A campaign got underway today to grow LexBlog’s worldwide legal blogging network.

This morning, two members of LexBlog’s publishing team began reaching out to legal bloggers in the United States whose blogs are not already in LexBlog’s legal news and commentary network. 

LexBlog announced a few months ago the launch of a first of its kind legal news and commentary network delivering timely and targeted articles from legal bloggers, worldwide. At no cost, legal bloggers could have their blog posts included in legal news reporting and syndication as well as have a personal profile with archives of their blog posts on LexBlog.

The organic growth of new bloggers who joined without prompting or invitation has been impressive with the network growing from 17,000 bloggers who were already publishing on LexBlog’s publishing software solution to close to 19,000 bloggers. 

The task of reaching out to bloggers is not a simple one. Over the last month, our team reviewed over 4,000 legal blogs, mostly from smaller and medium sized law firms, and arrived at a list of about 2,100 credible blogs.

To no one’s surprise, blogs with one post reading “hello world,” blogs offering little real information and blogs no longer being updated were no longer included. Things can be subjective, but we did our best.

LexBlog values relationships. No mass email campaigns here. My team members are sending personal emails.

Emails referencing what they like about the blog. Perhaps what they learned from reading posts or complementing the blogger for the niche covered or the professional way the blog is presented. 

Emails that I hope will develop a trust in LexBlog, especially by legal professionals unfamiliar with LexBlog, our history and our mission to take legal blogging to another level.

We hope to be through this portion of our campaign by about year’s end. We’ll then continue work to recruit blogs from larger law firms, then onto international law blogs, including Canada, which I heard over the weekend has 500 pretty good law blogs.

Legal blogger and want to join?  It’s easy. Just go to LexBlog’s Membership Page.

As part of its annual recognition of legal blogs, the ABA Journal recognized what we in the legal blogging community have known for years.

This being that legal bloggers can cover niches in the law better than traditional legal reporters and publishers. 

From Sarah Mui, Copy Editor and seventeen year veteran of the Journal:

Great legal blogs go deeper into practice niches than the mainstream legal press and share well-written personal insights. 

It’s true. How can a reporter, journalist or writer match a practicing lawyer who is staying abreast of developments in their area of law, whether on a state or national basis?

There are far too many niches. And too much expertise, too much passion and too much desire to breakout as a leader in their field in lawyers from coast to coast.

Practicing lawyers familiar with talking with the press know the frustration of one line being pulled from a lengthy conversation when the reporter is also talking with a lawyer taking the opposite side.

It’s not the reporter’s fault, they need to report, have limited bandwidth and simply don’t have the expertise a practicing lawyer has.

Getting published in legal journals, law reviews and legal magazines, bar association related or otherwise was a pipe dream for the vast majority of lawyers.

With the advent of blogs, lawyers were handed a printing press to report as well as offer insight and commentary without going through gatekeepers. 

Thousands of lawyers jumped at the opportunity. Employment law for respective states, international service of process law, condo law for a major metro, state workers comp law, equine law, 9/11 recovery workers remedies, food safety law, probate litigation for respective states and what have you. 

Kudos to the ABA Journal, a century old legal publisher and the flagship magazine for the American Bar Association, for recognizing the contributions of today’s fellow legal reporters. 

And big thanks to the ABA Journal for being a long time friend of the legal blogging community.

The Journal has recognized the best in legal blogs for more than a decade. This year they’re recognizing thirty blogs and five more joining the Journal’s Blawg 100 Hall of Fame.

Law firms, law schools, public relations firms and even the courts use third party publishing platforms — and, by doing so, most hand over control of their content to third party publishers. 

Most of the publishing platforms the creators of the content pay for while some creators give their content to a third party publisher in exchange for distribution and notoriety.

Examples include:

  • Legal scholarship published on third party solutions with many of those third party publishers then selling access  to such content by subscription.
  • Articles and blog posts that creators pay to have distributed by distribution services, some of which index the content in the distributor’s names, versus the creator’s name.
  • Articles written for third-party publishers and news sites in exchange for the publicity and notoriety.
  • Courts enabling large legal publishers to publish the court’s case law which third party publishers then sell effective access of such law back to people. 

This made sense before digital publishing. How else could one get an article published and distributed without a third party publisher? How else could courts get the law published?

Digital publishing puts a printing press and distribution systems in the hands of any publisher in the law (not third party publishers). At some cost of course. But not at the cost of losing ownership or control of their works.

Techdirt’s Karl Bode writes today that ESPN has lost $14 million due to cord cutting in sports media licensing and distribution because of the market’s change to digital.

The penalty for ESPN’s failure to adapt has been severe. Disney’s recent earnings revealed that ESPN lost another 2 million regular viewers this year. And while ESPN still has 86 million regular viewers, that’s a 14 million regular viewer dip from the 100 million regular viewers it enjoyed in 2011. Those 14 million lost users generated around $1.44 billion per year for the “worldwide leader in sports,” which is still saddled with the severe costs of set redesigns and sports licensing contracts the company struck while it was busy not seeing the massive locomotive of market change bearing down upon it.

Market shifting caused some of the problem, but ESPN management’s refusal to listen was the real problem.

ESPN execs often tried to shoot the messengers instead of listening to the message. And once the damage was done, ESPN decided to fire hundreds of longstanding sports journalists and support personnel…

Common sense dictates that sooner or later, legal content creators (the true publishers) are going to take control of their digital publishing. They are going to cut the cord. 

Sure, content distributors, third-party publishers and news sites will make use of the content, by license (could be perpetual and, in some cases, be paid for) but the content will be published first on a domain and on a system the creator controls.

It’s a losing proposition for today’s large legal publishers to ignore change and count on the law being slow to change and people and organizations being afraid to challenge them.

Again, many cable and broadcast industry executives are under the mistaken impression they get to choose when to adapt to the markets shifting around them. In reality they only have two choices. One, get out ahead of the shift toward streaming video by giving consumers what they actually want, even if that means losing some money in the short term. Or, refuse to adapt, double down on the belief that traditional cable TV is a cash cow that will never die, and watch as smaller, more flexible outfits continue to steal your massive subscriber base out from beneath your feet.

Lest legal publishers think the cord can’t be cut in legal, look at just one legal publication, LexisNexis’ Martindale-Hubbell. A cash cow that relied on law firms paying them into the hundreds of thousands dollars, each, per year, to have their content published and distributed. 

From Martindalle’s peak to being sold off for near nothing with everyone losing their jobs took only five years.

When will legal publishing see its cord cutting – en masse? 

I blogged last week that Bloomberg Law may be playing fast and loose with lawyers’ contributions to Bloomberg. 

I didn’t share the post on LinkedIn and Facebook as I usually do because it was Thanksgiving Eve. I didn’t want to be perceived as being critical of someone over the holiday.

And realistically, everyone had “gone home” for Thanksgiving. Not many business colleagues were going on LinkedIn or Facebook engaging on industry related matters over the holiday weekend.

Today, I realized I hadn’t shared my post so I did so on both of the social networks. Not for reach or traffic, per se, but for relationships — and learning.

I am not a big one to look at web stats and analytics on blog posts. Truth be told, I don’t know where to access my stats.

What I do like is the engagement with people that ensues from blogging. Especially with people I know, people I respect, people I learn from and maybe even people LexBlog has the nor to do business with.

Engaging people means going out where they are – on social networks. Social networks that have powerful algorithms. Surfacing things I am saying – my blog posts – with people whom may have an interest in the subject. 

Immediately after sharing my post at Facebook this afternoon, I engaged a leading public relations and communications professionals via a few comments back and forth. I learned a couple things, including how I might want to frame the ongoing discussion.

Our exchange also strengthened my business relationship with her. It’s not often we get to talk – maybe a conference or two a year. An exchange on social media means a lot.

Over on LinkedIn, I received a note from the head of a major player in legal. She wanted to learn more on the subject. We saw each other for the first time in a long time this fall and this exchange is going to lead to talking again.

If someone asked me what my stats and traffic were on this post, I’d respond, “Why would I care?”

Relationships and hanging with smart people are what I’m after. Engaging two folks (for now, as likely to increase) I  have a lot of respect for is worth all the traffic in the world. 

Understand you need to take your content out to places where people gather and you need to be using those places, regularly, for engagement to ensue. Here, the social networks, LinkedIn and Facebook. 

Fifteen years ago today, I published my first post on this blog, ‘Real Lawyers Have Blogs’ which I call ‘Real Lawyers,’ for short these days.

I had no idea what a blog was. I was interested in finding out what a web based service named TypePad was all about — something I came to understand later to be a web-based blog platform. I had read they expected to have 10,000 paying users within 90 days of their launch – those were AOL numbers in my mind. 

I swiped my credit card for $4.95 a month and I penned my first post and published it – only after reviewing it for a day or two – and I was on my way for the journey of a lifetime.

On Thankgsgiving Day, it’s only apropos that I share what this blog, I and LexBlog are thankful for, as I result of ‘Real Lawyers.’

LexBlog is not a company that decided to have a blog. LexBlog was born from this blog. So bear with me as to who is thanking who.

  1. For all of you readers. Who’d have know that just penning a blog about stuff I thought important and doing nothing to market or promote ‘Real Lawyers’ would atract so many loyal readers. Readers who would come up to me at events telling me how something I penned years before had helped them. There is nothing better than knowing you helped someone. 
  2. For all that we’ve learned from this blog. LexBlog and I have been challenged, given feedback and taught any number of things in response to posts and comments here. And today, on social media discussion about blog posts here. Thanks for caring. 
  3. For the wonderful people I have met. The legal profession includes some of the finest and most decent people in the world. Many who care deeply about changing the world and helping people – even if one client at a time. 
  4. For the places this blog and I have gone. But for ‘Real Lawyers’ I would never have been sitting in the offices of the Law Society in London last month letting them know LexBlog was going to begin doing business in the UK. That’s crazy for a snot nosed kid from a small town. ‘Real Lawyers’ took us to law schools across the States, to Europe, to Bar Assciations, to small firms, to leading legal companies and to the largest law firms in the world. 
  5. For a seat at the table in online and face to face discussions on increasing access to legal services and access to justice.
  6. For the opportunity to help so many lawyers, law firms and law students. Your trust in this blog, LexBlog and I is humbling.
  7. For the company, LexBlog, that ‘Real Lawyers’ gave us, a company that enabled the blog to continue and a company that now employs a lot of people and supports a lot of families, 
  8. For Soby Mathew and Tim Stanley. Without their help, ‘Real Lawyers” and LexBlog would never have happened. I have no idea what I’d be doing today but for the two of them. Tim got me a speaking engagement about blogs for lawyers, something I knew darn little about, in front of an audience that shockingly wanted me to help them with blogs. Soby’s design and development work gave rise to this blog’s first real design and what could only be called first of their kind blog designs for law firms. Without Tim’s support and care, Soby would not have been able to help with this blog and LexBlog. 
  9. For this blog’s and Lexblog’s team, they are one in the same. Fine, decent, caring and talented professionals serving others and growing at the same time. Without this team, this blog, LexBlog and I would be nothing.
  10. For the support of my family. Starting something from scratch that never existing before and offering a product that had not existed before is not for faint of heart. This blog and I thank Mrs. Real Lawyers for putting up with me and LexBlog. In return, in ts fifteen years, this blog has given my family much, including a home filled with family on Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and your family from ‘Real Lawyers’ and I. To another fifteen years.

I received an email from PLI this week letting me know that the url to a piece I cited for a book being published by PLI and authored by the former CMO of a major law firm no longer exists. 

We are checking the proof for…… book, and when I attempted to verify the url for the…… article you cited……, the page no longer exists on biglawbusiness.com (Bloomberg Law). And now looking at the sentence attached to the footnote, I realized this might be a direct quote from……, is that correct? (Currently, it is not in quotes.). Please let me know how you want us to proceed. We cannot include the broken link, but can keep the reference if you can provide another url, or perhaps if you can verify that it does exist on Bloomberg Law (might it only be available to subscribers?), maybe we can provide a general link to Bloomberglaw.com. Otherwise, can we delete this text regarding……, as we can’t have a quote without a source?

The piece I cited was an article written by the Assistant General Counsel for a $100 Billion multinational corporation who is widely respected in the legal community for his work, writings and speaking.

The article was “precedent” for a point I was making and the source was the only one I was aware of.

I searched Bloomberg Law and could find no reference to the article. I searched the author’s name on Bloomberg Law. expecting to find a page listing all of their articles as I had in the past,  I found two of their articles. The rest were gone.

Turns out the author of this piece and other pieces for Bloomberg had recently contacted Bloomberg and was told, as I recall, that they didn’t have an answer and were working with a new publishing system.

I personally contacted Bloomberg by email earlier this week and received no response. I used Twitter to contact Bloomberg looking for some sort of explanation for my broken link for the PLI article, I received no response. The chat on the site was not active.

Feels like Bloomberg, and in particular Bloomberg Law, is playing fast and loose with leading lawyers who are giving of their time to publish for Bloomberg. If articles are missing and links broken in this case, it must be the case for other lawyers’ articles.

If Bloomberg is asking lawyers to publish for them years on end, admittedly a good way for a lawyer to raise their profile, doesn’t Bloomberg owe the lawyers an explanation in advance that their articles may not be displayed or reachable on search — even if only temporarily?

If the articles will be “moved” to a new location on the Bloomberg site, doesn’t Bloomberg owe it the lawyers to make sure the URL’s for the pieces are rewritten or remapped so that citations of the pieces will not be broken?

Doesn’t Bloomberg owe it to these lawyers not to remove the articles or change the linking structure in a way that displays broken links in that a lawyer’s influence is measured objectively today by search and social algorithms looking at citations to a person’s works? Take way those articles and links and you reduce the influence of the lawyer and their other writings.

Remember that links to those pieces are included in emails, articles, blog posts, seminar presentations — not only from or by the author but by other legal professionals who are practicing and in academia. My guess is that citations to some of the “Bloomberg articles” made it to briefs and, possibly judicial decisions.

Use my example with PLI to understand the context of deleting lawyers’ articles. 

Founded in 1933, PLI, or the Practicing Learning Institute, is one of the leading learning organizations dedicated to keeping attorneys and other professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise. 

PLI provides programs delivered by more than 4,000 volunteer faculty including prominent lawyers, judges, investment bankers, accountants, corporate counsel, and U.S. and international government regulators. They publish a comprehensive library of Treatises, Course Handbooks, Answer Books and Journals. 

As with other legal publishers. PLI facilitates the ongoing dialogue and advancement of the law, a profession where precedent founded on citations plays a critical role.

When a legal publisher, as significant as Bloomberg wants to be, says you can’t cite to our works anymore and we won’t provide access any longer to any publications of ours that you may have previously cited, it cuts off dialogue and advancement of the law across the industry, including via leading  publishers and educators such as PLI.

I hope we’ll find in the coming weeks that Bloomberg is taking its role in legal publishing more seriously than it appears from this case – that all of the articles written by lawyers remain and that the url structure will result in no broken links.

Doing some research yesterday afternoon I pulled up a blog post of mine from a few years ago. As is often the case, the post cited a third-party resource and contained the appropriate link to the resource.

The resource I was looking for was a survey conducted by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.

Click on the word “survey” and you’ll see the link is dead. The ABA has taken the survey down or, more likely, redesigned their website without keeping the site architecture intact so as to retain the existing url structure and the validity of incoming links.

I shared on Twitter:

To which Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft, responded:

Garcia, an established leader in technology and innovation in the legal industry, regularly writes for widely read third-party publications.

In addition to legal professionals citing his writings in their blogs, articles and on social media, Garcia is building a personal and professional legacy in his writings. His influence is growing.

Our Twitter discussion continued with my comment.

Feeling insecure that no will otherwise see their content, lawyers and law firms are apt to have their content published on third-party sites – both news sites and content distribution platforms.

The problem comes with the long term visibility and url structure of the content.

Business models of publishers change. Medium has gone through about three and is still not clear on their long term business model.

Companies get acquired with the aquirer changing things up or eliminating most of the product acquired altogether.

More than one current legal blogger has complained that their contributions to ALM, owner of Law.com, originally free and open on the web, have now been placed behind a paywall pursuant to a business deal between ALM and LexisNexis.

Two problems there. One, people cannot find this content any longer (was only written for ALM, not the lawyer’s blog) and all of the links citing their commentary are now dead.

Two, links from blogs, articles and social media are important, they are an objective measure of a lawyer’s influence in their field. Take those links away and you take away their influence.

Seems the long term answer is to publish on a platform that you can control. One where you own the domain, the content and the domain mapping for the content should you ever want to migrate the content. 

Getting your content back, alone, without the original url structure, as would be the case with making the third-party poublisher the host of your content, will not cut it. All of the incoming links are dead and you’re starting over from scratch.

Sure, syndicate the content to other places to increase visibility and delivery to a focused audience, just like you syndicate your content through social media, but make your place – your blog or site – the primary site.

When syndicating to third party sites, ask that that your content reference that the piece was originally published on your site or blog. That’ll signal your blog or website as the primary site.

Digital publishing, especially by individuals, is new, this learning process for each of us as to what’s important is only natural.

Come January, I’ll have been a member of LinkedIn for fifteen years. I’ve made over 13,000 connections during this time.

I don’t share this to impress you, but to impress upon you the impact of one simple habit of mine. That being to pen a personal note to the person to whom I asked to connect on LinkedIn and to the person whose request to connect I accepted.

Sure there may have been a few I misssed, but I am certain I hit 95% or more. That’s over 10,000 notes, brief as they were. 

Why did I do it? 

There sure wasn’t a LinkedIn protocol. No one was holding themselves out as an expert on how to use LinkedIn. Today’s new lawyers hadn’t any use for LinkeIn back then, they were in the sixth grade.

I sent the personal notes because I thought it the right thing to do. The polite thing to do.

How could I send out my first request to connect, something I was reluctant to do, without a note attached introducing myself and telling the person why I was asking to connect.

In that case it was a fellow Notre Dame grad, who I believe was general counsel of Coke. I told him I never sent out such a request, that I was a fellow alumnus and was curious how this LinkedIn thing worked.

He responded inside of twenty minutes, thanking me for my request to connect, asking me to visit sometime when I was in the area and wished me and my family a “Happy Easter Weekend.”

I would have felt like a stooge if I just hit the “connect” button and fired off to him a request to connect. Who was I? Why was I asking to connect?

Why not just knock on my office door and say, “My name is Dick Smith, here’s my Rolodex card and nice to shake your hand?” Or just call someone and say “This machine I have on my desk prompted me to call you unananouced and without introduction ask you to look at my Rolodex card.”

I get that there are cases when you just jumped out of a meeting or off a call when you each know each other that clicking the “connect” may be okay. But even then, what’s so hard about saying good meeting, good call etc.

LinkedIn has all the tools built in for a personal note to accompany your request to connect. Accepting a request connect even prompts you to drop them a note.

Minneapolis businessman and author, Harvey Mackay penned a book in 1999 entitled ‘Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.’ Billed as the only networking book that you’ll ever need, the book served as a reminder to me to build a network before I need it.

A network on LinkedIn means more than idle connections, such a network means people knowing, or at least maybe remembering, each other. Enough to cause engagement.

Engagement in the form of exchanges at the time of the connection. Engagement that comes as a result of LinkedIn’s social algorithms putting relevant news and information in front of each of us – causing mutual likes, comments and shares. And face to face engagement that’s the result of such earlier engagement.

Digging your well when you need it may be too late. Dig your well now by just being polite. 

Being the director of career services is not an easy job at most law schools today. 

Assuming you’re not working at a top tier law school, you have more grads than jobs. Combine that with declining budgets at many law schools leaving you understaffed.

Despite the challenges, career services directors have one thing their predecessors never had, the Internet.

Networking through the Internet for building out the reputation of the school, nurturing relationships with potential employers, connecting with bloggers and traditional reporters so they’ll be writing about your school and its grads and learning what it takes to succeeed today by networking with leaders in the industry.

Networking through the Internet requires strategic and effective use of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and a blog.

Not by someone in the career services’ office or a communications’ person working for the law school. But by the director of career services networking in a real and authentic fashion in their own voice. 

It’s a common refrain that I don’t have time to learn and use social media. The fact is that the effective use of technology, the Internet for networking included, saves you time — at least as measured by the bottom line of employing more grads.

I raise this as just read of a law school’s announcing a new director of career services. I was going to share word of the announcement on Twitter, but couldn’t because the person did not have a Twitter account. I always attribute news to and about people and include their Twitter account.

With all the current and past law school deans, professors and career services professionals networking through the net, how could this person, with a fiduciary duty to serve their school’s grads, opt out as to the Internet? How could the dean of the law school hire the person for such a job?

The day has passed when it’s cute and professionally acceptable to say, “I don’t use social media,”or naively quip, “there is more harm than good that can come from social media.”

Law school career services directors have the obligation to lead. Set an example for their students by showing them how you get ahead in life today by harnessing the power of the Internet. Even hold classes and programs on effective networking through the net for learning and building a personal brand.

It’s not acceptable to have grads of some law schools getting jobs because they learned networking through the net through the tutelage of their school’s career services director while students at other schools have never heard of the concept. Sadly, I have found the later group of students to be the majority.

Running a law school is no easy task, but launching an initiative to teach students to network through the net can start now – next semester. Careeer services can be part of the initiative, learning right along side the students – it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Not only will you be fulfilling your fiduciary obligation to your students, but you’ll be growing the name of the law school.

The impact of a school’s students being out on the net in an effective and professional way has a far greater positive impact on the school’s brand than the school’s marketing and communications’ effort.

What are you waiting for? It’s not nearly as hard as you think — and you owe it to your students. 

LinkedIn is becoming much more like Facebook – and that’s a good thing for lawyers looking to build relationships and a reputation.

Facebook has always been a place to share professional and personal items, stay abreast of news and information and to engage each other through likes and comments as well as messages through Facebook Messenger.

The Facebook algorithms work overtime to put in front of you the posts and people you want to see. This results in networking on steroids both on Facebook and offline with just the audience you want to be hanging out with, professionally and personally.

LinkedIn has been more a close to the vest, stodgy, business connection/Rolodex world.

When people shared items on LinkedIn, especially lawyers and law firms, it wasn’t really sharing, it was pushing content at people that they were not seeing otherwise. An eyeballs kind of thing. Enough so that content syndication companies automatically “syndicated” legal content through LinkedIn for law firms that couldn’t keep up with doing so on their own.

This is changing in a couple ways. First I am seeing more social sharing of news and events on LinkedIn. Some real passion and excitement behind legal professionals sharing pictures from conferences and events.

Such posts are drawing a lot of comments  and likes. Any regular social media user knows the secret to relationships is those comments and likes – the getting to know, the bonding, and the ensuing engagement online and offline.

Heck, a photo of a group of us out to dinner in Boston shared on LinkedIn by Niki Black of MyCase, has drawn over a hundred likes and comments. Again, it’s not the love people are after but any ensuing engagment that my flow from such activity.

I am also seeing legal professionals share news and information in a real and authentic way in their LinkedIn status update. 

Blog posts of their own with a personalized introduction, posts of others, information and news. As in the first case, comments, likes and shares are following at a good clip.

No question that LinkedIn’s social algorithms are improving. Having the right stuff from the right people land in front of us at the right time is no accident. Neither is the feeling we get to engage in this community discussion.

LinkedIn’s social algorithms are no where near as good as Facebook’s, but the fact they are driving participation and engagement is great to see. 

Know that you get what you put into social media, especially when it comes to making the social algorithms work for you. 

Liberally sharing details on your personal and professional background in the biographical interfaces on social media sites and regularly connecting, sharing, liking and commenting lets the machines know more about you, what you’d like to see and who you’d like to meet and engage with. A much more rewarding experience that will keep you using the social medium.

Bottom line, about eight in ten people of all ages and demographics use social media to engage each other. Seeing the socializing aspect of social media grow on LinkedIn is good news for all legal professionals – especially for those who fear other social media for professional growth and interaction.