LexBlog started out as a company at a timer when no one had heard of blogs. We claimed “We build blogs for lawyers?”

I envisioned that blogs would become a vehicle for lawyers to connect with people in a real and authentic fashion. A way of building a name, relationships and a book of business. Marketing, if you will.

Well, blogs stuck. Enough so that I see LexBlog as a publishing company today. A publisher that empowers and inspires independent writers – the bloggers. More merely a company selling a “content marketing solution.”

But what is publishing today? (Feel free to read this as me thinking out loud)

  • Traditional mainstream magazines remain, but main steam publications have declined and those that have survived have in large part moved online, many sharing revenues with distributors such as Amazon’s Kindle or Apple.
  • Trade publications such as bar publications seemed to have survived, perhaps because of legal’s slow adaption rate and some advertisers lack of creativeness in reaching their audience. No question these publications, including the ABA Journal, have taken a hit.
  • Law journals and reviews filled law school libraries and were and are the bastion of articles written by law professors seeking tenure and status. They are buttressed by law school rankings based in part by publishing in these publications, which are little read.
  • Proprietary books and treatises published by large publishers who have thrived on a closed model of “you give us your content for free, we’ll publish it and sell access to it (including back to you.” Done first in books and now digitally.
  • Blogs now represent as much, if not more, legal insight from private legal practitioners than any other form of legal publishing. Blogs can publish on a niche, successfully reaching a viable small audience out on the “long tail,” something that traditional publishers cannot viably do. Blogs have a business model that does not require paying writers and editors, something all of the above publishers are required to do, and thus don’t need to sell advertising.
  • Aggregated and curated content from self publishers. As we’ve seen with articles shared socially – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, getting content to a relevant audience can be key for circulation. A writer’s content need not be read on their site or in their magazine. Illinois Lawyer Now, CEB’s Golden State Lawyer, Wisconsin’s WisLawNow, Arizona Attorney Daily, and Sheppard Mullin’s In the Know and Coronavirus Insights have had good success using LexBlog’s Syndication Portal to publish aggregated and curated content from independent publications.
  • Medium launched almost ten years ago to fan fair that it could be the premier platform for independent writers. As I wrote last week, its business models of spellings ads followed by publishing niche publications with hired writers and editors have largely failed.
  • Newsletters seem to the rage these days. Substack, an online platform that provides publishing, payment, analytics, and design infrastructure to support subscription newsletters, just reported it is raising $65 million on a valuation of around $650 million. Is it a viable solution for independent writers? Hard to say as I am not sure that many newsletters will generate a subscription base to live on and I suspect Medium once had a valuation exceeding $650 million.

I am probably missing some publishing mediums, books being one I can already think of.

But I wanted to get in front of me what I see as a bit of the lay of the land in publishing and then where LexBlog fits as a publisher – especially in this day where publishing is being reinvented.

  • LexBlog is nearing thirty thousand legal bloggers contributing to our body of aggregated and curated legal content. Some of the writing coming from bloggers publishing on our platform and some writing coming from legal bloggers whose content we aggregate and curate for free.
  • With the the LexBlog.com site we inspire legal bloggers by showcasing their writing and highlighting the bloggers, their publications and organizations with profiles of each. Keeps the content flowing on the independent publications – blogs – which is where we believe the focus should be.
  • Rather than work on getting people to “our place,” the LexBlog site, to read, we’re also working to deliver content where relevant, whether by locale, organization or subject – via software that aggregates and curates content and run by a partner. Think law school, bar association, law firms or other organizations, as mentioned above. These partners pay an annual subscription fee for the software that aggregates and curates content “fed” by LexBlog.
  • For independent writers – bloggers – who need a platform for writing, we provide a SaaS publishing platform for which they pay an annual subscription. These “publishers” may be an independent lawyers, a law firm or other organizations in the legal vertical.
  • Independent writers – bloggers – do not pay anything for the increased visibility they and their publishing receive by virtue of LexBlog.com and LexBlog’s partners.
  • LexBlog’s revenue is generated by licensing software solutions as a service with a total focus on independent publishers – bloggers – knowing that these independent publishers have their own existing business model that warrants paying for a SaaS publishing solution. It’s business model that does not require writers and publishers to generate revenue from their content, directly, nor anyone, us or writers, to generate revenue from advertising or subscriptions.

We’re just getting started on the aggregation model by recruiting independent publishers – bloggers – to join the LexBlog community, at no cost.

By increasing the volume of contributions from these independent publishers it’s our expectation that we’ll able to both increase subscriptions of our SaaS publishing platform, via folks becoming aware of our offering, and subscriptions of our SaaS aggregation and curation solution.

One of the greatest things of working in a small entrepreneurial company is finding markets ripe for disruption and developing solutions for a new way of doing things.

Legal publishing is such a place. It will be fun to see how things play out.

A popular vehicle for financing emerging growth companies seems like a good fit for a fast growing legal tech company needing capital for growth and to break through legal regulations often stifling innovation in legal.

The financial vehicle is a SPAC.

I had never heard of a SPAC until last week when a friend was interviewing with a company that aims to reinvent an industry via tech and innovation.

I was curious how the company, which had some heavy hitters on their board and had achieved significant annual revenues, was funded.

Turns out the company had just gone public. Not through the channels we’re familiar with for going public, but by merging with a company which had already gone public for the sole purpose of merging with a company with existing business operations, revenue and in need of greater capital, via a public offering.

Then in Saturday’s New York Times I read a couple stories about SPACs. One article on sports legends Venus Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neil, lending their celebrity status as part of investments in SPAC’s. The other piece being WeWork, whose own IPO never got off the ground, now going public by merging with a SPAC.

Sounds a little crazy, but a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), also known as a “blank check company,” is listed on a stock exchange with the purpose of acquiring a private company, thus making it public without going through the traditional initial public offering process.

Though SPACs have been around for some time, they have drawn recent interest by virtue of SPACs raising over 90 billion dollars in 2020, a period sometimes referred to as the “blank check boom.”

The next I year of SPACs is Saturday night when David Lat shared an article from Law.com about the tremendous growth in legal work for law firms generated by SPACS and their mergers taking companies public.

Rather than the legal work generated by SPACs, I commented on LinkedIn that SPACs seemed like a good vehicle for taking a legal tech company public.

I had a different take as to legal services and SPACs. I wondered which legal tech and alternative legal services companies will ride a SPAC to take themselves public. Such companies, with enough capital and time, could significantly alter how legal services are rendered.”

Sunday morning, Dan Packel, a Business of Law Reporter at ALM Media, shared a story reporting that’s exactly what’s taking place.

A Legal Tech SPAC, sponsored by former Kirkland & Ellis chairman Jeff Hammes and Keller Lenkner CEO Adam Gerchen, armed with $175 million, has two dozen legal tech company targets in sight. They are already actively involved in negotiations with a few companies.

IPO’s are a challenges for any company, let alone a company in an industry where investors see regulators as roadblocks.

How many times have legal tech companies been stymied by legal regulators? May have happened to Legal Zoom, which got to the alter of an IPO years ago and called it off.

Now with the ability to merge with a SPAC with significant capital in place such companies could overcome the roadblocks of regulators and alter how legal services are delivered.

Think Uber, when armed with capital, cutting through municipal regulations in no time.

Someone recently asked me how many years of blog content you should keep live on your law firm website.

Your law firm website is not the right place for blog content, an independent blog site is, but if the website is where your blogs live, the answer is forever.

You do not delete blog content from your website. If a lawyer who penned a blog post leaves the firm make sure the content or the blog in entirety moves with them or remains in your archives live to the net.

Legal insight and commentary published on legal blogs plays a part in secondary law.

Secondary law, consisting of law journals, law reviews and blogs are of sources that explain, criticize, discuss, or help locate primary law – that being cases, codes and regulations.

Secondary law is routinely relied in by lawyers, judges, clerks and legal academia.

Take a blog post down and a link to it whether on another blog, a legal brief or a court decision becomes broken. The law is “gone.”

This insight – secondary law – is called upon for years as legal professionals do research.

The content needs to have a place to “exist” for it to be indexed by Google and aggregated by legal research and AI platforms.

To eliminate the content altogether would be akin to going in the law library and saying we need to get all the old books and journals off the shelves.

I understand the need not to “run” older content on profile, practice group and news pages on the law firm website, but you cannot just get rid of old blog content.

As lawyers, we have the ethical obligation to maintain the integrity of the legal profession and cultivate knowledge of the law, not only for legal professionals but for access to legal information for society as a whole.

Tossing out the legal insight you created flies in the face of common sense and our obligations as legal professionals.

No matter that the “content” was created for marketing of the law firm. In fact, tossing out the content then, may make even less sense.

Ev Williams, a co-founder of Twitter, founded Medium in 2012 as a blogging platform for independent writers.

Medium’s ride ever since has been nothing short of a roller coaster, the latest dip coming this Tuesday when as the New York Times’ Katie Robertson reported that company is scaling back its journalism with accompanying layoffs.

Ev announced a voluntary severance program for staff who “would rather get off this crazy ride.”

Medium was founded as a blogging platform for independent writers back in 2012. Ad revenue was the goal.

The company was backed by an onslaught of venture capital in excess of $125 million.

Ev was white hot coming off the public offering of Twitter, personally realizing $2 billion as one of its co-founders.

It’s likely venture capital would have backed Ev on any idea, though backing him here in that he was one of the co-founders of Blogger, later acquired by Google, made some sense.

When Medium’s early business models didn’t generate the needed return for investors, Medium laid off a third of its workforce five years ago.

The company regrouped making a major commitment to publish independent niche focused “magazines” with talented writers and editors.

With the magazines not drawing their expected audience, Medium is now parting ways with its chief editor as well as its operating officer. Many others are likely to follow.

Medium, as the Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram, one of my sources, reports, is coming full circle – back to its original business of a publishing platform for individual writers.

Will it work? Maybe, but with the shift in business model, it’s unlikely that development work has been focused on supporting independent writers. Not good as a writer and publisher.

In addition, though Medium is deriving north of $20 million a year on subscriptions to curated content, that may not be enough for investors probably expecting a billion dollar valuation.

The lesson for bloggers and writers is to write on your own site – your own domain – and not on someone else’s site and domain.

Anything short of that puts your content in as much risk as the jobs of those working at Medium.

Legal bloggers don’t often blog with a sense of conviction, unless you include the blogging style of legal reporting and commentary.

A story by The New York Times’ Dan Smith yesterday about a newsroom with urgency, one about racism at its core, got me thinking about blogging with conviction.

Inspired by Boston’s 19th-century abolitionist newspapers, author Ibram Kendim, who redefined, ‘Racist’ and The Boston Globe are teaming up to build a newsroom to cover racism.

They started talking about their shared obsession with a different Boston history, 19th-century abolitionist newspapers. Then they wondered what it would mean to found, in 2021, a newspaper in the spirit of William Lloyd Garrison’s legendary The Liberator.

In particular, they wondered, what would it mean to bring to American racism the sense of urgency with which Garrison, in 1831, started the newspaper, abandoning a more gradualist approach to slavery.

Other than some criminal defense, appellate, immigration and plaintiff’s trial lawyers, I don’t see many lawyers blogging with conviction. The numbers are lower in larger firms.

You guys can tell me where I’m wrong and share where lawyers are taking a stance, looking to call out wrongs and advocating for changes in the law.

If you feel comfortable getting out their, the opportunity is certainly there to provide thought provoking opinions and advocate change. You’ll make a name for yourself in the process..

Look around at civil rights, pro bono and immigration lawyers advocating for change.

They’re not only making a difference in the law by advocating for change, but they’re making a name for themselves. Though the latter may be a byproduct, with the former being the goal.

Yes, it’s likely you’ll alienate some people, but expecting everyone to love you forever is foolhardy.

Advocating change, stating an opinion and calling out others can be done in a tasteful fashion.

Doing so you’ll build a strong following of clients, potential clients, referral sources and influencers – bloggers, association leaders, conference coordinators, reporters and the like.

After all, this is exactly what you’re looking to accomplish by blogging.

You need not be William Loyd Garrison, but blogging with conviction can be very rewarding.

It’s what lawyers should be doing anyway – advancing the interest of people in society.

Last week, marketer, speaker and one of the best bloggers going, Seth Godin shared ten reasons to write a book.

The reasons are spot on for legal bloggers.

Makes sense in that over eighteen years, Seth has blogged about blogging to build a reputation, relationships and to help others – not blogging for SEO and website traffic. His reputation has taken off as a result.

The ten:

  • Clarifies thinking
  • Leaves record
  • Project is completely you
  • Way to share
  • Takes up little space/portable
  • You get to write another
  • Increases authority in your field
  • We need your ideas
  • You become author
  • Not hard to publish

I’ll add a couple more.

Legal bloggers like to write. The better bloggers enjoy what they do.

Sure there are times when the blogging doesn’t “flow,” but compared to the rest of the population, we’re proven writers.

Two, if you’re writing a book on the topic on which you blog, you are not starting from scratch in writing a book.

I probably have written seven or eight thousand blog posts. Some good. Some not so good. But if I were writing a book on legal blogging, there would be plenty of stuff to use.

I know some lawyers who have penned over ten thousand blog posts.

Proven writers with a warehouse of copy to call upon.

Remember a time when legal blogging was blogging.

Lawyers penned law blogs to share information, insight and commentary to help others – lawyers and lay people – and advance the law. Legal blogs were real publications.

A byproduct of this style of blogging was a reputation and relationships, much the same as speaking and writing built for a lawyer, before the advent of the net.

Today, ask a lawyer in the States about a law blog, and they’re apt to assume you mean something a lawyer pays to have put on their website to get traffic to their website. The lawyer doesn’t write the blog.

As if traffic to a lawyer’s website is the panacea for getting clients when the leading way people find a lawyer is to ask a friend, relative or c0-worker.

Law blogs in the states, more for most lawyers – there are thousands of lawyers who know what a blog is and that only you as a lawyer can pen one – are like billboards.

Get one up on the side of the road for attention. All that’s required is money.

I spent part of Tuesday afternoon looking at legal blogs from Africa. Nothing led me to believe the law blogs I looked at were about web traffic, SEO and written by web marketing companies for lawyers.

The African law blogs were much like law blogs were in the United States. Written by legal authorities themselves – hundreds of them – sharing legal commentary, fostering discussion among the authorities, and bloggers looking to help legal professionals and people outside the profession.

I’m fairly certain Africa hasn’t yet seen the legal marketing companies pitching “content marketing” with blogs done for you as being what it takes to be a lawyer.

I can tell this by looking at the blogs, reading some of the posts and the about sections which explain what’s driving the blog and the bloggers.

Looking at legal blogs in the States eighteen years, I couldn’t imagine how lawyers could screw this one up, much as they already had in using the Internet for attention, versus engagement and publishing.

Most lawyers have screwed it up. Leaves international law blogs ahead – at least those I’ve seen from Africa.

With 30,000 legal bloggers, domestic and international, curating their blogs through LexBlog, I know the aggregate insightful and valuable U.S. legal commentary generated by blogs exceeds that of international legal blog commentary.

International law blogs just lack the polluted “law blogging” for marketing.

Blogging is a life changing event for those who take the initiative to share what they are learning in their careers and offer their accompanying insight along the way.

Lawyer, accountant, developer, support professional, salesperson or whomever. It doesn’t matter.

This morning I saw an announcement from Bloomberg that Tax Attorney, Kelly Erb is joining the Bloomberg Industry Group to lead their Tax News Team’s contributed content efforts.

Kelly is your typical young lawyer with a young family who, like me did not graduate from an elite law school.

She started out the Erb Law Firm twenty years ago with no reputation, locally or nationally, as a leading tax attorney.

Today, I’d bet Kelly has all the work she needs, has no worries as to the costs of college education for her kids, can travel to her kids sporting events without worrying about the costs and can take nice vacations with her family.

Much, if not all I am guessing, the result of Taxgirl, a blog she started in 2004 to help people as to the tax information they needed. A blog that has built Kelly a local, state and national reputation along with a ton of relationships.

Imagine how her kids look at at their rockstar mom. Also her husband who rides the arm of a wife who is accomplishing so much.

I shared Kelly’s story with my LexBlog team this morning.

I explained that we don’t develop and support blogs. LexBlog makes dreams come true – for lawyers and for they people they serve.

I shared that if you’re looking to make your own dreams come true, there’s not a better way to do so than through blogging.

Kelly is not a LexBlog customer. I have known her for years as a result of blogging and watched her reputation continue to grow.

Stories like Kelly’s give me goosebumps. I’m serious.

While other lawyers sat on the side lines out of laziness or not believing that blogging, personally, would propel their career, Kelly, armed only with a belief and the willingness to work, achieved what a young lawyer could only dream of.

Does anyone keep track of legal marketing professionals who publish a blog?

I was doing a search in a Facebook Group for legal marketing professionals which I see as a leading knowledge base for legal marketing information and I could not find something that I’m thinking must have been discussed. Appears the search across posts in a Facebook group is not all that good.

The reason I ask if there is a list of legal marketing professionals who are blogging is the knowledge base of legal insight and commentary that would be generated by such blogs. One common knowledge base that could be searched across.

Off the top of my head I was thinking of Heather Morse-Geller, Lindsay Griffiths, Tim Corcoran, Stefanie Marrone, and Nancy Myrland, all legal marketing professionals and bloggers. I am sure there are many such bloggers, and I apologize for not recalling you.

I think the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) is cranking up a Facebook group and inviting folks, but I don’t know that it will soon have the engagement this group has nor will it have the knowledge base. Use of the knowledge base may also be hampered by the Facebook group search.

Blogs published by legal marketing professionals pulled together would seem to create a heck of knowledge base. I get that I am a blog guy, but blogs have stood the test of time for the best insight and commentary on niches.

What about aggregating the knowledge, passion, care and experience that legal marketing professionals have? Growing the number of bloggers sharing their insight on their own publication, which when aggregated would create one heck of a “legal marketing magazine” and library.

LMA’s magazine is of course of value to members and the industry. So are publications by ALM and the like.

But they’re gate controlled, it takes one a while to get published (if they ever are), they would not cover as much and they don’t enable one to leave a legacy in their own name.

Individual aggregated/curated publications could grow reputations leading to career advancement to boot.

Sound crazy?

Maybe you’re following the discussion of the proposed Australian legislation that would require digital platforms such as Facebook and Google into negotiations to establish a price to be paid for news content that appears on their sites.

A lot is at stake in how the world follows on as to Australia and how business models are developed to compensate various parties in this new age of news content circulation.

Binding and mandatory arbitration clauses with awards that may favor news publishers may mot be not be the answer.

As reported by Mike Isaac and Damien Cave in this morning’s New York Times, Google began striking its own deals with media companies such as Reuters, The Financial Times and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Facebook did just the opposite. Facebook turned off users’ ability to share local and international news stories on its social network.

Per Issac and Cave,

Facebook has repeatedly argued that the law gets the value proposition backward because it has said it is the one that provides value to news publishers by sending traffic to media websites, which can then be monetized with advertising.

I tend to agree with Facebook, though we’ve yet to arrive at the right business model.

Historically, The New York Times circulation came via print. Print at a huge expense and print that had to delivered via trucks, newspaper vending machines and the like.

Those costs have largely been eliminated.

In the last ten years, news publishers have benefited in a new way of circulation, people circulating their stories from person to person via social social media platforms.

Social media platforms that do drive readers to news publishers.

I’ve subscribed to the Seattle Times, digital version, because of stories I’ve seen shared on Facebook. I am about to do the same for The Atlantic.

I would never have considered subscribing to either but for Facebook’s demonstrating their value.

Just like we don’t go to the mall to buy everything (or in my case, anything), we don’y get our “print news” the same. Many of us get our news from people we trust, our fellow users – and the algorithms – on social networks.

Because we aren’t going back, it’s just figuring out the business model, not hardball legislation that’s likely to be a loser for all – readers/users, news publishers, and the social networks.

Facebook has turned the lights back on, as Isaac and Cave report.

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Vice President of global news partnerships, said in a statement that the social network was restoring news in Australia as “the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.”

Bold statement by Facebook, “…The social network was restoring news in Australia…”

Not far from the truth.