see and feel the cause and mission that Clio and the team was was on – and how that was leading to such success.

After we talked a while, I told him the more I’m around Clio, I am struck by how special it is. It’s people, it’s values, it’s mission and it’s culture.

He acknowledged it all true, and told me that he’d follow Jack Newton to the end of the world, whether at Clio or elsewhere.

Inspiring for believers in Clio’s ability to change the practice of law, for good. Scary for entrenched competitors.

Kevin speaks with Molly McDonough, former editor-in-chief and publisher of the ABA Journal, at the 2019 Clio Cloud Conference. Molly reflects on her career at the Journal, what’s next, and the role of blogs in legal journalism. 

Transcript

Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I speaking with?

Molly McDonough: Molly McDonough

Kevin: And who is Molly McDonough? 

Molly: I am the former editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. I had been there for 18, almost 18 years. 

Kevin: You just left. 

Molly: I just left in early October, after doing a relaunch of a magazine and I was very excited and proud of how that turned out.

Kevin: What are you doing now? Because your mind isn’t going to turn off. 

Molly: Well, right now I’m here at Clio, which has been a great experience. I had fun judging the launch code competition this year and, you know, meeting up with people, looking for my next direction. I don’t think I’ll be aimless too long. I have so many projects in my head spinning around. I just need to figure out which one of those to focus on.

Kevin: (0:56) Well, you’ve got great passion. I mean, you know, and I’d be talking to you about your travels or what conferences you’ve been to, and journalism, and digital media. You know, so you have a great body of knowledge, passion. It would be very valuable personally and to anybody that you’d be working with. I look forward to seeing what you’ll be doing. What do you most miss at the ABA Journal? 

Molly: For sure the staff. Working with my team. They’re such a great group of journalists. They’re mission-driven. They really care about writing and reporting on the disadvantaged and people who need lawyers more than anyone. And uh, so being able to focus projects on those topics was really an honor and a privilege, really. 

Kevin: Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it. I mean, I had the privilege of sitting in on one editorial meeting. I was, you know, kinda going, “wow, don’t get to do this every day. I’d never know what goes on”. You know, I watch them really driving the passion. The people in the room go around like, :this is what I’m working on. This is what I’m doing”. You know, somebody saying “I think we should do this or do that. Well, we narrowed it down to this or you know, what’s the kind of pain in our side thing that we have to deal with over here?”. And people have a  lot of pride in there. They’re not getting paid $1 million to do what they did. 

Molly: (2:21) They really care about what they’re working on and the people that they’re writing about. It was fun to have you there and and see kind of what you thought was interesting. I love those meetings and that’s probably one area I’ll miss is the brainstorming, the energy that comes out of those. 

Kevin: You get a peek inside and I got to peek inside the publication of the flagship publication for the law and American legal journalism, you know. It’s pretty amazing. One thing that you guys did early on and, you know I’ll confess, you know, some parts I criticized the ABA on the blog site. I probably needlessly needlessly.

Molly: Oh, I remember. 

Kevin: (3:10) There were you did various things for blogs. One, you recognized the top hundred early on, you know, and I got so mad because I go, “everybody’s got to decide what blog they want based on their interests. What’s a good blog? What’s a bad blog? It’s in the eyes of the reader”. Somebody told me that blogging and rage brings out some of the best blog posts, I don’t know whether it did or not, but you could sure key fast, when you got mad? Um, and that may have been needless, but you did things to recognize legal blogs. You recognized, you know, who were doing who were doing some of the better blogging. You brought blogs into legal news and in affect, when you had a site where you had a legal blog directory and then you’re pulling things out and you’re honoring “who’s doing what”. How’d that all come about? 

Molly: Uh, so when we first launched ABAjournal.com, as part of that project, the publisher at the time, Ed Adams, really wanted to develop a curated list of law bloggers, to kind of break away from the search engines at the time. And create a way to pull that community together, um, as a resource for lawyers. It was really one of the best resources for our staff. 

Kevin: (4:24) To get leads, ideas, sources. 

Molly: It was really fantastic. We early on, we picked law bloggers for that Blog 100, partly based on which bloggers our staff used for story leads, tips, analysis, expertise. That, you know, when they would want to understand a topic more deeply, they would go into the directory or focus on law blogs and they’d pull those into the directory or flush them out more. 

Kevin: That’s pretty cool. How many years ago was that when it first happened? 

Molly: We launched the blog directory with the site in, in 2007. 

Kevin: That’s a lot of water under the bridge and, you know, in the blog world. What do you see in legal blogging today? I mean, let me ask you this, even before we talk about today versus then, but what is the value of the legal blogger to our legal profession and to legal journalism? 

Molly: (5:20) You know, back then early on, kind of going then and now, back then there were more bloggers, at least, that we were focused on talking about general news. I don’t see that as the highest value in blogging now. I see it as a really a way for lawyers to do deep dives into their passions. Whether that’s practice areas or site interests or, you know, pro bono, whatever it is that they wanna dive deeper into. Or maybe they’re making a practice transition and they need to learn more about it. You know, to be able to do a blog and to have to be the expert in that area as you’re researching, transparently researching topic areas, it really helps develop your expertise. And I think that’s great and it’s helpful to others, especially journalists, to be able to go and see how areas of practice are developing. And I still think that’s a really high value. Uh, I mean, I will say that there was a time when we eliminated, we pulled in for awhile. We had a category for lawyers who knitted and blogged. 

Kevin: You had fun. 

Molly: (6:43) We had special categories for non-law and we were finding coal caches of lawyers who would knit, you know, that we were getting into running. You know, there are all these areas. But then we decided, you know, really the directorate of this needed to be focused on legal issues to be a value to our audience. 

Kevin: Yeah. And there’s still these opportunities I’m seeing, and I still go back to the idea of, you know, that the internet democratized the ability to speak. I mean, before, if I’m in the middle of a news thing, the reporters would find me in a minute. Um, but at other times, I mean, I’d have to go down to the newspaper and, quite frankly, pitch in a story. You know, “I think this is breaking news. Here’s what it is. Here’s what you may want to follow up on”, those types of things. All of a sudden now if you have a niche, you know that you’re covering whether it’s the  locale or area in the law or what not, you have an instant way to publish. You have the printing press, you have the distribution means. To me, it’s still phenomenal what’s in the hands of the lawyer. And the lawyer should be in the middle of that based on their role in society. 

Molly: (7:48) That’s true. And it’s also just getting back to the practical part of it though, Kevin is the, you know, when you have to articulate in a blog post what something means and why it matters, you really have to think through that. And I really think that helps build your confidence and expertise in the area. And, you know, being able to write and or type, you know, whatever your, however you, do your first draft is an important way of developing that skill. 

Kevin: My first draft goes up and then when people start to read it and share it on social media, then I go, “well, I better go back and look now cause people are going to read this”. Or they’ll take me and say, “Hey you made these typos and those typos”. But I absolutely agree with more than one lawyer. And even lawyers here at Clio have told me that the blog has made them a better lawyer. And they had to think through things, they may be learning new things, they’re processing this, they’re sensing what people may say on the outside sorts a little bit more critical analysis. And then it makes them keen to be following things, cause they feel like they’re going to share what they’re observing. 

Molly: (9:03) We used to do a survey. We did this a few times and one of the things we really focus on is that at the beginning of a blog, it would take hours for somebody to do a post and they would just labor over there and come up with the topic and research. And then, you know, the more they got into it, the more they understood how, you know, what was interesting to write about, the quicker those posts would come. So, you know, what took hours before would go down to 45 minutes, down to 30 minutes down to, you know, I could crank out in 15 minutes during a break in my day on my thoughts on a new case or a topic that was exciting.

Kevin: Dan Harris with China law. I mean, hell, you know that blog. It’s prolific and Dan swears that one doesn’t take longer than 15 or 25 minutes. And I’m going, “come on Dan”. But I think he’s serious and just gets it in any goes. I want to be able to follow up with you over time to get more of your thoughts on blogging and even, you know, from the standpoint of “what would you do in this situation, in that situation””. Cause it would be extremely invaluable for lawyers as a guide, especially the lawyers that are being pulled, you know, maybe by marketing departments or business development that it “needs to be this long, it needs to have these words, it needs to have this title, it needs to have this for SEO, and we need to have this amount of traffic coming from these places from, or we need to pay to distribute it”. And you’re looking at it from, I mean it’s not the same as a story that has editorial review and copy and everything at a publication like the ABA Journal, but you’re looking at it a little bit differently than just a marketing thing.

Molly: (10:39) Quality, authenticity, you know, “authentic” is a buzzword right now, but it’s true. It’s, you know, having that quality is job one. 

Kevin: I think you’re going to be a judge for the blog excellence?

Molly: I am. I’m very excited about that.

Kevin: Which is really cool for us. I was really excited when Bob shared the list. I saw that list and I go “leaders who are women in the law”. 

Molly: I’m actually really, really excited about that.

Kevin: I mean I looked at that and said, “this is good”. I mean it was a who’s who of people and now the onus was on us to make sure that every one of the law firms that we have knows I think we should announce the judges and say, “this is the people that are gonna be looking at this. Don’t miss the opportunity for your lawyers that have done particular posts in different areas. Get it in here and then just see what it’s all about”. Yeah, I think it’s going to be pretty cool. And I think you may have influenced Bob on an idea when we said we needed to make sure more layers are coming into the community with their blogs and you said, “you should have a contest”. I believe.

Molly: (11:43) I did. I think that is true.

Kevin: How have you enjoyed Clio? What do you think of this year? 

Molly: This has been great. I had not been to the two conferences in New Orleans. And this has just grown exponentially, but the energy hasn’t waned. Jack Newton said in his closing that he, you know, “fears how he’s going to top the next one”. They’ve really done that as a team every single year. I don’t even know it. I’m not sure it’s topping it as much as just delivering that same energy and excitement, enthusiasm, leaving with good ideas and good interactions. 

Kevin: Puts up the picture of 140 people. So I’m sitting there thinking, “how does any legal or legal tech conference compete with 140 passionate, driven people right on the ground that they’re taking pride in this thing?”. Cause they feel part of this. 

Molly: I’m sure that doesn’t even include all the folks, you know, back at their home offices doing support.

Kevin: It is really a cool phenomenon. And then to realize that these guys aren’t lawyers. I mean, Jack is not a lawyer, but he talks about the synergy in the way he looks at passion and centric and doing things and learning things from lawyers as to how he can help them and the profession to do better in a way to do things. It’s a pretty cool thing. You’ll be coming back next year maybe? 

Molly: Yes, I would love to come back. 

Kevin: You should.

Molly: San Diego is an easy choice for me. One of my hometowns. 

Kevin: Maybe we can do something with inviting bloggers and having them talk about their blogs and have you talk to them. It’d be very cool. 

Molly: That would be very alright.

Kevin: Thank you. Thank you very much. That was great. 

Molly: Thanks, Kevin.

Kevin speaking with Megan Zavieh, Legal Ethics & Defense Attorney at Zevieh Law, at the 2019 Clio Cloud Conference in San Diego. Megan represents others lawyers before the California State Bar who are facing ethic inquiries, and also runs a legal podcast called Lawyers Gone Ethical

Transcript

Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with? 

Megan Zavieh: Hi Kevin. I’m Megan Zavieh. 

Kevin: Okay. Well you knew my name. That’s pretty good. 

Megan: I do, I do know your name. 

Kevin: And where are you from? 

Megan: Well live in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Kevin: Okay, well, that’s what I was asking. And what do you do? 

Megan: I represent other lawyers before the California State Bar who are facing ethics inquiries. 

Kevin: Really? So how did we get to talk to you? 

Megan: I mean, did you do something wrong? 

Kevin: No, I mean, it wasn’t even that. Are you speaking here? 

Megan: Um, I was podcasting here. I have a podcast, “Lawyers Gone Ethical” and I’ve been recording with all kinds of very cool Clio people.

Kevin: How long have you been doing a podcast? 

Megan: We’re approaching a hundred episodes, so almost two years. 

Kevin: Good for you. Is that your idea and your brain child?

Megan: Sort of and Nicole Abboud’s. 

Kevin: So when you say, “we”?

Megan: Well, I have some help. So I like to give them credit, especially. I have a wonderful assistant Lee Duckworth who helps make this happen. And Nicole Abboud helped get it off the ground originally.

Kevin:  Okay, but it was your impetus to say, “okay, I’m going to do this”.

Megan: Yeah. It was like, ”Oh, nobody’s doing an ethics podcast. You know, we probably should think about doing one”. 

Kevin: (1:07) And who are the type of people that you bring on?

Megan: A lot of solo lawyers who are just doing cool things with law. Um, like building out new subscription services or like Hello Divorce. You know, things that are just a little different and innovative and we talk about how, “Hey, that’s actually okay, there’s not an ethics problem with this”.

Kevin: Well, what got you interested in doing something like that? Where, I mean, you really, it’s not like you’re saying, “okay, I want to go get ethics layers on that are in other States or different types of issues or whatever. You know, people that sit on, you know, boards for hearings with ethics brought up for hearings or whatever”. You’re not doing that. It’s totally

Megan: Yeah, not much of that. Not so often an ethics colleague.

Kevin: No, but you’re basically saying, “I want to go talk to people that are doing interesting things”. I mean, why? I mean it’s a good idea. I’m not questioning it, but I’m like, why you, who all of a sudden said, “I’d like to do that”.

Megan: (2:03) Well, partly it’s because when I got into ethics defense work, I found that lawyers throw up the ethics rules as a barrier to doing cool new stuff. You know, they’re like, “Oh this, I had this idea, but then I realized of course I can’t do that”. Why not? And they’re like, “well I don’t think the ethics rules is permit it”. I’m like, “which one? Like drill down on this. How in the world are you prevented?”. And like we use them to hold ourselves back a lot and the profession is changing, we’re evolving. The people who are going to really make a killing and help a lot more people, a lot more clients, are the ones that are going to innovate. And I like to kind of open the doors for people and help them see that there’s not actually an ethics reason not to do something new and different. And so when you have an idea, go with it and run with it. Figure out how you can make it happen.

Kevin: So what would you have told some guy in rural Wisconsin that’s trying to figure out whether you can use the internet to connect with people. He knows nothing about the internet, but knows that if you go to Barnes and Noble and you get a floppy disk, you can put it in the side of your machine. Although, that I had to find out. And then I had to find out that you had to take your telephone off the hook in the kitchen of the a hundred year old house, plug it in the side and “I think you dial the phone number?”. I don’t remember what we did.

Megan: You did back then.

Kevin: Maybe the screen came up and you push the button and it clicked. You know that there were thousands and thousands of people asking legal questions on six company sets of message boards. What if somebody came to you and said, and this was me 

Megan: (3:35) I gathered that.

Kevin: and I’d ask, “Can I answer these questions? They’re all over the country, all over different States. Um, there’s gonna be no conflict yet cause we don’t know any of their names. We don’t know whether they’re representative by a lawyer or not, but we’re going to answer. I’m going to answer their questions when I have time, maybe five or seven a day”. What could you imagine if someone in your shoes or the state ethics hotline, if I would’ve called them in 1996 saying.

Megan: Oh they would have actually absolutely lost it. You know that you can’t give advice across state lines. You don’t know who you’re talking to. You haven’t run your conflicts as you mentioned, you know, you can’t give legal advice without diving into a case and knowing all the facts. I mean, there was a time that just would have been so taboo. That’s a little later than when I was in a computer science class before I ever went to law school and it was like computer science 101 and the professor asked me why I was taking the class and I said, “I want to move to Alaska”, where I’ve never been still to this day, because that time I wanted to move there anyways. 

Kevin: Where were you living then?

Megan: California, southern California. And he goes, “okay, what does that have to deal with here?”. And I said, “well, I want to telecommute”. And he said, and this has to be like 1992 and he said, “that’s not a thing that’s never going to be a thing”. And I said, “I think it is”. He like, “it’s not right”. You know, I’m like, “well, I’m going to stay in your class anyway”. And of course I didn’t go into computer science and I became a lawyer, but now look where we are. So similar thing. And I could see it in 1996. Yeah, completely taboo. “This is craziness”.

Kevin: (5:05) You had to just plow ahead, you know, because my thought was “if I get in trouble for this, then I don’t need to be in the law”. Because all of these people are helping each other in many cases better than any lawyer would because they and their family have been through the situation more than any lawyer. They’ve lost a child with medical negligence. They know how to pick the good lawyers. They know what expert witnesses are. I mean, they knew this, many of them, but there weren’t any lawyers helping them, because lawyers don’t go out where people are and try to help them.

Megan: They still don’t always do that.

Kevin: Short disclaimer, just said, “Hey, this is legal information, general information for me to see a lawyer state”. Will Hornsby said, “You know, Kevin”, that years later “ that ain’t going to fly”. And then when he went through our site where the listserv was, he said, “you know, if this is advertising? This could be construed as advertising in your state, then it’s not”. The was the best disclaimer I could come up with at that time. Um, it’s a great idea though, what you’re saying to bring on these people that are doing cool stuff and “it’s okay”. I’m assuming in many cases it benefits lawyers.

Megan: (6:22) Absolutely.

Kevin: So it’s not taking things away from them. It’s enhancing how they serve clients and enhancing their life.

Megan: Yeah. And part of what I like to highlight for people is that when you build a practice that’s doing something, you’re not just passionate, it is an important concept, but I think it is a little overused, but something you’re excited to do and that you want to get up in the morning and be part of and this is something you’re growing, you’re better at it then doing something really boring and you start to design a life that works with your work because it’s not really a work life balance. Like there’s a blend today. There’s no such thing as like leaving work behind. So if you can build a practice you love that fits in your actual life, that’s a really good thing. And that’s very far from the white shoe law firm, put on my suit every morning, you know, punched a clock, missed all the family events. It’s a very different life.

Kevin: So you’re working with Sasha here to get set up? That’s great. So you’ve got this podcast, you invent your own radio station, because you do know.

Megan: That’s what it is.

Kevin: At dinner with Doc Surlies, incredible what he’s done with the blogging and whatnot and the former DJ in California. He lives in Santa Barbara part time and part time in New York. And we were talking about, he goes, “there’s going to be no radio”. I said, “really?”. He said, “There will be no AM or FM radio. It will be just shows on demand”. Your show will just be another show and they’ll probably be algorithms that tell me what I want to see when it’s available. Um, based on what I’ve seen before, what I’ve listened to before or seen before, who the guests are that you have and what I do like to see it. It’s cool what you’re doing from an ethics thing standpoint. Um, what do you most enjoy about it?

Megan: (7:57) It’s really fun just to talk to people who I wouldn’t otherwise probably have like this meaningful of a conversation with. I mean, there’s plenty of people who’ve been gassed that I know from outside. Like, I’ve already had dinner with them or attended a conference with them or whatever. But then it doesn’t mean that we necessarily are going to sit there and like dive into “Let’s talk about the ethics of what you do”, right? I mean that’s not necessarily dinner time conversation. So that’s part of it. And just getting to know people that I wouldn’t have otherwise have the opportunity. And then at conferences like this, I actually like get really excited that people have come up. 

Kevin: They know you.

Megan: And that they’ve listened to an episode. Like I actually had someone come to me and say, you know, and I didn’t know her from before and she said, “I just want to let you know I needed to research an issue and I found your podcast on this topic and it was incredibly helpful”. And I’m like “Yes, I made a difference”. Sometimes some of my episodes are solo. I do guest episodes and also solo episodes where I just talk about a particular issue. I laugh because I’m sitting here like, “I’m sitting here talking to myself, maybe somebody’s out there that they’re going to listen to it”. So like that episode that she came and said was helpful, it was a solo episode. I’m like, “I was just sittin’ there talking to myself and it made a difference to somebody”. So that’s incredibly rewarding and encourages me to keep doing it.

Kevin: Are you in a firm or are you working for a company or insurance company? 

Megan: I’m solo. Totally solo.

Kevin: And all your work is defense ethics? 

Megan: Yes.

Kevin: Your clients are insurance companies and firms or?

Megan: Just California lawyers, mostly solos. 

Kevin: Just California lawyers, interesting.

Megan: Yeah. So I don’t do malpractice defense. I do the ethics side. So these are all state bar inquiries. So every so often insurance kicks in because malpractice insurance does often have a component for ethics coverage, but a lot of lawyers don’t want to access it. Cause sometimes when it comes to the ethics part really does not have a malpractice component. You can have violated the ethics rules without committing malpractice. And so to avoid kicking in their insurance and having insurance problems, they sometimes just bundle it together.

Kevin: (9:56) What do other think about what you’re doing? Do they think it’s wacky or “what are you doing?”?

Megan: I have kind of a split. So more traditional old school lawyers will flat out tell me I’m crazy with some of what I’m doing. Particularly in the ethics defense world, I didn’t really realize when I first got into it that defending the ethics part of the complaints and advising lawyers on how to proceed ethically are two different things. And a lot of my colleagues don’t advise lawyers on how to proceed in their businesses. To me they just go hand in hand. So, some of my colleagues who don’t do the advice, think I’m nuts to do it. Others think I’m insane to think that the profession is evolving and that we don’t need to actually adopt different models. Um, but then I have mostly in the more innovative space, the lawyers love what I’m doing and I appreciate having a sounding board that, you know, I actually like dig into the ethics rules and geek out on them. I’m like, “I’m glad someone does”.

Kevin: Well you must, I assume you must get legal tech companies that talked to you about, you know, “should we do this?” or “how would we set it up?”?

Megan: I have definitely been consulted by tech companies. Um, the individual lawyers are the much more fun ones in my opinion. Um, the tech companies definitely are important players and they will have ethics questions because when they build something, they’re not subject to our regulation. But everybody that’s going to be impacted by what they’re doing will be and they don’t want to build a product that’s going to get their customers in trouble.

Kevin: Interesting, because the lawyers got it all on the line.

Megan: Absolutely. 

Kevin: I mean so it’s a big deal. 

Megan: Cause the companies are not regulated directly. Yeah. I found when you told the ethics people to take a hike, they got upset. I remember that, you know, in law school sitting there thinking scared out of my mind, but realizing, “okay, what you really need to do in, no matter what it is, you just do whatever the ethics body said”. You just respond and do whatever.

Megan: (11:54) And I’ve had clients say to me like, “I will do whatever you tell me”.

Kevin: I mean the plaintiffs stuff was if you didn’t get an adequate board, people would file a grievance and then people started using the political. So, if you got involved in political issues and then the opposing side would have multiple people start filing grievances against you for fraud or something you said in the media and you get these stacks. 

Megan: I’ve seen it happen.

Kevin: I really dislike that portion of the handling of the facts. Where people were using ethics grievances as an arrow. It was being, there was lawyers that were telling them how to do it. They were obviously they weren’t lawyers filing the grievances, but you can see who was coaching this thing behind the scenes to try to show you how getting involved with social issues. I go, “this is really sleazy deal”. How’d you get involved in this? Other than the podcast, how’d you decide to do ethics? Not everybody says, “I want to grow up to go into law school”. “What are you gonna do?”. “I’m going to do ethics work on behalf of lawyers.”

Megan: (12:53) No, that’s probably part of why my defense bar is like me and there’s another guy around my age and then we’re up to another like a 50 year old and everybody else is another couple of decades older. It feels like, um, no, it’s definitely not something you say like, “Hey, when I grow up, I want to be an ethics lawyer”. I actually came out of law school intending on going to medical school and become a psychiatrist, treating lawyers. That was my original goal. And I for went medical school to go to a clerkship and a big law firm, the debt and wanting to start a family and various factors. 

Kevin: So did you go to medical school?

Megan: I did not go to medical school. I had everything ready. I took the MCAT, I did all my premeds during my clerkship and I was ready to go. And then decided, well, I’m going to hold off and hold off and then didn’t. I was instead a big law securities lawyer, securities litigation defense. And I did that for about eight years after my clerkship. And then I moved back to California and I was finally free of the confines of big law. You know where people ask you for help and you’re like, “Oh no, I’m not allowed to help”. 

Kevin: Where were you in big law?

Megan: Um, I was at Schulte Roth & Zabel than what is now K & L Gates and then Deckert in New York and New Jersey. And so you’re on big law, somebody asks you for help, you’re supposed to say, “Oh I’m not allowed to help you because I worked for this big law firm and I can’t, you know, do anything that’s not for a client”.

Kevin: I mean that is a big difference between, “Okay. I’m going to medical school so I can help lawyers, but I decided no, I’m going to do litigation for a huge law firm in Manhattan”.

Megan: (14:21) Can you see that one was in alignment with all my values and the other is really not. 

Kevin: Wasn’t a common thread.

Megan: It was really not, right. And so I ended up, I had been asked to help on a bar defense case when I was in big law. I couldn’t help them out, right. Cause I’m stuck in big law. I’m not allowed to help you. When I got out of big law, I was like, “Oh, I can jump in and help”. So I did. And then I spent some time in this State Bar Court cause California has a separate court just for attorney discipline and I was in the court and seeing the process and seeing some lawyers just lost, absolutely lost representing themselves, not having a clue about this process and the system cause it’s not like every other court and all these things.

Kevin: “I can help them”.

Megan: (14:54) Yeah,  and I was like “I could do this. Like Oh my gosh, I could do this”. 

Kevin: There are so many issues.  I mean like different issues, mental health issues, financial issues, all of these things. Most people don’t go out of their way to say, “I’m going to do something unethical”. It arrives. 

Megan: Right. Yeah, something happens.

Kevin: You get mad. It’s not a good thing to represent yourself. It’s fascinating though to do the podcast all the way to that. What’s been the hardest thing to that podcast? 

Megan: At times, coming up with new things to talk about where I’m like, “haven’t I beaten every dead horse” and I don’t have something new and as soon as that happens that I feel like the well has run dry, something comes into my universe. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, something new or some new topic”. Because it really is constantly changing and evolving and people are constantly coming into the profession with new ideas. And so it doesn’t ever really run dry, but it feels like it does sometimes. And then I find that if I just kind of let go a little bit and relax, I will find something. 

Kevin: What would you tell somebody that’s gonna do a podcast, a lawyer? 

Megan: (15:57) To plan ahead a little bit. Um, that has made it a much less stressful process because I do it weekly and that can get overwhelming cause sometimes a week goes by, I’m like, “What?”. I write monthly for some publications and a month goes by really fast, I imagine a week does. Um, but as long as I’m on top of it and I keep planning, um, that is probably my biggest piece of advice. And then the other being just like, let go a little bit. Like if you miss an episode, it’s okay. You know, there was a time when I was like, “No, no, no, I can’t”. 

Kevin: It’s not like Monday Night Football didn’t play this week. 

Megan: Exactly. And then I have the Heidi debacle, right. No, It’s going to be okay. Yes, people might be expecting it or maybe they’re not, and if it shows up in their feed or not, it’s okay. Um, but have fun with it. You know, podcasting is really fun.

Kevin: Overall, it’s made your life, as a lawyer, more rewarding. 

Megan: Oh, absolutely. I’m, you know, and there have been times where, especially my family will be like, “are you sure you wanna keep doing this?”, when I’m yelling at them all to be quiet. 

Kevin: Mom’s on her podcast.

Megan: You know, yeah, exactly. I tried to put them in when no ones there, but every so often it happens. And like, I remember explaining at one point to my husband and he goes, “so what do you get out of this?”. And I’m like, “honestly, like, it’s incredibly rewarding”. 

Kevin: Megan: “Better than talking to myself”.

Megan: Especially better than talking to myself. 

Kevin: I know some people that actually, I can imagine my wife saying, “and their listening to you?”. 

Megan: Yes. Oh yeah. I get a little bit of blow back for that, but it’s all in good fun. 

Kevin: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it. 

Megan: Thank you for having me.

Kevin: You bet.