Are you lukewarm to legal blogging? If so, let this catalyst thunder through your head

Posted on 03-18-2016 by
Tags: writing. blogging , Top Stories

The first legal blog I ever wrote -  a real piece of junk! At over 2000 words, it illustrates everything I loathe about bad blogging:

  • too long;
  • too much build up;
  • too clever (I paired the movie Good Will Hunting with patent trolls (Gak!)).

But something from Kevin O’Keefe taught me that my Good Will Hunting/patent troll blog – despite its utter crappiness – had value. Not necessarily customer value or marketing value or business value, but value in the very basic, yet very powerful, act of thinking.

Blogging = Your Thoughts Digitized

A couple years ago, O’Keefe asked this question:

Why do we still blog?

His answer –above all answers – has stuck with me. I always return to it.

The typical answer tows the economic line – lawyers blog to build their brand, to market their firms, to win customers. All justifiable, but O’Keefe offers a counter-answer, a sage insight that’s rare in the avalanche of blogging “how-tos”.  

We still blog, according to O’Keefe, because blogging allows us to:

test and improve our thinking in real time. … Your ideas get tested, they get expanded, and you adapt. You grow as a person.

It echoes what John Adams’ biographer David McCullough had to say about writing:

[Y]ou can't learn to think without thinking. Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard.

Blogging to think … not just to make money, not just to build your business. It’s a whisper in the legal blogosphere, but a truth that’s liberating and forceful. For years, I blogged “not to think” but to sell: basically, I narrowed my thoughts and writings to “the customer.” But I recently returned to O’Keefe’s advice. Now, when I blog, I’m motived to improve my thinking. Customers are still important, but they don’t imprison my topics or my viewpoints.

Call it a mental upheaval. Blogging has expanded my thoughts on various issues, from Netflix’s Making a Murderer to Justice Scalia’s passing to my right to vote. Another benefit: my output has multiplied. I’m motivated to think, not just to market, and that motivates me to blog.

Rain Making vs. Brain Making

Too often, legal blogging is tethered to dollar signs, and hidden within O’Keefe’s original question might be this very point: 

Why do we still blog [if it’s not generating an abundance of rain]?

Because – dang it – there’s value in thinking, in sketching our thoughts on digital paper. Even if those thoughts sit in a vacuum, rarely read/rarely shared, the exercise of blogging sets a foundation for our legal discussions in the real-world. Having blogged about the 1st Amendment, we're better practiced to voice our 1st Amendment beliefs.

And this is why my first blog – that craggy hunk of cerebral iron - has value. Ugly, it was, but as O’Keefe notes, it helped me grow as a writer, a lawyer, a thinker, a person. Without it, my thoughts would’ve withered on the vine. 

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